The Official Blog of Backyard Chirper

Stopping Bird Seed From Sprouting in Your Yard

It’s a common occurrence. You start noticing small sprouts under your feeder. Weeds begin growing. Small critters are coming around more often. Then, you see—eek!—a rat scurrying about.

While bird feeders are designed to beautify your yard by bringing in ebullient birds, spilled bird seed can be destroy your lawn and make the place look like a mess. Fortunately, the solutions for stopping a lot of bird seed from spilling out of the bird feeder onto your lawn are easy.

Get a bird-seed catcher

Believe it or not, the main reason so much bird seed falls out of feeder is because birds are naturally messy eaters. It’s hard to blame them considering they don’t have any hands or a real jaw. So, in order to stop the birds from making a mess, employ the same tactic you would when trying to prevent a baby from getting food on its clothes—create a buffer. You can do this by attaching a bird-seed catcher to your feeder, which does exactly what its name implies; it catches the bird seed before it hits the ground. Depending on the type of catcher you get, sometimes birds will even eat off of that.

Stabilize the bird feeder

Another reason seed might scatter around your yard is because of wind or general movement from the birds. If a gust of wind comes along and blows one of your hanging feeders, a huge amount of seed could spill out. That’s why you should consider stabilizing the feeder with bird poles or other mounting equipment if it’s becoming a big issue.

Avoid using mixed-seed bargain bags

Even though birds are messy, that might not be the only reason you see them dropping seed all over the lawn. They might be protesting and throwing their food on the ground. As I’ve written before, birds are pretty picky when it comes to the type of seed they eat. Birds particularly dislike those mixed-seed bargain bags because they’re packed with filler seed. So, avoid those when you can.

Opt for “no waste” bird seed blends

On a related note, black oil sunflower seeds are great alternatives to mixed-seed bags since birds tend to eat almost all of it. However, if you get the seeds, birds will still make a mess and drop the cracked hulls. Luckily, some seed companies make what’s called “no waste” bird seed blends. These types of seeds will be completely eaten without a mess. Some examples of these are shelled peanuts, hulled sunflower chips, suet and more.


Sterilize the bird seed

Finally, if you don’t mind it falling on the ground, but you don’t want it to sprout, sterilize the bird seed before you put it out. This will prevent any seeds from sprouting. To sterilize the seed, simply put it in the oven for 30 minutes at 300 degrees. This essentially cooks it and stops it from germinating. This will not change any of the nutritional value of the seed either.

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30 Comments

  1. Ah I wondered if there was any way to sterilize the seed, very good information thanks! We did get a rodent problem in our garden with all the excess seed before I installed a catcher, but as our cat tended to kill all the rodents it wasn’t a massive issue.

  2. Aida

    I have two fly-thru, platform, pole mounted bird feeders. The lawn under the feeders is a disaster. Grass is dead- there is nothing but circles of shells from black-oil and other sunflower seeds, and millet; which, are some of the desirable seeds for the birds I love, to dine at my feeders.
    I would like to make this area with the feeders garden-lovely, with rocks and flowers and I am stumped as how to create this when the spillage grows weeds and creates a mess that couldn’t be raked clean. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.

    • Mike

      Aida, try sterilizing the seed as suggested in the last paragraph.

    • You need to be careful what you plant under sunflower seeds. The shells are toxic to many plants. You could use waste free seeds but then they get moldy if they get damp and sit for very long uneaten. Plus their more expensive.

  3. Christine

    Thank you. Turning my oven NOW!

  4. Mike

    I don’t mind the spillage since we have several ground feeders (including doves) that seem to benefit from it. My wife will be thrilled to know that we can prevent it from sprouting though!

  5. Lisa

    I love watching my birds, squirrels, deer and chipmunks enjoying the feast I put out for them. This article was a great find.
    I never thought about sterilizing the food, genius!!!! I have my feeders away from the house down by the woods, (we’ve been here a yr) and since April I’ve had a problem with the seeds growing where I’ve blown it with the blower. It’s starting to smell and drawing the flies, I will now sterilize and vac, thanks!
    I noticed last summer some of the squirrels had big bumps. I’ve since learned about bot(?) flies. (Look up images, pretty gross) This process will

    • Stephen

      Hello. What is starting to smell? Is it burd poop?

      • Lisa

        No, it’s not the poop. There are other spots that I know they poop and it doesn’t smell at all. I think it was the huge amount of uneaten seed. It’s the only area that smells rancid. It’s pretty disgusting.
        I will say, I baked a couple batches of seed and they wouldn’t touch it. Even the squirrels that eat everything stopped coming around. So it’s back to the original way, but I don’t refill them as often. I make them eat everything from the ground until they stop showing up. Which is about 4 days, then I use the blower to clean away the shells and refill. Haven’t had the smell since.

        • Fab

          Yup! Trick is to only put what can be eaten in a day. And you will have no problems with stuff growing. Ya sure your 20lbs capacity bird feeder will look silly looking like its empty with only one pound in it. Lol. But and this is a big but, it becomes a daily chore to do the feeders. Depending on how many you feeders you have, this chore could take 2, 3 minutes or like me. Twenty minutes depending the day. Thats why a twenty pound capacity feeder seems like a good thing……but….? You got a sad looking lawn.

    • I’ve read in many articles that sterilizing the seeds causes a decrease in nutritional value. This article is the first that’s said it doesn’t. Hmmm?

  6. DC

    Sterilized seed is DEAD seed and will not provide the living nutrients that living seed will. That catcher seems like a good solution.

    • Alice

      There are no “living nutrients” that they need. Stomachs are full of acid exactly to kill cells and the enzymes break the food into amino acids, sugars and oils.

    • Curtis

      You know absolutely nothing about nutrition!

  7. Debbie Alexander

    Can you bake suet at 300 for 30 minutes?

    • Dash

      Hahahaha! If you want to melt it and horribly stink up your house 😷😂

  8. Wendy

    can you sterilize all types of bird seed this way ?

  9. Karen

    My ground under my feeders is gravel and I put seed also on the ground for the doves. Need something to kill the growth that won’t harm the birds. Any suggestions would really be great!

  10. Linda

    I tried this the house still reeks of the burning seed 300 degrees is far too high i read somewhere else 10 minutes at 60 degrees that worked .

  11. Rob

    60 degrees Celsius?

    • Mary

      Yes, his temperature was a Celsius temp. Try 140 degrees F. for 8-10 min.

  12. How do I kill the grass growing from birdseed in my lawn?

  13. Debbie

    Should you sterilize just a flat layer on sheet pan or could you do a lot in deeper pan?

  14. Dennis E Cripe

    will weed killer hard the birds

  15. Try putting the bird seed in the microwave for 1minute. Just a 1/2inch deep with the seed. Works great. Just let it cool be for feeding. I do 30 seconds for my seeds. Works great. Less time.

  16. Mike

    Ray, did you find out how to kill the sprouted bird seed? Maybe just a good weed & feed product?

  17. i have the plant but not the birdseed planter in my grass
    do you have tips for me?

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