How to Save Money (and Time) Buying Bird Seed

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Feeding wild birds is a wonderful and relaxing hobby. There are many reasons why we feel compelled to feed the birds that visit our yards, but we all have one simple reason in common. That reason is that we love watching them!

There are so many different varieties. Birds of different species, colors and sizes. Birds that visit at different times of the year and birds that stick around all year long. We just can’t get enough of them because they are so peaceful to watch. I love waking up early, making a big cup of coffee, and sitting on my back deck and just watching them at my feeders. It’s really very tranquil.

This hobby, like others, has a cost. A monetary cost. The size of that cost depends on several different factors such as how many feeders you have, how long you have been offering food to the birds, what kind of food you buy, and lastly where and how you buy it. In this article we’re going to focus mainly on the last one and see if we can’t save you some cash and some of your precious time in the process. So let’s get to it!

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Why do people feed wild birds?

Over 50 million people in the US alone feed wild birds in their backyards. Researchers at Milliken University did a survey of why people feed wild birds, they got almost 1300 responses. They found that the majority of respondents where women between the ages of 45 and 64. More than 80% of the total participants said that they do so to bring nature and beauty to their yards and that they love the sounds of birds.

According to nature.org, 40% of households in the US feed wild birds and as many as 75% in the UK. Whatever people’s reasons are so many people do it that buying bird seed has become a 4 billion dollar industry. I found several other studies with varying results due to different sample sizes but one thing is evident, feeding birds is big business.

There may also be a couple of less common reasons, (such as helping control the insect population), but that’s just what they are, uncommon. When you get down to it, people feed birds because they love watching them and what they bring to their yards. We love hearing them sing and watching them take the food we offer.

bird flying to feeder

People also find feeding birds somewhat therapeutic and relaxing. Once you put out your feeders and see the birds start coming to them, you may feel a sort of responsibility to keep feeding them. Before you know it, it’s your new hobby. It’s no secret that people spend lots of money on their hobbies and feeding birds is no different. Soon you want different types of feeders and you want to attract different types of birds. Maybe you buy some binoculars so you can better watch them.

Whatever your reasons may be for feeding birds, you have to buy more and more bird seed to keep up with the increasing demand from your backyard friends. Unless perhaps you own a farm and grow your own sunflowers and corn, but for most of us, we have to buy it from somewhere.

Feeding birds can get expensive

stacks of 20s

I guess expensive is relative. I try and budget everything I buy so I know if I spend more from one month to the next on a recurring purchase like bird seed. If you are more of a casual bird feeder and just buy a bag here and there then this article may not be for you. However if you find yourself regularly buying 10, 20, even 50 pound bags of bird seed then read on. We are going to try and save you some money and time and make your life a little easier and keep your feeders full.

For those of us that do have multiple feeders and buy the big bags of seed, we know it can add up. It’s not at all uncommon for people to spend upwards of $200-$300 a month on bird seed alone. Especially if you are letting all the critters in your yard eat up. Squirrels, chipmunks, raccoons, deer, and even skunks and opossums will make short work of your bird seed and won’t save much for the birds if you don’t keep a small stockpile of extra seed somewhere.

For me, I prefer not to feed the whole neighborhood so I go with squirrel proof bird feeders. Many people though, like feeding everyone and that’s fine too. If you’ve got the extra money and enjoy having a little nature wonderland in your backyard then I’m sure the animals are very thankful. If this is you, I bet you can save some money if you find yourself running to the store once a week to buy big bags of seed. Read on, we’re getting to the good stuff.

Especially when you are buying multiple types of seed

multiple types of bird seed

We all know there are different types of bird seed that fall into different price ranges. The price is going to depend on how much you buy and where you buy it but some are cheaper than others. On top of that you’ll go through some faster than you will others. Here are a few common types of bird seed that you may be buying various quantities right now:

  • Mixed seed
  • Black oil sunflower seeds
  • Safflower
  • Thistle
  • Sunflower hearts

These are just a few common types of seed people buy, you can see more types of bird seed in this article that we wrote. You may also have moved on to buying things like packs of suet and bulk packages of mealworms depending on what types of birds you are trying to attract. These things of course only add to your monthly bird feeding bill.


 

Online vs buying locally

When it comes to buying bird seed, you’ve got two options; buy it online or at the store.

Buying bird seed online

Advantages

  • A lot of the time it’s going to be cheaper
  • Saves you time having to go pick it up, unless you happen to already be at the store
  • You can take your time reading ingredients and picking the best for birds
  • Get it delivered right to your door (obviously)
  • You may have more of a selection
  • If you go with Chewy you can get autoship (recurring deliveries) and manage deliveries on the app adding another layer of convenience
  • Many times it’s free shipping

Disadvantages

  • If you don’t order enough you may run out for a couple of days, you can always run to the store though
  • In come cases may be cost a little bit more

Buying bird seed locally

Advantages

  • If you do run out you can go to the store, good for occasional bird feeders
  • Never pay shipping (even though you pay for the gas it costs to drive)
  • Could possibly be cheaper in some cases depending on where you shop

Disadvantages

  • It’s a hassle to pick it up
  • Takes up your time!
  • Loading and unloading 20 or even 50 pound bags of seed out of your car sucks
  • There may be a smaller selection

 

Some viable options to buy bird seed in bulk

I won’t list out every option in the world, but here are some of the best ones out there.

  • Agricultural supply stores like Tractor Supply or local feed stores – A solid option for bird seed. Good prices but the quality may be questionable. If it’s locally owned then you can keep your tax dollars in your town if that’s important to you.
  • Department stores like Walmart– If you are regularly in Walmart then it may be convenient for you. If you are anything like me then you avoid Walmart like the plague. Their online grocery pickup is a nice option and I have used that in the past for groceries, not for buying bird seed though.
  • Big box pet stores such as PetSmart or Petco – Not a big fan of these pet mega stores and they aren’t always priced the lowest. I avoid them.
  • Order online from from Amazon or Chewy.com – Good prices and very convenient, it’s what we do. I have gotten to the point where I like to do almost everything online that I can. Order groceries, pay bills, shop for clothes, buy pet food and bird seed (Chewy).

So where do we recommend?

We like ordering our seed online as we state throughout this article. So our top 2 choices are from online retailers, but I threw in one local place that has great prices as well.

1. Chewy.com

Founded in 2011, Chewy has changed the way we buy our pet food and supplies. On the outside it may seem like just another website selling pet food, but it’s much more. Much of their success has come from not only their competitive prices, but their outstanding customer service.

Chewy prides itself on building customer relationships for life by making the buying experience a pleasure. They have 24/7 customer service, with a chat feature, should you need anything at all (unlike Amazon) and I mentioned the highly competitive prices. They offer $5 flat rate shipping in 1-2 days from one of their 13 fulfillment centers in the US, unless you purchase $49 or more in which case shipping is free.

Chewy locations

So we’ve covered Chewy’s great customer service and prices but that’s not all that keeps me going back. They have a feature called Autoship which is pretty much just recurring deliveries that you can manage and adjust the frequency of from their app. It really takes all the hassle out of buying bird seed, or any pet food for that matter.

 

I order all of my cat food from them as well. Additionally you get 30% off (up to $20) of your first order of autoship and an additional 5% off of certain brands making the deal even sweeter. Savings like that can really add up if you are buying your bird seed in bulk. Especially since there’s a good chance that Chewy’s base prices are already cheaper than what you are paying now.

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You can see from the order below that I would have saved $11 on that order just for signing up for autoship, which is just the icing on the cake. If you are worried about ordering the wrong amount or deciding you won’t like it, don’t be. You can cancel anytime you want and you can change your frequency anywhere from once a week to once every 8 months all in the app. See the screenshot above.

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You may find that Chewy does not have quite the selection that somewhere like Amazon does, but if you can find what you want at Chewy I highly suggest giving them a try, you won’t regret it. While you’re there you can pick up some dog or cat food as well if you have other pets. You’ll quickly be spoiled with how easy it was and best of all, how much time and money it saves you in the long term!

Shop wild bird seed on Chewy.com


 

2. Amazon

Amazon is another great option for ordering bird seed online. You have tons of choices and can shop around for the lowest prices. Most of us have Amazon Prime memberships which gives us free 2 day shipping, we trust Amazon, and we order other stuff from there all the time. These things make buying pretty much anything from Amazon very convenient.

nutrition info that Chewy provides, and Amazon doesn’t

Amazon, like Chewy, will also have lots of helpful questions and answers as well as reviews for you to read through. One thing I’ve found with Chewy that Amazon doesn’t provide, is nutritional info for the bird seed.

For those of us that like to know exactly what we are feeding to our backyard friends, this is a nice touch that Chewy adds that Amazon doesn’t. Overall though, Amazon is a great choice for wild bird food of all types. They have an enormous selection and generally really good prices, they just don’t go that extra mile with customer service and making you part of the family like Chewy does. That’s because you are usually buying from third parties that are just using Amazon as a marketplace.

So that’s why Amazon comes in as my second choice for buying my seed. I still love Amazon and order from them a lot. They are definitely my next stop if I can’t find what I want on Chewy and I do recommend them in some cases, especially if you can’t find on Chewy (which may happen).

Shop wild bird seed on Amazon


 

3. Tractor Supply

If you prefer to go pick up your bird seed then I recommend Tractor Supply. They have low prices and offer free in-store pickup, meaning you order it online and then pick it up at the store. This way you have a larger selection of products they may not always have available in the store.

However, if you choose to actually have it delivered look out for high shipping prices. I have not ordered online from TS before but put in my zip code and went partially through the checkout process only to discover shipping was $10 on a $12 bag of seed.

I won’t lie, if you pick it up at the store you may find some pretty good prices. Many times cheaper than Amazon or Chewy, but you have to drive to pick it up and that is worth something to me.  Additionally I have read that some of their seed contains lots of filler, namely the notorious milo that birds don’t even eat. So watch out for that if you buy from TS.


 

Don’t forget, time is money!

We’ve talked about saving money throughout this article and how you can shop around to cut costs. I also told you that sometimes you can get a good deal shopping locally, although you may sacrifice quality. What about your time though? What is that worth to you?

To me, my time is valuable. Especially my free time that I could be spending with my kids or taking care of errands that I simply don’t have time to do because I work a full time job. If I can create more free time for myself by ordering things online and getting them delivered right to my door then I’m going to, especially if there is no sacrifice being made i.e. quality or price.

For those of us that have very busy lives and place a high value on our time ordering things online has really become commonplace. I expect things will only move that direction even more over the years as the internet gets bigger, more people get access to it, and more people start using it.

So if you can save yourself just 30 minutes to an hour a month driving back and forth to the store and picking up bird seed by ordering it online at the same price, why wouldn’t you? What could you do with that extra time? Time equals money.

 

Poll: How much are people spending on bird seed

Before writing this article I was curious as to how much the average person is spending on bird seed each month. So I went to one of the bird watching groups I’m in on Facebook and created a poll (which ended up getting me kicked out of the group for some reason?) and posed the question. Luckily I got my data before that happened so here are the results:

monthly bird seed spending pie chart

So what we can deduce from this is that most of the people I polled are spending less than $50 a month. However, 36 out of 100 are spending over $50, 20 out of 100 are spending over $100, and 6 are spending over $200. Granted, this was a small sampling of people and not everyone that feeds birds is on Facebook. So I may conduct another study at a later time but this does give us an idea.

If you fall into that 36% of people spending over $50 a month on bird seed, I consider you a regular bird feeder and could save some time and money by utilizing Chewy’s autoship feature. And even if you are in the majority that spends less than $50 but maybe have dogs or cats, you can still sign up for Chewy’s autoship, get free shipping if your order is at least $49, and have your pet food and bird seed delivered to your door however frequently works best for you. Give it a try, you can thank me later.

Wrap up

Right now we are all about Chewy and looking forward to continuing our relationship with them for years to come. They may not be the right choice for everyone, I do however recommend that you give them a shot.  If you just aren’t really the type of person to order everything online then try Tractor Supply or your local feedmill.

In the end we want quality bird seed, at a good price, convenience, and good customer service. In my opinion Chewy hits all of those marks, Amazon is close, Tractor Supply a distant third. I’ll leave it up to you to decide after you’ve tried them all, and maybe you already have.

Check out our bird seed guide for some helpful info and nutritional facts on the most popular types of bird seed!

About Jesse

Jesse enjoys bird watching and feeding birds in his backyard, learning about the different species, and sharing his knowledge and experiences.

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