Last Updated on
Today is my day to buy seed for the birds. When I first got into feeding birds in a big way, I bought a small bag here and another there. At the grocery store. The hardware store. Wherever seed could be found in my usual errand rounds. But when you feed birds regularly, you need to 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.
Buying Seed at the Grocery Store
My grocery store’s 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.
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.
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 Choosing Seed For Backyard Birds for which birds eat what seed in my Maryland yard.
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 Seed at Home Improvement Store
After buying seed at the grocery store for awhile, I moved up to the local home improvement store. 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, mealworms and an assortment of bird feeders. My local store seemed to have a decent turnover of seed; it seems fresh and birds seem happy with it.
Buying Seed at the Farm Store
But during the winter months I go through a lot of seed. So last winter 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 eighty-four years. This is the place you come to get feed for your horses and supplies for planting spring crops. They also have a large section devoted to bird feeding supplies.
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 where I go to stock up on birdseed I hope will last me awhile. They’ve also got lots of other bird supplies, bird feeders, etc.
Today I’m buying 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 would 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.
Buying 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 the staff is fantastic, so you can get help with all kinds of questions about feeding birds. 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.
As a small independent store, their prices for seed can be a bit higher than the farm store’s prices, but I try to purchase it when it is on sale. They have big 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.
2019 Update: 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 ago 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 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.
Want to read more about birds? Subscribe at the bottom of the page. You’ll get an email whenever a new post goes up (and only then. Promise!) Or Find Birdseed & Binoculars on Pinterest!