Yes, chickens can eat sunflower seeds safely. In fact, you will find your flock devouring the black oilseeds happily. The most popular types of sunflower seeds are the black oil sunflower seeds and the confection seeds.
So, which sunflower seeds should you add to the chicken’s diet? And, how many sunflower seeds can you feed chickens? Here is everything you need to know about feeding chickens sunflower seeds.
Do Chickens Like Sunflower Seeds?
The best way to find out whether your birds enjoy these seeds is to introduce sunflower seeds in a small quantity at first. Check whether they indulge in it happily or move away. Generally, chickens love to eat these seeds.
Types of Sunflowers Seeds
There are 70 varieties of sunflowers, but there are two major types of seeds: black oil sunflower seeds and confection seeds.
As the name suggests, the black oil seeds are used for making oil and similar products. The confection seeds are consumed more often by humans and animals. Here is a detailed explanation of both these types.
Black Oil Sunflower Seeds
The oilseeds are of three varieties: oleic, mid-oleic, and high-oleic. These seeds are entirely black in color and smaller in size than the confection seeds. They have a higher fat content as well. Their husks are intact. These seeds are used for making sunflower oil.
Confection Sunflower Seeds
These are the non-oilseed varieties. The confection seeds are black with white stripes and bigger in size than the oilseeds. They have a lower fat content. The husks are stripped, thereby reducing the fat content. These seeds are also known as striped sunflower seeds or strippers.
Which Seed Type is More Suitable for Chickens?
It is best to let your chickens eat sunflower seeds that are striped. The striped ones are the best for consumption owing to their low-fat content. The strippers are also tastier and have a greater shelf life than oilseeds.
Oilseeds are known to get rancid after some time. However, chickens cannot decide which seeds are good for them. They will devour each type happily.
Most wild birds remove the husk from the oilseeds before eating them, but chickens tend to eat the oilseeds intact. So, it is better to feed them strippers.
Having said so, both the types contain fat, and so, you should limit the consumption of too many sunflower seeds by your chickens.
Health Benefits of Feeding Sunflower Seeds to Chickens
Sunflower seeds are power-packed with various nutrients, including vitamins, minerals, fats, etc. Here is some nutritional information on these seeds provided by the United States Department of Agriculture.
Nutritional Information per 100gm of Sunflower Seeds:
- Protein – 11.7 g
- Carbohydrate – 10 g
- Sodium – 92 mg
- Sugar – 1.67 g
- Total lipid – 25 g
- Energy – 238 kcal
- Dietary fiber – 5 g
- Fatty acids – 2.5 g
- Iron – 3 mg
- Calcium – 67 mg
Apart from these, sunflower seeds also contain minerals like copper, zinc, phosphorus, selenium, etc.
Nutritional Benefits of Sunflower Seeds for Chickens
Improve heart health
Sunflower seeds are high in unsaturated fats. These can efficiently lower the risks of heart diseases, high cholesterol, and high blood pressure.
Chickens sometimes die due to Sudden Death Syndrome, triggered by high cholesterol in their blood. Feeding them sunflower seeds regularly can reduce these risks.
Boost immune system
Chickens are fragile birds with sensitive immune systems. Including certain foods in their diet with natural antioxidants can boost a chicken’s immune system.
Black seeds and confection seeds are high in vitamin E, minerals, and antioxidants like flavonoids that help fight diseases and inflammation. Minerals like zinc and selenium help strengthen the blood cells and help fight free radicals.
Chickens are always engaged in some or the other activity such as foraging in your backyard, mating, laying eggs, molting, or eating. These energetic birds need foods that can boost their energy levels.
Sunflower seeds are packed with essential nutrients to provide them with extra energy.
Help maintain a healthy weight
While high fat food can lead to obesity in chickens, good fats make them healthy from within. Sunflower seeds have healthy fats that can help make the chickens healthy from within. Ideally, chickens should have meaty carcasses, but they should not be obese.
Obesity in chickens can lead to digestive issues, constipation, and stomach disorders. Sunflower seeds are high in fiber, thereby helping your chickens have an ideal weight.
Having said so, as these seeds have high fat content, you should feed sunflower seeds in moderate amounts.
How to Feed Sunflower Seeds to Chickens?
There are several ways to ensure chickens eat sunflower seeds regularly. Giving chickens sunflower seeds can result in delicious fresh eggs, an increase in the number of eggs laid, and overall healthy animals.
If you are unable to find sunflower seeds, even whole sunflowers can prove beneficial to your flock. Many poultry farmers grow sunflower plants in their chickens free range to encourage them into some activity.
Tips to offer sunflower seeds to chickens:
- Check the quality of the seeds first
Many feed retailers may pack seeds and store them for long. Black oil sunflower seeds may get rancid after a few days because of the high amount of oil compounds. When buying seeds from a store, ensure that they are not moldy or smelly. It is better to buy confection seeds as they have a longer shelf life.
- Serve your chickens sunflower heads
You can hang sunflower heads on your chicken’s bird feeder and enjoy seeing them pecking at them. The heads contain the seeds and your birds will engage in some activity pecking at the seeds from the heads.
- Serve the seeds only
If you just want to add good nutrition to your bird’s regular diet, then you can give them a mixed feed with meal worms, sunflower seeds, and healthy whole grains. You can also deseed a sunflower head to feed them.
We hope we have answered your question, “can chickens eat sunflower seeds?” To conclude, sunflower seeds are of two types – black oil sunflower seeds and the striped seeds.
The black oil sunflower seeds are used to make sunflower oil. The striped seeds are used for feeding wild birds and for human consumption as they are low in fat content.
Adding sunflower seeds in cold weather ensures your birds get enough vitamin E, linoleic acid, and other essential nutrients that can boost chickens’ immune system and enable overall well-being.