Can you store bird seed in plastic containers?

Bird seed is a staple food source for many backyard bird feeders. Keeping bird seed fresh and dry is important for attracting birds to your feeders. Some bird lovers choose to store their bird seed in plastic containers, while others opt for more breathable options like cloth bags or metal containers. So can you store bird seed in plastic containers? There are a few important factors to consider.

The Risks of Storing Bird Seed in Plastic Containers

Plastic containers may seem like a convenient storage option for bird seed, but there are a few potential downsides:

  • Moisture buildup – Plastic containers are less breathable than cloth or metal. This means moisture from the bird seed itself has nowhere to go. Over time, this can lead to mold and mildew growth.
  • Staleness – Similarly, the lack of airflow can cause bird seed stored in plastic to go stale faster. The seed needs a bit of airflow to stay fresh.
  • Insect infestations – Pantry pests like moths, weevils, and beetles can sometimes find their way into plastic containers. With no airflow, an infestation could go unnoticed until you open the container.
  • Difficult to clean – Plastic absorbs odors and can be difficult to clean fully if mold, mildew, or insects make their way inside. The porous plastic tends to hold onto any musty smells.

For these reasons, plastic containers may not be the best choice for long-term bird seed storage. The condensation and lack of airflow presents some risks you won’t get with a more breathable storage container.

Advantages of Plastic for Bird Seed

However, plastic containers aren’t without their advantages when it comes to storing bird seed:

  • Convenience – Plastic containers are widely available, inexpensive, lightweight, and come in a variety of sizes. They’re easy to scoop seed out of and seal back up.
  • Rodent-proof – Plastic containers with tight-fitting lids can help keep mice and rats from getting into your bird seed. Metal and cloth containers are more prone to rodent break-ins.
  • Moisture resistance – While too much moisture can build up inside plastic containers, they do offer some moisture protection in rainy or humid weather during transport or storage in a garage or shed.
  • Stackability – Plastic containers are easy to stack and organize, maximizing storage space.

If you already have plastic containers at home, they can work in a pinch. The key is being diligent about monitoring your seed for freshness and pests. Rotating your stock and using air-tight containers within the recommended timeframe can help.

Best Practices for Storing Bird Seed in Plastic

If you opt to use plastic containers for your bird seed storage, here are some tips to give you the best chance of success:

  • Choose containers with a tight seal – Lids that fit loosely won’t keep moisture and pests out.
  • Go for transparent containers – Clear plastic makes it easier to monitor your seed’s freshness and spot any bugs.
  • Use smaller containers – Storing in smaller 1-5 gallon buckets helps you go through seed faster before it goes stale.
  • Consider adding oxygen absorbers – These packets soak up excess moisture and help prevent mold growth.
  • Store in a cool, dry place – Keep containers off concrete floors and away from heat and humidity.
  • Freeze bird seed for 48-72 hours before storage – Freezing kills existing moth eggs and insect larvae.
  • Clean containers thoroughly before reuse – Getting rid of any residual moisture and smells.
  • Use stored seed within 2-3 months – Fresher seed attracts more birds.
  • Monitor frequently for moisture and pests – Toss moldy or infested seed.

Following these tips carefully can help you successfully store bird seed in plastic for short durations. Just be vigilant about checking for any signs of problems.

Alternatives to Plastic for Bird Seed Storage

If you’re looking for a more breathable, long-term storage solution for your bird seed, here are some alternatives to avoid the pitfalls of plastic:

Cotton, Burlap, or Mesh Sacks

Sacks made from natural fibers like cotton and burlap allow airflow while containing the seed. They prevent moisture accumulation and pests. You can also find mesh bags designed specifically for bird seed storage.

Metal Containers

Galvanized steel containers are also breathable while keeping seed dry and secure. Look for containers with tight fitting lids to maintain freshness and prevent spills.

Glass Jars

For small amounts of bird seed, sturdy glass jars with airtight lids allow you to easily monitor the seed while keeping air circulating.

Pet Food Containers

Heavy-duty plastic pet food containers are more rigid and less porous than typical plastic buckets. Their sealable lids lock in freshness.

Garbage Cans

Clean, lidded garbage cans make large bird seed storage bins. Look for trash cans without rubber seals that can harbor moisture.

Trying one of these alternative storage options can provide more breathability and weather protection to maintain fresh, dry bird seed over longer periods of time.

How Long Does Bird Seed Last in Plastic Containers?

With proper storage, most bird seed types will stay fresh in plastic containers for:

  • 2-3 months – Black oil sunflower seeds
  • 3-4 months – Nyjer thistle, safflower seed
  • 6-12 months – Striped sunflower seeds, peanuts
  • 9-12 months – Millet, wheat, corn

The higher oil content in sunflower and nyjer seed means they go rancid faster. Dense shelled seeds like millet and peanuts last longer. But overall, plastic is best suited for short term storage.

For longer storage, an airtight metal container or glass jar in a cool environment provides the best results for maintaining bird seed freshness beyond a year.

Signs Your Bird Seed Has Gone Bad

No matter what container you use, keep an eye out for the following signs that your bird seed has spoiled:

  • Visible mold growth
  • Clumping – Seed sticking together in clumps
  • Bad odor – Smells musty, rotten, or rancid
  • Change in appearance – Unusual colors or textures
  • Insect webbing or larvae – Signs of pests
  • High moisture content – Feels damp
  • Taste – Seed tastes bitter or sour

At the first sign of deterioration, it’s best to throw away moldy, smelly, or infested seed. Don’t risk making birds sick by feeding them spoiled food.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I store different types of bird seed together?

It’s best to store different varieties of bird seed separately. Blends go stale faster than single varieties. The higher oil seeds can accelerate spoilage of other seeds mixed in.

Where is the best place to store bird seed?

Store containers of bird seed in a dry spot away from direct sun and heat sources. Avoid damp garages, attics and basements. A pantry, closet or cupboard works well.

Should I refrigerate or freeze bird seed?

Refrigerating seed can lead to excess moisture as the cold seed warms back up. Freezing is effective for a few days to kill insect eggs before storage. But extended freezing can dry out seeds.

How can I revive stale bird seed?

Spreading out stale seed on a baking sheet and baking at 200°F for 1-2 hours can freshen it back up. Just be sure to monitor closely to avoid scorching the seed.

Can spoiled bird seed make birds sick?

Eating moldy or insect-infested seed can potentially cause illnesses in birds. Discard any seed at the first signs of problems to be safe.


Plastic containers can work for short-term bird seed storage. But their lack of breathability lends better to other options for storing seed longer than 2-3 months. Monitor plastic-stored seed for freshness and pests. And consider natural fiber sacks or metal cans to maximize the shelf life of your bird food.

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