As a manufacturer of wild bird seed blends, Jay’s Bird Barn has a Commercial Feed License with the Arizona Department of Agriculture. One of the requirements of having a feed license is to submit an Annual Feed Tonnage Verification report.
This past week, as I was compiling the required information to fill out the form, I was struck by how interesting (at least it was to me!) some of the information was and thought I would share some numbers with my reading audience. Considering we are a small family business — a one-store operation — we do some things that are unique compared to other backyard wild bird stores. For example, over ten years ago we started our own seed mixing operation, making custom seed blends that are habitat-specific to the Arizona Central Highlands.
It is a very innovative concept to create seed blends that are specific to where our customers live, whether it is in a grassland habitat, or chaparral, pinyon juniper, ponderosa, etc. If you were to compare the seed blends we make weekly, right here in Prescott, to the seed blends available at large, national box stores, there is a stark difference. They contain a lot of filler ingredients such as milo and wheat. We use no filler ingredients.
National chain stores carry what I call “generic” seed blends—they are not tailored to where the product will eventually be sold. If you were to buy bird seed at a big box store in Florida, Ohio, or Washington state, you would get the same bag of bird seed. There is no customization based on the birds that occur where that product is being sold.
Probably one of the best things about our seed mixing operation is that we partner with a local non-profit, Yavapai Exceptional Industries (YEI), to mix and bag our seed blends at their facility near the Prescott airport. Through our partnership with YEI, Jay’s Bird Barn provides meaningful employment to adults with disabilities.
We use eleven different ingredients to make eight custom seed blends. We also sell nine different raw seed ingredients including black-oil sunflower, white-proso millet, nyjer, safflower, sunflower chips, cracked corn, raw split peanuts, and peanuts in the shell.
Sales of seed blends outstrip sales of raw ingredients by three to one. Some of our customers buy only black-oil or only millet, but when you provide only one ingredient, you are only going to attract the types of birds that prefer that one ingredient.
Feeding a blend with multiple ingredients attracts a larger quantity and a larger variety of birds, as different bird species have different dietary preferences. If a restaurant only had one item on its menu, how busy would it be compared to a buffet-style restaurant?
The most popular seed ingredient that we sell individually is nyjer, followed by sunflower chips, black-oil sunflower, millet, cracked corn and safflower.
In the past year we’ve sold well over 400,000 pounds of bird seed! Our best-selling seed blend is Premium—we sold 97,000 pounds of just this one mix. We sold over 82,000 pounds of our second most popular seed blend, No-Grow, which is our non-germinating seed blend.
Unfortunately, as you are probably aware, seed prices have gone up significantly this year, which is very challenging. Last month I had a full semi-load of sunflower seed products come in and my cost on a fifty-pound bag of sunflower chips went up fourteen dollars per bag from the previous order!
Speaking of seed, the number of lesser goldfinches in the area has gone through the roof lately. If you are not providing nyjer/thistle seed in your yard (for the goldfinches,) I highly recommend it. You will get a lot of colorful birds that will brighten your day!
Until next week, Happy Birding!
Eric Moore is the owner of Jay’s Bird Barn in Prescott, Arizona. Eric has been an avid birder for over 50 years. If you have questions about wild birds that you would like discussed in future articles, email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.