Cheapest Place To Buy Bird Food? Online vs Retail! (9 Case Studies)

I have recently been pondering a question every time that I buy food for my bird feeders.

Is it cheaper to buy bird food online or locally from a store?

Personally, I love supporting local businesses with my money. But it’s also incredibly convenient to buy birdseed online from Amazon.

I am in my early thirties, a “millennial” and a little biased toward thinking buying anything online is going to be cheaper than going to a local store. But I always feel a twinge of guilt when ordering things on the Internet because I prefer that my money stays in our community.

It was time to run a series of experiments to find the cheapest place to buy bird food and birdseed.

Here is what I did:

I visited six local stores, which included everything from pet stores to grocery stores to hardware stores, to compare the price in the store vs. the price I could find online.

I had a few guidelines that I followed while conducting this experiment:

1. To make a proper comparison, the brand of the bird food had to be the same. It’s unfair to compare sunflower seed from Company A at a local store vs. sunflower seed from Company B online. The quality of birdseed can differ significantly from company to company, depending on how and where it was harvested.

2. The bag size of the bird food had to be the same. So if I found a 25-pound bag of black oil sunflower from Company A at my local hardware store, then it had to be compared against the same 25-pound bag from Company A online.

3. To compare in-store prices against the prices available online, I tried to use Amazon whenever possible. This is because most people think of Amazon first when trying to find the lowest prices available online. I thought it best to compare local prices against the Internets biggest giant! Also, Amazon typically has free shipping, which I love.

One last thing before we dig into the 9 case studies below:

Prices constantly change! The prices you see below are what they were the day this article was published. I intend to keep this article updated periodically, but reader and buyer beware! I will include links where applicable to check the current online prices.

Are you ready???


Case Study # 1: Black Oil Sunflower Seed

I thought it would be best to start with black oil sunflower seed because it’s the most popular and common bird food offered in feeders.

I found this 10-pound bag of Audubon Park black oil sunflower seed at my local grocery store.

best prices to buy bird food

In case you can’t see the price tag below, purchasing at the grocery store would cost $9.99.

A quick search on Amazon shows that buying the same 10-pound bag cost $20.34.  View Current Price

Wow! I was a bit shocked to see that buying locally from my grocery store (of all places!) was half the cost of purchasing online.

We have a clear winner from the first case study!

Buying Local = 1 , Buying Online = 0


Case Study #2: Sunflower Hearts/Chips

For the second test, we are going to stay at the same grocery store and use the same brand.

But this time let’s take a look at sunflower hearts and chips.

cheapest place to buy bird food

Audubon Park Sunflower Chips (5 lbs)

Grocery Store: $11.99

Amazon: $23.40  Check Current Price

Incredible! That’s a savings of almost 50%. Buying local has jumped out to an early lead.

Buying Local = 2 , Buying Online = 0


Case Study #3: Safflower Seed

This case study will feature safflower purchased from a local pet store, Pet Supplies Plus.

best price bird food

Kaytee Safflower Seed (5lbs)

Pet Store: $8.98

Amazon: $13.50  Check Current Price

Once again, buying local saves a significant amount of money (33%).

Buying Local = 3, Buying Online = 0


Case Study #4: Nyjer Seed

I went to the closest Home Depot to check out their bird food selection. One of the products they carried was a 10-pound bag of Wagner’s nyjer seed. This caught my eye because I know for a fact that I have ordered the 5-pound bag on Amazon before.

cheapest price bird food

Wagner’s Nyjer Seed (10 lbs)

Home Depot: $18.98

Amazon: $21.98  Check Current Price

Buying local wins again and saves about 14%. At least these prices were similar, unlike the first 3 case studies.

Buying Local = 4, Buying Online = 0


Case Study #5: Nyjer Seed Finch Socks

While at Pet Supplies Plus, I noticed they carried these Kaytee Finch Socks. I have ordered this twin pack from Amazon before, so I was excited to compare prices.

where to buy birdseed?

Kaytee Nyjer Seed Finch Sock (Twin Pack)

Pet Store: $7.98

Amazon: $12.03  Check Current Price

This competition is quickly turning into a blowout. (~33% savings buying local)

Buying Local = 5, Buying Online = 0


Case Study #6: Peanuts

To be honest, the inspiration for this post came while shopping at Sam’s Club. I was there on my lunch break purchasing diapers when I came across the below 5-pound bag of peanuts from Hampton Farms.

What blew me away was that a 5-pound bag only cost $5.68. For the past few months, I have been buying this EXACT bag on Amazon to feed the Blue Jay’s in my backyard, and I knew that it has been costing me significantly more!

lowest price for seeds for birds

Hampton Farms Peanuts (5 lb)

Sam’s Club: $5.68

Amazon: $16.98     Check Current Price

What a huge price difference (67%)! Seriously, this enormous discrepancy is what initially got me curious about what was cheaper, buying local or online.

Buying Local = 6, Buying Online = 0


Case Study #7: Mealworms

My backyard birds love when I put mealworms out as a treat and will quickly eat them all!

And since mealworms seem to be the most expensive bird food by weight, I was very interested to find the cheapest place to buy them.

I have been purchasing freeze-dried mealworms on Amazon, assuming this must be the cheapest place to buy. To compare prices, I was able to find the same brand and size that I typically purchase on Amazon at the pet store.

cheapest bird food

Kaytee Mealworms (7-Ounce)

Pet Store: $6.98

Amazon: $9.20   Check Current Price

Buying from a store saves 25% on mealworms.

Buying Local = 7, Buying Online = 0


Case Study #8: General Bird Seed Mix

The last two case studies will feature two general bird seed mixes from different retailers.

This first one is the Kaytee Songbird blend (5 lbs). I found this at another local pet store (Pet’s Mart).

lowest price and cheapest bird seed

Kaytee Songbird Blend (5 lbs)

Pet Store: $9.99

Amazon: $17.60   Check Current Price

Another case study with the same result. Buying locally would save about 43% instead of buying this birdseed blend online.

Buying Local = 8, Buying Online = 0


Case Study #9: General Bird Seed Mix

To finish this experiment, I decided to head to Wild Birds Unlimited. They are a national franchise that specializes in bird feeding products, seeds, and foods.

Below is there popular “No-Mess Plus Blend” that features sunflower chips, shelled peanuts, and a few other foods that don’t have shells.

where should I buy bird food from?

Wild Birds Unlimited No-Mess Plus Blend (20 lbs)

Local WBU Store: $45.99 (it’s only $39.09 if you are part of their discount club)

WBU.com: $48.99 (plus ~$15.00 for shipping!)

Once again, it’s cheaper to buy at the local store instead of ordering online. These results were similar for all the other bird foods that Wild Birds Unlimited offers (sunflower, nyjer, suet, etc.).

Buying Local = 9, Buying Online = 0


Takeaways and Observations:

To be honest, the results of this experiment blew me away!

Out of the 9 case studies that were performed, it was always cheapest to buy bird seed from a local retailer.

Buying from a local store saved an average of over 50%!

I am guilty of having a prejudice that buying online was cheaper than heading to a store. I know this is true of other products, but the trend does not seem to apply to bird seed and food.

Could it be that the weight of bird food prevents cheap shipping? And does that cost have to be passed to the consumer online?

where should I buy bird seed from?

This may be part of the reason for heavier bags of seed. But it just can’t be true for lower weight items such as mealworms or finch socks.

Like many other people, I have become addicted to ordering products on Amazon. The free 2-day shipping offered by their Prime membership is incredibly convenient, especially now that we have two young children and going to the store has become increasingly difficult.

But part of my preference for ordering on Amazon was because of my (false) assumption that it was also CHEAPER. This experiment has me re-thinking about where we are going to shop, not only for bird food but many other products.

It could not have been more clear:

Buying bird food from a local store is significantly cheaper than buying online!


Questions for you:

Here is where I need your help.

The results of my experiment were clear. But I live in Akron, Ohio. I’m sure that prices differ all across the United States and the world.

  • Where is the best and least expensive place to buy bird food where you live?
    • Please make sure to share if you live outside the United States!
  • Is there a cheaper website than Amazon to order bird seed online?

Thanks for reading!

Scott

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89 Comments

  1. Hi Scott,
    Good read! Just wondering if you have ever bought seed from places like Tractor Supply. I usually get mine there. Sunflower seed for 40 lb is 19.99 and mixed is 20.00 for same size. They also have a cheaper mixed brand for 17.99, also 40lbs.
    The major thing I learned in reading your study, is you have to do a search for sure. I am on a fixed income and feeling my birds is one of my biggest expenses, Lol, but the birds, and squirrels and geese, and wild turkeys and the resident peacock, bring me such joy. I think seniors should get a discount on birdseed don’t you Scott!
    Thanks,
    Linda

  2. Hi Scott!
    I love your emails! I live in Asheville, NC and we have lots of black bears who love bird seed. I spend a lot of money on the seed by Wild Delight “Sizzle N’ Heat”, so I am hopefully keeping the bears away? I’ve taken the feeder in at night for two years, and it has kept the squirrels away during the day. It’s not very messy as it’s just the meat of the seeds. I spend the SAME amount of money at my local ACE Hardware, as I do at Amazon. I can’t find it at the grocery store or at the big box stores. I will welcome any additional comments.

  3. Hi, Scott, and All,
    In my area, (eastern Long Island) it is actually cheaper to buy the birdseed online. I know this sounds crazy, but my local hardware store must pass the expense of heavy bags onto the customers anyway. And Stop n Shop is quite expensive too!
    I was buying the large bags of sunflower seeds at Tractor Supply, because they are the cheapest. But then they ran a special online and I got it for the same price as buying it in the store! I honestly think I’m paying more now because since I started doing online delivery I haven’t bothered to price check again, so it seems like a logical guess the price has crept back up. But I do love getting the heavy bags delivered as I really can’t lift them myself and my husband recently had surgery and also can’t lift like he used to. Thanks for posting all your bird feeding and watching tips!
    I LOVE my birdies and I’m glad I’m not the only one!

  4. Old fashioned feed stores are still your best bet, hands down. Farm-focused retailers like Rural King has especially great prices on bird food compared with other “farm” stores.

  5. Scott,
    I live just outside of Detroit and shop many different places. ACE, Meijer, and Chaps Feed among the places I shop. One thing that stands out to me is whole peanuts. I found at Meijer it is cheaper to buy them from the grocery side of the store than in the pet department. I get the same brand you show and have the choice between raw, roasted and salted (for me, not the birds). I can buy smaller bags so I know they are fresh. And the house smells amazing if I roast the raw ones myself.
    Thank you for such a great website.
    Mike

  6. Ingredients in wild bird seed is not considered. Large cracked corn can’t be metabolized by small birds and have little more nutrition than sand. Some brands leave twigs and rocks in the mix. Manipulating quality and quantity to raise the bottom line is rampant. Your better off giving smaller amounts of quality ingredients. Sunflower seeds, peanuts, safflower, white millet (small amount), fine ground corn (small amount for roughage).

  7. I’ve been doing the same comparisons. Holy moly Amazon is waaaay more expensive and, on more things other than bird food! I still love my Amazon, but these past many years, as their membership goes up and up$$$, I grow more and more cynical about this ‘free two day shipping promise. It’s rarely ever less than a week or more and free? Nah. No way. The cost is in there. Hidden. I’m sure of it. You’d think they’d include free audible.com, free EVERYTHING on Amazon Video, free Amazon Music unlimited and family plans for those who are Prime members. Ya know?