How to Feed Your Backyard Birds Without Going Broke

The cost of birdseed has skyrocketed recently!
The cost of birdseed has skyrocketed recently! | Source

Have You Seen the Price of Black Oil Sunflower Seeds?

In our neck of the woods the cost has more than doubled since last year. The climate extremes this past year combined with the high cost of fuel are contributing factors to this problem.

So I have listed 9 ways you can stretch your precious bird seed dollar and still feed the birds nutritiously. These are supplementary foods that can be offered in addition to sunflower seeds on a seed tray or any flat feeder surface.


Chickadees are among the many birds that enjoy day old bread crumbs.  These provide energy because they contain carbohydrates and fat, which help increase birds' metabolism.
Chickadees are among the many birds that enjoy day old bread crumbs. These provide energy because they contain carbohydrates and fat, which help increase birds' metabolism. | Source

9 Ways to Stretch Your Bird Seed Dollar

1. Chicken scratch

2. Regular grass seed

3. Cat or Dog food

4. Fruit and vegetable seeds

5. Bacon drippings

6. Peanut butter and/or jelly

7. Whole fruits like apples or pears

8. Nuts

9. Popcorn


Source

1. Chicken Scratch Grains

This can be a much less expensive form of nutrition when added to your black oil sunflower seeds. The ingredients should list mixed grains with no animal fat. Available in 50 lb. bags the cost is about $15.00. Find this product at feed stores or online listed under 'chicken scratch grains'.

Rye pasture grass is a good addition to your black oil sunflower bird seed.
Rye pasture grass is a good addition to your black oil sunflower bird seed. | Source

2. Grass Seed

Rye grass seed can be added to your sunflower seed to extend it and give your birds a variety. Look for pasture bulk seed as it is less expensive than lawn seed. Check your local feed store or online. A little goes a long way, so just add a handful to 5 lb. of sunflower seeds.


Just a few pieces of cat or dog food added to your bird seeds will give your feathered friends a protein-rich supplement.  Protein will help them in their battle with the elements.
Just a few pieces of cat or dog food added to your bird seeds will give your feathered friends a protein-rich supplement. Protein will help them in their battle with the elements. | Source

3. Cat or Dog Food

Cat food? Really? Yup! Woodpeckers love it! And so do lots of other birds. Buy in bulk to save even more money.

This can contain corn, rice, other whole grains, vegetables and protein; so it is a good source of nutrition for your wild birds.


Save fruit and vegetable seeds for your backyard birds.  Try adding halves or pieces of fruit to a tray feeder as well.
Save fruit and vegetable seeds for your backyard birds. Try adding halves or pieces of fruit to a tray feeder as well. | Source

4. Fruit and Vegetable Seeds

Fruit and vegetable seeds that have been dried. When you prepare fresh salads, save the seeds, especially sweet peppers. Carve a pumpkin or roast an acorn squash and set aside the seeds to dry.* (See below for My Method to Dry Seeds) Your birds will love them. Don't forget the fruit as well; try apple or pear seeds. Experiment to see if your backyard wild birds have any preferences.


Method to Dry Seeds

*Save and easily dry seeds from your own fruits and veggies, like apples, pears, peppers and pumpkins:

If you eat fresh produce, it is easy to dry the seeds from peppers, apples, melons, squash, pumpkins, etc. (Remove the seeds before cooking or baking any of the produce.) Lay a piece of waxed paper or freezer paper out flat in a dry place that will be undisturbed for about a week. Place your seeds in a single layer on top of the waxed paper. I allow at least a week for the seeds to become thoroughly dry. If they are not totally dry, they will mold and spoil.

Once you determine that your veggie or fruit seeds are absolutely dry, remove them from the paper and place in an air-tight jar in the fridge until you are ready to treat your feathered friends. You can repeat this process every time you have fruit or vegetable seeds available if you wish. That way you will have a ready supply for your birds.


5. Save Your Bacon Drippings

When you cook bacon, pour the pan drippings into a glass bowl and add day old bread that has been cubed or torn into small pieces. Toss with a fork and add to your birds' tray or platform feeder. Stand back and watch as they discover this savory treat! You can do this with other meat juices as well. Remember: Don't put out any more than the birds will eat in one day.

Make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich for your bird feeder visitors.
Make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich for your bird feeder visitors. | Source

6. Make and Peanut Butter and Jelly Sandwich for the Birds!

Spread generic peanut butter and or jelly (any kind) on 2 end crusts of bread, and cut into cubes for a treat your birds can't resist. I first cut the sandwich in half in one direction, and then thirds in the other direction. After that you can cut each section once more. I also do this with day old sliced bread or stale donuts, rolls, etc. The birds will think they've found a gourmet restaurant!

7. Cut Up Whole Fruits

Buy whole fruits like melons, oranges, or pears on sale, and cut them into small pieces. With fruit like apples or oranges, you can cut them in half and add them to a fruit holder. By the way, birds don’t care if the fruit is bruised. Check with your local grocery store--if you ask them, they may save bruised fruit and veggies for you; do make sure that it hasn’t spoiled, though

A variety of nuts for the birds can include peanuts, preferably unsalted, hickory nuts and acorns.  Those nuts still in the shell can be placed in a zipper plastic bag wrapped in a kitchen towel.  Grab a hammer and have fun!
A variety of nuts for the birds can include peanuts, preferably unsalted, hickory nuts and acorns. Those nuts still in the shell can be placed in a zipper plastic bag wrapped in a kitchen towel. Grab a hammer and have fun! | Source

8. Nuts

Nuts like acorns, almonds, pecans, walnuts, Brazil nuts, hazel nuts, pistachios, cashews, hickory nuts, butternuts, etc. that have been collected from your own or neighborhood trees (if you are lucky enough to have them nearby), or bought in bulk from the discount store. Look for sales and stock up around the holidays, and treat your birds to an excellent energy source.

It is one of those mindless jobs that I enjoy doing while sitting in front of the TV. With my nutcracker in hand and 2 big bowls I crack the nuts over one large bowl where the shells will go, and use the other bowl for the actual nutmeats. If you have a hand chopper, you can also chop the shelled nuts into small pieces that will make your backyard birds very happy!


9. Popcorn!

A large bag of pre-popped popcorn will extend your bird feeding budget. The alternative is to buy the largest bag of popping corn at the discount store or in bulk size. If you have a microwave air popcorn popper, even better! Birds adore popped corn and any unpopped kernels will surely be eaten as well.


The Next Time You Get a Hankering for Popcorn, Make Some for Your Birds, too!

Hmmm, looks good.  Think I'll go make some popcorn right now!
Hmmm, looks good. Think I'll go make some popcorn right now! | Source

Using any or all of these supplemental foods can make a real difference in your bird seed budget. Black oil sunflower seed is less expensive than the grey-striped sunflower seeds here. But that may not be the case where you live. The larger grey-striped seeds are just what the grosbeaks, cardinals and other large-beaked birds love; while the black oil sunflower seed works well for all feeder birds no matter how big or small their beaks might be. So go with the least expensive sunflower seed choice that is available for you.

I would stay away from the generic mixed seeds as they contain a lot of waste. It will just end up on the ground under your feeders, uneaten. The largest bag of just sunflower seeds is still your best bet.

Choose any or all of these supplemental bird feeding ideas for your own beautiful backyard birds. Experiment to see what works best for the bird population in your neighborhood. Your backyard will be the most popular for miles around!



This Blue Jay has found a piece of bread.  He'll fly up in to a tree to eat it, then return for more.  That's a Hairy Woodpecker waiting her turn.
This Blue Jay has found a piece of bread. He'll fly up in to a tree to eat it, then return for more. That's a Hairy Woodpecker waiting her turn. | Source

More by this Author


Do You Have Alternative Bird Food Ideas? 30 comments

billybuc profile image

billybuc 4 years ago from Olympia, WA

Very useful information, Pearl, as winter settles in here and the birds arrive daily. We'll be trying several of these ideas. Great job!


Deerwhisperer profile image

Deerwhisperer 4 years ago from Bradenton, Florida

Very interesting hub. I too am a birdlover and know that it is offten difficult to feed them, especially in this economy.


shiningirisheyes profile image

shiningirisheyes 4 years ago from Upstate, New York

Very unique choices here and I had no idea dog or cat food would suffice! With the delicious snacks you provide, no wonder the bears pay you a visit! It's a bear lovers smorgasbord!

Voting up


grandmapearl profile image

grandmapearl 4 years ago from Southern Tier New York State Author

Hi shiningirisheyes! Oh, I hope not! So far no bears, but when the snow falls occasionally I do see bear tracks in the road!? I'm not sure why they are wandering the roads in the middle of winter, but nature can be crazy sometimes. Perhaps they had a bad dream during their hibernation and decided to get up and find a little water to drink. The ditches are deep here, so running water is not hard to locate even in the coldest months!

Thanks so much for your visit and comments and the vote. You always give me a smile. Looking forward to our next meeting! (no bears allowed) Pearl


grandmapearl profile image

grandmapearl 4 years ago from Southern Tier New York State Author

Hello Deerwhisperer! I am so glad you stopped by. When I bake something like cornbread I try to make an extra batch for the birds. They thoroughly enjoy the treat, and it does stretch my birdseed dollar as well. I do like to keep my birds well fed, but it is also good to know that they won't starve if I go on vacation.

Thanks for your visit and comments. Your name intrigues me, so I'll be checking out your hubs soon!


grandmapearl profile image

grandmapearl 4 years ago from Southern Tier New York State Author

Hi Billy! Thanks so much for your visit and the supportive comments. My birds are happy campers every time I add some of these items to their bird buffet! I hope you have good luck with your birds as well. Pearl


Angelo52 profile image

Angelo52 4 years ago from Central Florida

Some good ideas in your article for providing for our feathered friends.


Seeker7 profile image

Seeker7 4 years ago from Fife, Scotland

This is an excellent hub! In the UK the price of bird seed has also gone through the roof and I doubt if many people are buying that much of it anymore! But this great hub has so many great solutions! I'll look forward to trying out jelly/bread, bacon dripping/bread, popcorn and all the other wonderful ideas in your hub! Our feathered friends can be grateful to you for giving us all so many excellent ideas to keep them fed over the winter season in particular!

Voted up + shared!


aviannovice profile image

aviannovice 4 years ago from Stillwater, OK

You did a fine job on this piece, Connie. I still have a lot of seed, so I don't know if prices have gone up here or not. They probably have, as it is getting cold.


waleed shaikh profile image

waleed shaikh 4 years ago from Islamabad, Pakistan

Many birds don't need your help in the summer. When they are nesting and rearing their young, many birds focus on eating insects, so feeding is less necessary at those times. It is also important for young birds to learn how to find naturally occurring foods, so take a break from filling feeders in summer.

thanks a lot grandmapearl for such a useful hub!

THUMBS UP AND VOTED.

waleed


Eiddwen profile image

Eiddwen 4 years ago from Wales

Ahh this is the one for me.

Every day I make sure my birds have food.

So one to vote up and save.

Eddy.


grandmapearl profile image

grandmapearl 4 years ago from Southern Tier New York State Author

Hi Eddy, Thanks so much for stopping by! I am pleased to hear that you make sure your birds have food every day. Good for you! I am a firm believer in feeding the birds year round. So glad you liked this and thank you for your votes. Your comments are always a treat to read. Pearl


grandmapearl profile image

grandmapearl 4 years ago from Southern Tier New York State Author

Thank you Angelo52, I'm so glad you enjoyed this. Hopefully people will still feed the birds even though the cost of seed has jumped so high. You know my grandmother didn't have money for bird seed, so she used bread crusts or whatever she had! Thank you for your comment. It is very much appreciated.


grandmapearl profile image

grandmapearl 4 years ago from Southern Tier New York State Author

Hello Seeker7! It's always good to see you and to read your insightful and supportive comments. I am so glad you will be trying some of these ideas. Birds just love bread and popcorn. I think you'll enjoy watching them as they discover your kindness. It will also help with keeping their metabolism at a high rate so they can continue to forage for weed seeds and insects even in the wintertime. Thank you so much for your votes and share as well. They are very much appreciated!

Thanks also for inquiring as to how things are going. That Superstorm Sandy was a humdinger for sure. I felt it here in my part of NY State. It is the very first time I have actually heard the wind 'growl' as it does in the movies. It was eerie and very frightening; I thought the wind would never subside. But I never lost power, which was a godsend. There were a few branches down but no other damage, thankfully!


grandmapearl profile image

grandmapearl 4 years ago from Southern Tier New York State Author

Hi Deb, I'm so glad you liked this. I have already started to supplement my bird seed with inexpensive white bread on a regular basis. The birds seem to enjoy it, especially the blue jays. They gobble up as many pieces as they can before flying off to enjoy them. Once in a while I see them drop a piece. But they always come back to retrieve it! The little chickadees enjoy the peanut butter and jelly sandwiches; they nibble at the small sections and then go grab a sunflower seed. I think they like to eat dessert first! Thanks for your supportive comments. They are always appreciated.


grandmapearl profile image

grandmapearl 4 years ago from Southern Tier New York State Author

Hi waleed! I'm so glad you stopped by. I appreciate your constructive and supportive comments, and I thank you for your votes. Pearl


Nell Rose profile image

Nell Rose 4 years ago from England

What great ideas grandmapearl, I know what you mean, the bird seed food is so darn expensive! I just scrape my food plate for them! lol! I trust their judgement on whether they can eat it or not! most of it gets eaten because of the hierarchy, as in the birds first, then the squirrels then the hedgehogs! lol! they love my food! and yes popcorn, I will have to try that too, voted up and shared! nell


moonlake profile image

moonlake 4 years ago from America

All good ideas sunflower seeds are so expensive. We love feeding the birds and watching them. Voted up.


grandmapearl profile image

grandmapearl 4 years ago from Southern Tier New York State Author

Hi Nell! I like that you give them your food plate and let them have at it! We don't have hedgehogs, but we sure have squirrels and chipmunks that try to horn in on anything they can find that might be edible. But they all love popcorn and white bread pieces. Thanks very much for your vote and share, they are appreciated for sure. Pearl


grandmapearl profile image

grandmapearl 4 years ago from Southern Tier New York State Author

Hi moonlake! Thanks so much for stopping by and commenting. The price of our birdseed has gone from $9.99 for a 40 lb. bag last year to $24.99 for the same size this year! I HAD to find alternatives that the birds would enjoy without breaking my budget! And anytime I go to a restaurant and have rolls left over, I bring them home for the birds. They love any bakery stuff like that, and it won't go to waste. Thank you so much for the vote, it is definitely appreciated.


sgbrown profile image

sgbrown 3 years ago from Southern Oklahoma

Your right about the cost of black oil sunflower seeds having gone up! I really had not thought about some of these ideas. I have the perfect place to put some bread crumbs or popcorn, etc. Moonlake had a great idea about bringing home the left over restaurant rolls! I would like to attract some of the bigger birds, such as blue jays and wood peckers. This may be the trick! Voting up and useful. :)


grandmapearl profile image

grandmapearl 3 years ago from Southern Tier New York State Author

Hi sg! I'm so glad you enjoyed this article. I know for a fact that blue jays absolutely love popcorn and day old bread broken up into small pieces. I always save the rolls from restaurant meals for my birds. No sense it letting them go to waste! The woodpeckers enjoy the peanut butter and jelly sandwich pieces. I've seen them carry them off one right after the other! Thanks so much for stopping by and for the votes. They are most definitely appreciated.


tammyswallow profile image

tammyswallow 3 years ago from North Carolina

These are excellent alternatives to high priced seed. I feed stray cats and the birds are coming by the dozens because they love to eat the cat food. I grew up in Pennsylvania and my dad would always buy fat blocks from the butcher. Usually the butcher would give it away. The giant wood peckers would love to eat it. Great hub!


grandmapearl profile image

grandmapearl 3 years ago from Southern Tier New York State Author

Hi tammy, I'm so glad you stopped by and left this great comment. I love to hear stories about birds and all animals for that matter! A lot of my family lived in or now lives in Pennsy, so that makes us neighbors! Besides NYS, I love Pennsylvania the best. My grandfather had dairy cattle and sold the milk to the milk plant in Troy. He put out fat blocks for wildlife as well. And of course there were always barn cats by the dozens. There were lots of bluebirds using the fence posts back then for their nests.

Some of my favorite birds are woodpeckers, especially the red-bellied and the pileated, which are really colorful and large. Sounds like you enjoy watching the birds as much as I do.

Thanks for the visit and your support. Both are very much appreciated!


georgescifo profile image

georgescifo 3 years ago from India

really interesting hub. Actually feeding your pets are one of the most difficult things due to the diversity in the tastes for different pets. Thanks for sharing this hub.


grandmapearl profile image

grandmapearl 3 years ago from Southern Tier New York State Author

Hi georgescifo! Thanks for stopping by and commenting. Luckily my backyard birds are fond of a variety of foods, not just seeds. I enjoy finding different, less expensive things to try that are still nutritious. I'm glad for your visit.


rose-the planner profile image

rose-the planner 3 years ago from Toronto, Ontario-Canada

This is a very interesting article! I would have never guessed that cat or dog food and bacon drippings with day old bread could be used to feed birds. Great information on feeding your backyard birds without going broke. Thank you for sharing. (Voted Up) -Rose


grandmapearl profile image

grandmapearl 3 years ago from Southern Tier New York State Author

Thank you Rose! Birds, especially those that 'winter over' need the extra fat that pet food and bacon drippings have. It not only helps them stay warm, but it keeps their feathers in great condition. I'm so glad you stopped by, and I thank you for your comments and vote--they are very much appreciated ;) Pearl


Jatinder Joshi profile image

Jatinder Joshi 3 years ago from Whitby, Ontario, Canada

These are such useful tips to stretch the dollar. Thank you for sharing. Will be trying some of them.


grandmapearl profile image

grandmapearl 3 years ago from Southern Tier New York State Author

Jatinder, I'm very pleased you found these helpful. I have noticed that the price of black oil sunflower seed has dropped a little from the time I wrote this article. However, it is still higher than my comfort zone! Thanks for visiting and commenting ;) Pearl

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    grandmapearl profile image

    Connie Smith (grandmapearl)239 Followers
    60 Articles

    At a very young age Connie learned from her Grandma Pearl to observe and love backyard birds. She stills feeds and studies them everyday.



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