Do you like birdwatching? If so, you know that there’s nothing quite like getting outdoors and spotting different species of birds. However, did you know that you can also attract birds to your backyard with specific types of birdseed? In this post, we’ll teach you how to make your own zero waste birdseed at home. This way, you can rest assured knowing that the seed is ethical and sustainable. Keep reading for more information!
What is Zero Waste Birdseed
Zero waste birdseed means no hulls, smaller pieces, no debris and it’s free from germination of seeds. This means the bird completely consumes the seed leaving no uneaten pieces. This can be beneficial for several reasons!
Birdseeds will differ with the variety of birds you are trying to feed. Many store bought blends vary a lot with their actual ingredients. This means some have less of what the birds do not want, and some will have more filler. However, it’s common to have extra seeds and pieces from wild bird food blends. This will happen with just about any birdseed. The main ingredients may be what birds love, but there will typically be a lot of seeds and debris dropped. It’s still important to be knowledgeable about the ingredients.
These filler seeds can collect on the ground or become spread around the lawn or garden. Why is this a problem? Seeds in the waste appeal to rodents and other herbivores. Messes around the bird feeder can attract squirrels especially! They aren’t friends of ours around the bird feeders, since they can really consume a lot of good birdseed and they can also chase off our pretty wild birds! We have a dedicated yard space for our backyard birds with our DIY Bird Sanctuary.
Plus, zero waste birdseed is a great way to reduce your impact on the environment. Bargain mixes can sprout in areas you may not see until later. This can also cause rotting fruit or vegetation drawing unwanted wildlife and rodents.
When you make your own zero-waste birdseed, you can be sure that the ingredients are sustainable and ethically sourced. We choose to garden with organic seeds and stick with non-GMO ingredients and non-toxic fertilizers whenever possible. If you have lots of birdseed around the garden, chances are they will be mixed into your garden soil.
What do Wild Birds Like to Eat?
Keep in mind that when choosing low waste or zero waste bird foods, there will still be differences in the ingredients lists. Find one that appeals to different types of birds in your area. Some nutritious and tasty seed options are:
- Sunflower hearts or black oil sunflower seed – look at your bird species to see which one you need
- Peanut butter or peanut pieces
- Safflower Seeds
- Suet cake- you can actually make these yourself
- Cracked corn
- High quality waste-free bird food. Look through the seeds for any contaminants such as dust or mold, and labeling to ensure it wasn’t treated with any chemicals or toxic products.
What Kind of Birdseed Does Not Sprout?
If you are thinking of making your own mix, the sunflower chip is an excellent choice for bird feeders. Sunflower chips are one of the most popular seeds chosen by various types birds, including jays and woodpeckers. With the kernel hulled and chopped, the seed won’t sprout.
Another non-sprouting seed is cracked corn. Corn kernels must be whole to sprout.
Avoid bargain mixes with white millet. Look for a wild bird food blend that says no waste or low waste. These larger bags for a variety of wild birds are available but may cost slightly more. However, if they are low in millet, there will be less wastage overall and your extra money out of pocket can be made up! Millet is not usually something the birds will go for, so it can easily go straight to the ground and end up as sprouted seeds.
Why Do Birds Throw Seed from the Feeder
Birds will not eat germinated seeds. A germinated seed is one that has been soaked in water and started to sprout. When the seed starts to grow, the embryo inside the seed splits open the hull and a small shoot appears. Birds know that if they eat a germinated seed, they will not get the nutrition they need from it.
That’s why it’s important to keep your bird seed dry. Another reason could be because you are feeding them store-bought food with ingredients they are not used to. What kind of birds do you have in your area? Offering birdseed for populations that aren’t already in your yard can end up with not much seed being eaten, or a lot of it wasted by the birds. Start by studying which birds frequent your yard, and feed those first. As your bird population grows, you can add more feeders with different seed mixes.
The third and final reason is that they are caching their food. Many birds, including jays and woodpeckers, will put food away for later. When they throw the seed out of the feeder, they are just hiding it so that other animals don’t eat it.
Feeders that Can Help Limit Waste
Another option to look into if your goal is zero waste bird seed is to have a tray feeder. Most bird feeders do have something on the base, to allow the birds to perch or eat slowly. We did our own DIY no waste bird feeder with a tray a while back. Any large platform feeder should help limit waste, but look for one with large holes or seed ports rather than a completely open feeder– again to discourage those pesky squirrels!
If you have smaller birds that can eat from a hopper feeder, this is a great option. The feeder will slowly empty out as birds eat the seed from each side. Keeping clean feeders in general throughout the spring and summer seasons is a good habit to get into. If you have a neat and tidy space and fresh water for the birds, the birds may stick around for a long time, and encourage new species to visit!
How to Make Your Own Zero Waste Birdseed Blend
When we first started feeding our birds and decided to avoid the mixes that seemed like higher waste blends, we tried making our own DIY mix. We found what worked for our bird population were these seeds and foods:
The most popular seed is:
- Sunflower hearts
- Nyjer / Thistle
- Safflower seeds
- Mixed birdseed
- Peanut butter
- Cracked corn
The first ingredient we realized worked better on its own was the cracked corn. With cracked corn, you can find it cheaper at the feed store. They sell it for chickens, however it’s exactly the same cracked corn that is sold for birds to enjoy. You can add your desired amount of these ingredients, and just mix in a 5 gallon bucket. We did not add any artificial flavor or other ingredients to the mix.
The main difference with our own mix and the store-bought ones is that you do get what you pay for. We invested some more money into making a high-quality blend, and made sure to store it in a sealed container. The birds still waste food of course– since that is how they eat– but for the cleanest feeding experience this was a fun DIY to try.
Thanks for Reading!
Hopefully our experience with fiding a low waste mix of seeds can help you enjoy your local wild birds. Be sure to do your homework before spending money on birdseed or supplies, to ensure you are getting the most out of your hobby.
Now that you know how to make your own birdseed, it’s time to put this knowledge into practice! Head on over to our blog post about creating a backyard bird sanctuary and get started making your yard a haven for feathered friends. With just a little bit of effort, you can provide birds with the food and shelter they need to thrive. What type of birds do you hope to attract?
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