Are the birds not flocking to your feeder or have they stopped eating from it altogether? You may be wondering if the bird seed has gone bad. The article “Does bird seed go bad?” answers all your questions about the freshness of bird seed. Learn how long bird seed can remain fresh, how to tell if it has gone bad, and how to make it last longer. Discover the shelf life of different types of bird seed and what signs to look out for to determine if it’s time to replace it. Don’t let stale seed discourage your feathered friends – find out how to keep your bird seed fresh and nutritious.
Does bird seed go bad?
Are birds not eating the seeds at your feeder? Did birds stop coming to your feeder? Or are you having trouble getting birds to come to a feeder? You may wonder if the seed is bad. Yes, this can be a problem.
This article answers the questions: How long does bird seed remain fresh? How can you tell if bird seed has gone bad? How can you make bird seed last longer? How long until bird seed goes bad?
Shelf Life of Bird Seed
Bird seed has a store shelf life of 6 months to 2 years, depending upon the type of seed. But once you get home and open it, bird seed can go bad in a few weeks or last up to 6 months. Manufacturers often put an expiration date of 2 years on bird seed. If kept in cool, dry conditions, some bird seed may still be nutritious that long. But bird seed 12 months old is probably starting to get stale. Black oil sunflower seed has a shelf life of about 6-12 months. Because Niger seed (Nyjer trademark) is sterilized with heat to kill it and keep it from sprouting, it only stays fresh 3-6 months. That said, the quality and freshness of bird seed in the store varies. If birds aren’t coming to your feeder, buying fresh seed is a quick way to see if stale seed is the problem or not.
Signs That Bird Seed is Bad
- Birds at feeder but not eating the seed: At your feeder, all seed should be eaten in 2-3 days. If not, replace it. Don’t just add more. Throw out the old and add new.
- Seed in feeder got wet: If the seed in your feeder got wet, then remove any clumps of damp bird seed and clean the feeder. In many places, winter weather can be damp and rainy continuously. It takes vigilance to keep your feeder clean and seed dry. The seed is fine for birds for a few days following rainy weather. But clean out the feeder when you can–at least once weekly.
- Stored bird seed at home: If you have stored last season’s bird seed at home, it may also be bad. If birds aren’t eating it, then it needs to be replaced with fresh seed.
- Old seed dried out and lost nutritional value: Old seed can dry out and lose nutritional value and taste. Crack open some seeds of black oil sunflowers. Squeeze the meaty kernel between your fingers. It should be a bit oily when crushed.
- Bird seed feels damp or clumps: Bird seed can absorb moisture or have gotten wet with rain and snow. If the bird seed feels damp or clumps, it has been wet and probably should be thrown out.
- Seed smells musty or sour: Smell the seed. If it smells musty or sour, it may be rancid. The seed is bad.
- Fuzzy strands of mold, mildew, and fungus: Look for fuzzy strands of mold, mildew, and fungus. Do the seeds feel slimy? These are all signs that the seed is bad. Don’t feed it to the birds! Especially look for this in seed stuck in the bottom cracks of the feeder. Clean and wash the feeder (warm soapy water or even diluted bleach) or it will quickly spread to any new seed you add. Maybe swap feeders with a clean one until you can get to the old one.
- Seeds sprouting: Are any of the seeds sprouting? They got wet and are now not nutritious.
- Insects, caterpillars, or moths in the seed: Do you see live or dead insects, caterpillars, or moths in the seed? It is time to buy fresh seed. This can even happen with new seed that you buy.
How to Make Bird Seed Last Longer
- Transfer bird seed to a strong container with an airtight seal: After you purchase bird seed, transfer it to a strong plastic or metal container with an airtight seal. The goal is to keep out insects, rodents, and moisture.
- Store container indoors in a cool, dry location: Store the container indoors, in a cool, dry location. If you store it outside where it may get damp and warm, it won’t last as long. That’s alright if you are going through it and replacing it regularly. Just remember that bird seed stored outside will go bad sooner.
- Don’t store bird seed outside: Use your older seed first. As long as the birds are still eating it, use up the old seed before opening new. That way you don’t have any really old seed you are feeding to the birds.
Bird seed can go bad if not stored and maintained properly. Pay attention to the shelf life of the seed and keep an eye out for signs that the seed is no longer good. By following storage tips and using older seed first, you can make your bird seed last longer and provide fresh and nutritious food for birds. Remember to regularly clean your feeder and replace any wet or moldy seed. Providing fresh bird seed is important in attracting and maintaining a diverse variety of birds at your feeder.