Can Birds Eat Oats or Oatmeal? (And How to Feed)

Last updated: April 3, 2024

This guide explains why oats are potentially good for birds and outlines how best to prepare bird food with oatmeal.

If you love having birds in and around your backyard, then you may need to help them with feeding, especially during the colder winter months.

One simple, easy, and cost-effective way to help birds with their daily nutrition intake is by offering them oats or oatmeal, in addition to other kitchen scraps and food items.

In this article, I am going to explain why it’s okay to feed oats to birds and the best ways to do that.

Can You Feed Birds Oatmeal?

Yes, birds can certainly eat oats.

And that is excellent news because oats (and oatmeal) are so readily available, and almost all of us will have some available in the kitchen at any time.

What Are Oats?

Oats are essentially a type of cereal grain that is grown for its seeds. They are a suitable food for humans, and they are also widely used as livestock feed.

Oats are cultivated and consumed around the world but are best grown in temperate climates as they have a greater tolerance to rain and a lower summer heat requirement than other cereals.

The most common type of oats that consumers are familiar with are rolled oats. Rolled oats have been dehusked and steamed, and then rolled into the flat flakes that we can buy in the supermarkets.

Oat flakes
Oat flakes

A raw oat has a hard outer shell called a husk, which is inedible and must be removed, which is called dehusking.

What’s left is an oat groat that still has a tough bran layer, which, although nutritious, needs to be steamed so that it becomes easier to consume. The steaming process also helps with preservation.

Steel-cut oats, also called pinhead oats, are another type of oats. These are oats that are chopped into smaller pinhead-sized pieces before steaming. They tend to be nuttier and chewier.

For bird food, plain rolled oats are the most suitable.

Oats and Nutrition

As mentioned, oats are a great food source for birds. Oats are not only loved by birds, but they also offer a lot of nutritional value.

Oats are a great source of fiber, protein, and fat, in addition to B vitamins, manganese, phosphorus, magnesium, zinc, and iron.

Do keep in mind, though, that oats must be uncooked for birds, and they should not be softened up by liquids such as milk or plain water.

What Types of Birds Eat Oats?

Since oats are grains, they are eaten by granivorous birds. A bird is considered granivorous when their diet consists primarily of seeds and grains.

Examples of granivious birds:

  • Sparrows
  • Finches
  • Blue Jays
  • Northern Cardinals
  • Red-winged Blackbirds
  • Bunting birds
  • Mourning Doves

Many birds that visit backyards are actually granivorous, probably because that is where they can best find some of their food sources.

How to Make Bird Food With Oatmeal?

I love having birds visiting, or even living in, my backyard. I have built birdhouses of all kinds, and I also provide food sources during the colder months of the year.

Oats are a great way to feed birds, and I have tried the following three simple ways to offer them to birds in my backyard.

1. Plain Oats

The easiest way to feed birds oats is by simply spreading plain rolled oats onto a bird feeding platform or onto the ground.

As mentioned further above in this article, don’t feed birds cooked oats. Instead, simply stick with plain rolled oats.

Cooked oatmeal tends to get hard and dry very quickly, especially in the outdoors, and just makes it more difficult for birds to digest.

2. Fat Balls

Another highly effective way to feed birds is by creating delicious fat balls with oatmeal.

Bird eating on fat ball with oats
Bird eating on fat ball

Simply mix two parts suet or pork fat with one part oatmeal, cover it with a little net, and hang it up somewhere in the backyard or place it in a traditional suet bird feeder.

Birds absolutely love fat balls, especially during the colder winter months, as they are such a great source of nutrition.

3. Oats Mixed With Nuts and Seeds

To make oats even more attractive as bird food, it’s a good idea to mix them up with other nuts and seeds.

Birds obviously don’t just go for oats, but they will definitely be looking out for nuts and seeds. Mixing in oats just adds a bit of variety to their feeding.

Please note that some birds prefer to feed on the ground, and they tend to avoid platforms and bird feeders altogether. Do some experiments in your own backyard and see what works best.


Can birds eat oats?

Thomas Dunnett

The backyard is the perfect place to bond with family and friends or to simply relax with a bit of sunshine and some fresh air. I've been passionate about the backyard lifestyle ever since my childhood, and with this website, I hope to share that passion with you.

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