How to Feed Your Backyard Birds Without Going Broke
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.
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
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'.
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.
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.
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.
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
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!
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!
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!