Storing Birdseed: Two Easy Ways

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 Birdseed For Backyard Birds Stored in Bins

How should you store birdseed for backyard birds? You want to keep it clean and dry but also secure so other wildlife doesn’t get into the seed. And you want it to be convenient and easy to access. Here is how I store my birdseed.

Buying Birdseed in Bulk

I have a lot of bird feeders and fill them with a lot of birdseed, especially in the winter months but also all year round. Typically it is cheapest to purchase birdseed locally in the largest bags available. So I buy sunflower hearts, safflower and nyjer seed, as well as peanuts in the shell in fifty-pound bags from my local bird store. In the winter months I also buy white proso millet in twenty-pound bags. (For more on purchasing birdseed, see my Where To Buy Birdseed post.)

I’ve found that most birdseed bought fresh will easily last at least a few months when properly stored. I am more conservative about nyjer seed though because American Goldfinches will shun stale nyjer and it dries out relatively quickly. Because I can usually go through fifty pounds of nyjer in a month, I buy it in the big bags from a local bird store that has very fresh seed. If I didn’t use that much, I’d choose a smaller size. (Paying less for a bigger bag of birdseed that will dry out before you can use it all is a false economy.)

Storing Birdseed Inside

I store my birdseed inside my house. If for some reason I couldn’t do that, my second choice would be inside our dry garage which is well-secured from outdoor wildlife.

Pros:

  • Storing birdseed inside is the most convenient option for me, with the seed easy to access.
  • Because I store my birdseed inside, I don’t have to worry about mice or squirrels or raccoons or other outdoor critters getting into it.
  • I also don’t have to worry about seed getting excessively hot or getting wet and rotting before I can use it.
  • And because I don’t have to worry about critters or wet conditions, I’m not limited to galvanized metal containers with locked down tops. I have more storage container options.
  • I also like that even on wet, snowy days, I have a dry place to get all the seed ready to go outside. This keeps both the stored birdseed and me dry. And during snow storms, I don’t have to dig a path to an outdoor storage location just to get birdseed.

Cons:

  • I don’t have room to store all my bulk birdseed on the first floor, so some is stored in the kitchen and the rest downstairs in the basement. (But stairs are good exercise right? So maybe this is really a pro.)
  • Sometimes moths hang out in seed bags, so storing them inside can bring moths inside. (A secure lid keeps them inside the storage container . . . until you open the lid.)

Metal Or Plastic Containers?

What type of storage containers should you use to store birdseed? My suggestion is either metal or heavy plastic storage container. While you might be tempted to just keep seed in the paper or plastic bags they came in, there can be problems with that, even if you are storing it inside away from damp and critters. First, it can be harder to neatly extract birdseed stored in bags, especially big deep bulk bags. And a floppy bag can more easily spill.

Metal storage containers are a good choice if you worry about wildlife chewing holes in a container to get to the seed. If you are storing it outside, look for galvanized metal that won’t rust. You may alternatively be able to find decorative metal tins that look nice for storing seed inside.

But heavy plastic storage bins like those sold in home improvement stores can also work well if chewing isn’t an issue. When storing birdseed inside, you could go with either metal or heavy plastic storage bins. (I use both.)

Sunflower Stored in an Old Metal Container
Sunflower Stored in an Old Metal Container

My Birdseed is Stored Two Ways

Metal Tins For Smaller Seed Amounts

First, I have several large tightly lidded metal tins in my kitchen that sit on sturdy bottom shelves or on the floor. Each holds at least a week’s worth of birdseed, more or less, depending on what is in them, the time of year and the size of the tin. (One tin holds dried mealworms instead of seed.)

Mealworms and Millet Stored in Old Christmas Treat Tins
Mealworms and Millet Stored in Old Christmas Treat Tins

These large tins were found around my house. Two started life as big holiday gift tins of popcorn and candy. Another large decorative tin was a gift. And one more metal container originally held a bulk order of desiccant packets (used when I produced a monthly paper magazine.) The point is, if you have a suitable storage container already, clean it out well and use it. With tight-fitting lids, these tins have a second life as storage for seed.

If you only buy ten or twenty pounds of birdseed at a time, this type of storage might be enough. For myself, I don’t have enough space in this room to store fifty-pounds of each type of seed, so I store what I have space for here. The the rest of my bulk birdseed purchase goes into larger bins in the basement.

Birdseed Stored in Large Plastic Storage Containers
Birdseed Stored in Large Plastic Storage Containers

Plastic Storage Bins For Larger Seed Amounts

Down in the basement storage area, I have five very large 18-gallon “Rugged Tote” lidded plastic storage bins, purchased from a home improvement store. Birdseed bulk can vary a bit, but I can put at least fifty pounds of any of the types of seed I use in one of these containers and in some cases quite a bit more. These bins are lined up in a row and it is quick and easy to lift a lid and scoop out seed.

Labeling Seed Storage Containers

If you are the only one filling the feeders, you may not need to label them. I like labeling mine for a few reasons though. First, I learned the hard way that if other people don’t know what I’m storing in the bins, they might think it’s ok to stack other things on top of them. Labels make it clear that what is inside is something you need free access to. And second, if we go out of town, someone else might need to find the right type of seed.

Labeled Birdseed Tin
Labeled Birdseed Storage Tin

Kitchen Seed Storage Tin Labels

To make my labels, I printed out a picture of each seed labeled with the name of the seed on regular paper. To attach them to my kitchen tins, I used clear packing tape to attach it to the side of the tins. Because these tins are on shelves, the side labels are easiest to see. You could of course also use adhesive labels, either printed using a computer or hand written.

Labeled Birdseed Storage Bins
Labeled Birdseed Storage Bins

Basement Seed Storage Bin Labels

Because the big bins in the basement are lined up with the tops easiest to see, it makes most sense to put the labels on the lids. But I find I need to temporarily put the jars I use as scoops on the tops of the bins, which can damage or dirty the labels,

So, for the big storage bins downstairs, I taped a clear vinyl job ticket holder to the lid of each bin using clear packing tape on the three closed sides. Then I slid my printed seed picture/name sheets into each pocket via its open top. (You could do something very something similar with sheet protector pages if you have some of those around the house.)

Doing it this way helps keep my label sheets clean. And if I swap out seed, it is easy to change the label. I can also create special labels for someone else filling the feeders for me while I’m away if they need more instructions.

Re-using a Trail Mix Jar as a Seed Scoop
Re-using a Trail Mix Jar as a Seed Scoop

Scoops For Seed Storage Containers

To fill the feeders, you obviously need to get the birdseed from the storage tins or bins to the feeders. I use a bunch of 30-ounce plastic jars that originally held Archer Farms trail mix (from Target.) Without the lids, I find these are a nice size to scoop out a decent amount of seed, usually enough to top off or fill one or more feeders. I can carry three of these filled jars in each hand outside without spilling seed.

Seed pours out of these jars into most feeders easily enough. The exception is my thinner nyjer tube feeders. For those, I use the jar to instead fill an old plastic pitcher with nyjer seed. The pitcher spout helps me fill the tubes outside with less spilling.

Storage Tin and Safflower Seed
Storage Tin and Safflower Seed

Birdseed Home From the Store

When I come home from the bird store, I carry the fifty-pound bag to just inside my kitchen door and set it down on the floor. If fifty pounds is beyond your strength, you might need to consider either getting someone else to carry the bag in for you or use a dolly or wagon to wheel it into your house. Or you could instead purchase smaller weight bags that you can manage.

Once inside, I open up the bag and bring one of my kitchen tins over near the bag. Using one of my trail mix jars to scoop seed into my kitchen storage tin, I fill the tin with as much seed as it will hold. I also fill any feeders that need that type of seed. Then whatever is left of the bag, I carry (or drag if it is still heavy) downstairs to the basement where I pour the rest of the seed into its bin. Then I recycle the paper seed bag. Done!

Sunflower Seed in a Storage Bin
Sunflower Seed in a Storage Bin

Filling Feeders Each Day

I check my feeders each day, either by looking out my windows or doing a quick walk through the feeder area. Once I know how much of each seed I need, I go inside and gather up my empty jars from their shelf in the kitchen and fill them with whatever seed I need.

If I’m stocked up, I can just fill them from the kitchen storage and bring them outside. But once the kitchen stock is depleted, I go downstairs to fill up the jars.

Once I have everything filled, I take it all outside and fill the feeders. The whole process typically takes about ten minutes each day, maybe a little more if I need to clean and re-fill a birdbath too.

Store Birdseed Well So It Lasts!

Birdseed costs money and if you want it to last and not get moldy or be eaten by mice or other creatures, you need to store it properly. If you give a little thought to setting up a convenient and easy to use birdseed storage system, you’ll find that filling up the feeders doesn’t have to be a chore. You can do it in a few minutes and then get back to watching the birds coming to eat at your feeders!

This is how I store birdseed at my house. How do you store your birdseed?

Nancie

Also be sure to check out my post on How to Choose Birdseed For Backyard Birds.


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