As you attract more birds to your yard, you may find yourself purchasing larger and larger quantities of birdseed to feed your flock and to save money by buying in bulk. Knowing how to store birdseed can ensure that your supplies are always fresh and appetizing for the birds. Good birdseed storage will also make it easier for you to manage using different types of seed for different types of bird feeders.
Birdseed Storage Problems
While sunflower seeds, cracked corn, peanuts, and other types of birdseed are attractive to a wide range of birds, they are also attractive to insects, rodents, raccoons, and other pests. The seed that is not stored properly can also get wet or be subject to extreme heat and may begin to rot, creating mold and mildew that can be dangerous, even fatal, to birds. The seed that isn't stored in strong containers may even be raided by birds that don't want to wait for feeder refills. Storing birdseed in a safe, secure way can eliminate these problems.
Properly stored seed is also easier to use. Many birders offer a variety of different foods for their birds and use a wide array of specialized feeders. The seed that is stored carefully and efficiently can make refilling those feeders a quick and easy task.
Tips to Store Birdseed Properly
Ideally, a birder would want to purchase only enough birdseed for a short period to ensure that there are no storage problems, spillage, or other hazards. When birds can easily eat several pounds of seed in just a few days, however, this is not a practical or economical way to purchase birdseed. Seed bought in bulk is often less expensive, and by storing it properly, birders can save money on birdseed without risking spoilage or rodent infestations. To keep birdseed safe and fresh even when stored, consider:
- Containers: Choose appropriate-sized birdseed containers for proper storage. Smaller containers are lighter and easier to move if you need to carry them to many feeders, while larger containers will hold a greater quantity of seed. Heavy-duty plastic zip bags, sturdy plastic bins, and galvanized metal cans are popular bird seed storage containers. Larger containers on wheels, such as trash cans or coolers, can also be useful for storing birdseed.
- Durability: Choose containers made from sturdy materials that will not chip, crack, or break over time. If using metal containers, be sure they are galvanized and will not rust. Sturdier containers are also resistant to rodent damage. Thick plastic bins with rounded corners are especially rodent-resistant and difficult for invaders to chew.
- Lids: All storage containers should seal tightly to prevent insects and rodents from accessing the seed. Watertight lids are also desirable to minimize the risk of mold. If the containers will be stored outside, consider using rope, cords, or weights to keep them securely fastened against raccoons, squirrels, bears, and other animals.
- Location: Store birdseed containers in a convenient location for refilling feeders to make it an easy and efficient task. Depending on where your feeders are located, a garage, a shed, a patio storage box, or other location may be suitable. Seed stored in a dry, shaded area will last longer and stay fresher for birds to enjoy.
- Labels: If you use several different types of birdseed for different types of feeders, label which seeds go with which feeders or choose clear or see-thru containers. This will help you refill specific feeders quickly and easily, and can be useful if anyone else also refills the feeders.
Checking for Bad Seed
The biggest clue that your storage may be inadequate and the birdseed supply may be unsuitable is if birds no longer eat it. While birds will gravitate toward wild food sources such as fruits, seeds, and insects in the summer and fall, there should always be some birds willing to visit your bird feeders as part of their daily foraging. If you notice one particular type of birdseed that is going uneaten for long periods, the seed may be bad, and it is time to inspect all your stored seed for problems.
- Visually inspect the seed for signs of insects, including live or dead insects, larvae, webbing, or other debris. Sift through the seed to discover if an infestation is present throughout the stored seed. Be sure to inspect seed deep inside large containers, because if there is a crack or hole in the bottom, seed at the top may still appear fresh and uncontaminated.
- Sniff the seed for hints of mold and mildew. These will be strong, musty or sharp odors that indicate unwelcome growth in the seed. Odd colors or discoloration can also indicate unwanted mold or fungus in the seed.
- Sift the seed for signs of clumping or dampness. The seed that is caked or clumped has been wet and is now unsuitable for birds’ consumption. Sprouting seed is another sign of unwelcome moisture. Also note if there is any unusual condensation under the lid or inside the birdseed storage container.
- Check the sides and bottoms of storage containers for signs of rodent infestations, including bite or chewing marks, spilled seed, tracks, scat, or nearby caches of seed. If pests are noticed, take safe, appropriate steps to eliminate the rodents as well as improve birdseed storage.
If birdseed has been compromised through insect infestations or mildew, it must be disposed of. Throw out the seed in a bag or container out of reach of birds and other pests, and thoroughly wash, disinfect, and dry the storage container before refilling it with fresh seed. If the container itself has been damaged, repair or replace it before further use.
To keep the birds safe, never use pesticides or other toxic sprays or chemicals near birdseed storage containers to eradicate pests. Instead, move the birdseed to a different storage location until the pest problem has been eliminated.
How Long Can Birdseed Last?
Properly stored, birdseed can last well over a year without becoming unsuitable for the birds. Rotate seed stocks regularly to ensure you are always using the oldest seeds first. Buy seeds in reasonable quantities for the appetites of your birds to always keep the feeders safely filled with fresh and delicious treats. With proper storage, you'll never need to worry about running out of seed or leaving feeders unfilled.