Can Chickens Eat Sunflower Seeds?


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Sunflower seeds are some of the tastiest treats around. They’re organic, they’re healthy, and they can add a little crunch to a salad or a bowl of oatmeal, just as they can serve as a quick snack during the day to keep us going. But, while raising your back yard chickens you may be wondering – can chickens eat sunflower seeds, too?

Yes, chickens can eat sunflower seeds. In fact, it’s one of the most nutritious snacks you can offer to them! What’s more, you may commonly find sunflower seeds in the chicken feed that you buy for them. 

If you’re considering changing up your chickens’ diets, keep reading for the Wild Yards lowdown on feeding sunflower seeds to your home coop.

Are sunflower seeds healthy for chickens?

Yes – sunflower seeds are fantastically healthy as a chicken-friendly snack. There are a few myths circulating regarding these seeds and chicken health, so it’s a good idea to sort the fact from the fiction.

Sunflower seeds contain vitamin E, protein, oil, antioxidants, as well as methionine, which just so happens to be an essential amino acid for chickens. Therefore, you are actively helping to boost their daily recommended intake.

As long as the sunflower seeds have been properly prepared for the chickens, and fed to them responsibly, then, yes, sunflower seeds are a welcome addition to their diets. As mentioned, sunflower seeds can often pop up in chicken feed.

Responsible feeding, of course, means that you shouldn’t feed your coop on purely these seeds alone – they need a good mix, and a balance of treats. Who knows – if you treat them well enough, your chickens might show affection!

When is the best time of the year to feed sunflower seeds to your chickens? 

It is true that sunflower seeds do contain a lot of fat. With that in mind, there is definitely a better time of the year for your chickens to be eating them. During the winter or any very cold weather, it is wise to feed your chickens foods that are higher in fats, to help them to manage the cold.

Should your chickens have recently experienced high levels of stress (for example due to a sudden relocation or shock, or a predator attack), then feeding them sunflower seeds is a great way of comforting them with a filling treat. That said, again, it’s healthy to mix them up, and to go sparing.

Providing you’re vigilantly keeping free range chickens in your yard and are protecting them as best as you can from predators, this hopefully shouldn’t come as a problem.

How frequently should I feed my chickens sunflower seeds? 

As nutritious as sunflower seeds are for chickens, they should not be fed to them every day. As mentioned, they are indeed very high in fat. Obesity can be fatal to chickens and should therefore not be taken lightly. 

If their general complete chicken feed does not already contain sunflower seeds, then consider feeding them to your chickens every two, three or four days. That will allow them to reap the benefits of the treats without you having to worry about any negative effects.

Should I prepare the sunflower seeds for my chickens? 

Any kind of sunflower seed has nutritional value for chickens, but black oil sunflower seeds are arguably the best. Not only do they contain the highest value of nutrients, but they also tend to be the biggest favorites among most chickens! 

As tasty as sunflower seeds are, they can be quite annoying to de-shell. Some people leave them on – but what about when feeding them to chickens and hens?

Generally speaking, you do not have to take off the sunflower seed shells before feeding them to your chickens. Your chickens will eat them either way. However, do ensure that you do only feed them to them every few days, ensuring that they have the time to digest them properly – especially with the shells. 

What seeds are toxic to chickens? 

Sadly, not all seeds are good for your chickens, with some seeds even being toxic in any quantities.

For example, seeds from pears, apples, apricots, stones from cherries and peaches, and even plum pits can all poison chickens.

These seeds contain tiny amounts of cyanide. They’re unlikely to harm people, but for chickens, there’s more than enough to prove fatal. Therefore, you should simply ensure that the fruits you are planning on feeding to your chickens are free of seeds and pits at all times.

If you’re concerned about chickens and potential poisons, take a look at this exhaustive guide of things that are toxic to chickens.

Can chickens eat roasted sunflower seeds? 

It’s a great idea to share a healthy treat with your chickens – however, you should be wary of roasted sunflower seeds. 

The sunflower seeds that are prepared for humans often contain preservatives that are dangerous for chickens to process. Moreover, when they are roasted, they are often salted to taste. Highly salted foods are dangerous for chickens and should therefore be avoided at all costs. 

Instead, stick to chicken variety sunflower seeds or the organic seeds that you have grown in your own garden! Just ensure that there are no pesticides on them before feeding. In fact, you might want to avoid pesticides altogether and grow a wild garden.

Chickens absolutely love pecking at sunflower seeds, and the great news is, if they are unsalted and unroasted – and are fed sparingly – they can be good for them. 

Do you have any go-to snacks you like to feed your chickens? Come and share a few coop-keeping tips with us in the comments section below.

About The Author
Robert has been an avid birdwatcher pretty much his entire life. Living in the suburbs he does his best to bring wild birds into his backyard. He currently has 13+ bird feeders in his yard and also raises and races homing pigeons. Robert writes part-time for Wild Yards, mostly about the subject he cares most about - birds.

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