Into The Air

The Official Blog of Backyard Chirper

Tips for feeding birds affordably

Suet bird feederWith the price of black-oil sunflower seeds soaring and ornithologists reminding us that birds hate cheap bags of birdseed, there’s a growing concern that feeding wild birds is getting too expensive. Since it’s nearing the time of year when birds actually benefit the most from eating at bird feeders, here are some tips for feeding birds while not breaking your pocketbook.

1. Plant native wildflowers or sunflowers

A great way to provide nourishment to the birds in your yard is to plant your own wildflowers or sunflowers. Not only are these more natural, but you also won’t have to keep buying bags and bags of sunflower seeds. This will also spruce up your yard while making it the perfect destination for an array of birds looking for a meal.

2. Try a variety of bird food, not just sunflower seed

While black-oil sunflower seeds are probably nutritionally the best for certain birds, others enjoy different or cheaper types of food. For example, bluebirds love mealworms while grackles and quails love cracked corn. Peanuts are another alternative to attract birds like sparrows, doves, cardinals and more.

3. Give certain table scraps to the birds

You obviously don’t want to feed your backyard birds only table scraps, but in the winter when food becomes scarcer table scraps are a great option. You can also supplement some of their regular food with a few table scraps. Some good scraps to give your birds include potatoes, over-ripe fruit, cheese, egg shells, old cereal, crumbs of baked goods and more. However, remember to clean up after the birds have eaten everything they want or you might get some unexpected visitors as well.

4. Buy in bulk

When you buy wild bird food in bulk, you’re more likely to get a better deal and save more money.

5. Ration the amount of food you give out

Another less desirable way to be more frugal is to ration the amount of food you give out. When your feeder runs low, you might wait a little longer to refill it, though you should keep in mind this sometimes keeps birds away.

6. Make your own bird treats

Just like those times when you were young and made pine cones smeared with peanut butter, you can make your own bird food for cheaper. For example, you can make your own suet from bacon grease and other things like raisins and peanuts.


Birds hate cheap birdseed so avoid mixed-seed bargain bags


Audubon is releasing birds across the Internet for you to spot


  1. Lois J Hays

    I use bread scraps, leftovers seeds that my cockateil will not eat, stir in peanut butter and cornmeal, leftover chinese noodles, anthing they can pick out of a suet feeder and they really love it. Cooked carrots, squash and pumpkin are also great favorites

  2. D Darling

    I buy unsalted peanuts from Costco. They are just a little over a dollar a pound and my wild birds love them. I mix them with a mixed seed and black oil sunflower seeds. I also break them in half to make twice as many for the Jays. Otherwise they just carry off the whole peanut and you don’t get to watch them at all.

  3. Mary

    Be careful when feeding peanuts. They must be roasted or they can be toxic to the birds.
    Also if you can find a butcher and ask for slabs of fat. Run a metal clothes hanger through it, hang for instant suet.

    • Jenny Roe

      If you can find a company that makes peanut butter, call them and see if they have any outdated pb. If they do, they will probably give it to you. I got several cases one year like that. I am still using it for making suet. My birds are picky. They will not eat suet I buy at the store, but they love the suet I make.

  4. Patsy

    Won’t bread swell in a bird’s throat and choke it? That is what I have read several times.

    • Timothy Martinez Jr.

      Hello Patsy. That’s somewhat of a myth. It’s not the bread that swells and chokes birds, but it’s possible for bacteria from really old and moldy foods to cause that to happen. However, bread is probably not the healthiest thing to give to birds, but it’s OK for an occasional scrap or so.

  5. I have heard that you can feed birds chicken scratch. Is that correct? Also, what can I do to keep sunflower seeds from germinating when I feed seeds to the birds? Would baking or microwaving them for a few minutes help?

  6. Linda Larson

    I feed Walmart chicken scratch, as we feed a lot of quail, Hungarian partridges as well as assorted small birds. They all love it, and at $8-9 for a 40 lb. bag it is such a bargain. I recommend it highly.

    • Kat Reeves

      I also use chicken scratch.Live in southern AZ.

    • JoniJosi

      I haven’t seen it at that price at Walmart. Can you show me a link to it or the name of it please. JoniJosi

  7. Robert

    The leftover sunflower shells the birds don’t eat are all over my ground by the tree. Any ideas about how to clean them up??

    • Annie McGarry

      I have the same situation around my tree, and I just think of it as compost. The shade prevents grass from growing there (as did the kids playing on a rope swing.) If I want it to look nice someday, I will just put a layer of topsoil down.

    • Debs Cool

      Use the vacuum feature on your leaf blower

    • Missy

      Throughout the winterI have been feeding birds & squirrels black oil sunflower seeds. Now that spring has arrived I’ve noticed that I have bare spots in my lawn due to the hulls killing the grass. I enjoy the birds & squirrels but I also love a nice green lawn around my deck. Do I need to clean up the shells or is there an easier way I continue to feed the birds & squirrels without killing my grass?

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