Backyard Chirper

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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.

Timothy Martinez Jr. is a writer and freelance journalist. His work has been published in The Times-Picayune in New Orleans, Remapping Debate in New York City and other publications. He’s been a bird lover since he was young and currently lives in New Orleans, L.A.


  1. 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. 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. 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.

  4. 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.

  5. That’s a great idea Jenny!

  6. […] of water can be placed in the yard and changed two or three times a day as it starts to freeze.After Halloween and with the approach of Thanksgiving the weather has a way of letting you know that…would be very good if you were to supplement there food supply by setting up some bird feeders in […]

  7. […] talked about this already quite a bit in the context of feeding birds on a budget, but native plants do more than offer food. Any type of plant native to the area is one that birds […]

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

  9. 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.

  10. 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?

  11. Please don’t put that toxic stuff around the birds! Seeds fall on the ground and the birds eat it. No bird is going to fall over dead at the same time they ingest the horrible poison in Preen.. It takes a while and makes them very sick and they die slowly… Why not buy cracked sunflower seeds they won’t germinate and then you won’t have to buy the poison… (Plus the poison gets into the groundwater killing vegetation and causing algae growth.. plus killing fish.. bad stuff all around.)

  12. 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.

  13. I also use chicken scratch.Live in southern AZ.

  14. 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??

  15. 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.

  16. Use the vacuum feature on your leaf blower

  17. 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

  18. 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?

  19. What’s yummy recipe?

  20. Plant a small flower garden or a raised garden bed under the feeder.

  21. I live in Gladstone, Queensland Australia. Near the Tropic of Capricorn.
    I feed the local Magpies and Kookaburras Chicken heart. $3. Half kilogram. Very little fat. Plenty of vitamins. They love it.

  22. I keep trying to Google can I feed roasted shelled peanuts out of the shell by the way… To the birds… Man they all woodpeckers chickadees tit mice blue jays etcetera etcetera love the little peanut pieces but they’re so expensive I can’t afford them anymore… Can I buy unsalted roasted peanuts for them? That’s all I want to know lol actually… I have a many other questions but this is my biggest one I’m running into Kroger now haha… Thank you to whomever on whoever comments

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