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Where do you buy bird seed for backyard birds? When you feed birds regularly, shop around for quality and price. Figure out how much you actually use each month. Buying in larger quantities from the right sources can save you money.
When I first started feeding birds in a big way, I bought a small bag of bird seed here and another there. At the grocery store. The hardware store. Wherever seed could be found in my usual errand rounds. Eventually, I tried a farm feed store and a birding store. Here are pros and cons of each source.
Buying Bird Seed at the Grocery Store
My grocery store’s bird food selection varies by season. They usually have small bags of seed that, while convenient, are usually the most expensive option. There often isn’t a lot of selection either.
Typically, if you are lucky, you’ll find black oil sunflower seeds and suet blocks. Usually the rest are seed mixes. Still, if you are in a pinch and need something quick, you can find something to feed birds here.
Avoid Low Quality Seed Mixes
I’ve learned to stay away from most seed mixes because they often include filler seed most birds won’t eat. Red millet for example is something some western birds will eat it but none in my area do. So it goes to waste and you wind up having to clean it up off the ground.
Instead Buy Separate Seed Types
The three types of seed I offer in my yard year-round are safflower, sunflower hearts and nyjer. (I used to offer black oil sunflower but didn’t like the shell mess.) I also offer white proso millet on the ground in the winter. See my post on How to Choose Birdseed For Backyard Birds for which birds eat what seed in my Maryland yard.
Make Your Own Bird Seed Mix
If you do want to offer a mix in one or more feeders, you certainly can of course. I would suggest purchasing seed individually and then mix it yourself. This gives you control of what goes into it. It also gives you the option of using a mix in one feeder but using individual types of seed in others.
Buying Bird Seed at Home Improvement Store
After buying seed at the grocery store for awhile, I moved up to the local home improvement store (Lowes.) Here I could find seed in not only small bags, but also in larger quantities like ten or twenty-pound bags of black oil sunflower seeds for example. They also carry seed mixes, suet cakes, dried mealworms and an assortment of bird feeders.
Look For Seed Turnover
If possible, try to get a look at the seed in the bag you are considering. My local Lowes store seems to have a decent turnover of seed. Bird feeding is popular in my area so they probably sell a decent amount of it. The seed I’ve bought there seems fresh and birds seem happy with it.
Buying Bird Seed at the Farm Store
But during winter months I go through a lot of seed. Constantly running out and having to track down small bags of seed in various stores got old. So I started shopping around.
I eventually found myself at the local farm store, A. A. County Lawn & Farm Center, a farm co-op in Glen Burnie Maryland. They have been in business for over eighty years. This is the place you go to get feed for your horses and supplies for planting spring crops. They also have a large section devoted to bird feeding supplies.
Buy Bird Seed in Larger Quantities
Here you can purchase fifty-pound bags of a wide range of birdseed varieties. Or you can scoop out as much as you want into large paper bags and buy it by the pound. The more you buy, the less it costs per pound.
When you buy bigger quantities, they bring it out and put it in the car for you. This is a place to stock up on birdseed you hole will last awhile. They’ve also got lots of other bird supplies, bird feeders, etc.
Buy Enough Bird Seed For a Month or So
I regularly buy fifty-pound bags of safflower, sunflower hearts, nyjer and black oil sunflower seeds. I know, it sounds like a ridiculous amount of seed to purchase and the price does add up. What am I thinking, right?
But I’ve got a lot of bird feeders. Buying a month or more’s worth of seed at a time makes sense for me. I wouldn’t do this if I was going through smaller amounts each month, as you always want to offer fresh food.
Goldfinches in particular are very picky about nyjer seed being fresh. So I only purchase this much when I’m going through a lot and where the store’s product rotation ensures that the seed is truly fresh. While most of the other seed at this particular store seemed to please birds, the nyjer tended to be a little older and drier than the goldfinches liked, so I found someplace else to buy nyjer instead.
Buying Bird Seed at Bird Specialty Stores
Yet another place to purchase seed is a store devoted to feeding wild birds. I go to Mother Nature’s in Columbia Maryland. Their seed is really fresh. They get new shipments in every week and seem to sell most of that within the week. You also don’t get the random small stems and sticks that show up in some bags of seed at the farm store.
The Advantages of a Great Staff
And the staff there is fantastic, with deep knowledge about feeding birds and about what they sell. So you can get help with all kinds of questions about feeding birds. They too will bring heavy bags of seed out to load in your car, which is always appreciated.
They also have a really deep selection of bird feeders, birdbaths, poles and other assorted bird watching or bird-related products beyond what you can usually find elsewhere locally.
Bird Seed Prices
As a small independent store, their prices for seed can be a bit higher than the farm store’s prices, but I try to stock up when it is on sale. They have big 20% off sales on all seed a few times a year and sales on individual types periodically.
Even when not on sale, this is where I purchase twenty-pound bags of nyjer seed, because it seems fresher than any other source. I also buy cases of suet and nut blocks from them as well as peanuts in the shell for Blue Jays.
Shopping For Bird Foods Online
You can of course also find bird seed for sale online. But to me, the added cost of shipping something that heavy doesn’t seem to make sense. And I like supporting the local stores when they have what I want.
But I do occasionally purchase bird supplies online, especially specific bird feeders I can’t find locally and dried mealworms. I find that purchasing larger bags of dried mealworms from Amazon is much (much, much!) more economical that anything local and the quality seems comparable. I also purchased a case of pure suet from Amazon (no fillers at all) that I want to try out next winter.
Where I Buy Bird Seed Now
These days I purchase almost all my seed in bulk from Mother Nature’s bird store in Columbia Maryland. The farm coop moved farther away a while back and became inconvenient. And the quality of the seed at the bird store really is much higher. I do try to stock up on seed there when it is on sale if possible.
Look For Fresh Seed
When you shop for bird seed, look for a store with good quality seed. You don’t want to buy a dusty bag of seed that has been sitting on a back shelf for six months. The store needs a good turnover so the seed you purchase is fresh. Purchase in quantities that you’ll use up in a month or two. (If you store it well, it’ll last even longer.)
Shop around your local area. If you purchase a lot of seed, look for a place that will give you a lower price for buying in larger quantities. You’ll then need a place at home to store the seed so it stays dry and fresh, but that is a topic for another post.
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