When chickens peck curiously at wild bird seed, many backyard farmers wonder if this is a safe snack for their feathered friends. After all, it’s important to know if this food is beneficial or harmful to their health.
Generally, the effects of wild bird seed on chickens’ health, growth, and egg production are vital to consider. Further, not all seeds offer the same nutrients — some may be better suited for chickens than others.
In this article, we’ll talk about the good and not-so-good things about giving wild bird seeds to chickens. We’ll also investigate if they actually like this food, identify the best bird seed options for their health, and more.
Is It Okay to Feed Wild Bird Seed to Chickens?
Feeding chickens wild bird seed is okay, but only in moderation. It shouldn’t be the main part of their diet. Think of it like a snack for humans — good in small amounts, but not enough to replace a meal.
Basically, while bird seed is indeed healthy for our chickens, it doesn’t provide all the nutrients they need for optimal health.
However, note that using wild bird seed as a treat is a great way to vary chickens’ diets. Just like people enjoy a treat now and then, chickens appreciate the change, too.
Pro Tip: In order to get the best of both worlds, mix wild bird seed with regular chicken feed. This method supplements their primary diet, ensuring they get the necessary nutrients while enjoying the variety.
Pros and Cons of Feeding Bird Seed to Chickens
Giving bird seed to chickens offers both benefits and drawbacks. For easy reference, the following is a list that features the most common advantages of doing so:
- Nutritional variety: Bird seeds introduce diverse nutrients into a chicken’s diet, which in turn enhances overall health. Seeds like sunflower and millet offer vitamins and minerals not found in standard chicken feed.
- Mental stimulation: Foraging for bird seeds can keep chickens mentally stimulated and engaged, which is important for their general well-being.
- Rich in omega-3 fatty acids: Some bird seeds are high in omega-3 fatty acids, which are beneficial for your chickens’ health. To be specific, omega-3s can help improve the quality of your flock’s feathers and skin.
- Treat and entertainment: Bird seed can be a fun treat for chickens. It’s a way to reward them and provide a change from their regular feed.
- High in dietary fiber: Bird seeds often contain high levels of dietary fiber. This is good for your flock’s digestion and gut health.
- Egg quality improvement: The additional nutrients from bird seeds can lead to better eggshell strength and richer yolk color.
On the flip side, below are the main disadvantages of feeding bird seed to chickens:
- Imbalanced diet: Over-reliance on bird seed can lead to nutritional imbalances, as seeds alone don’t provide all the nutrients our feathery friends need.
- Obesity risk: Seeds are high in fat and can lead to obesity if chickens eat too much. In particular, this can cause health issues like fatty liver disease and decreased egg production.
- Choking hazard: Some seeds might be too large or hard for chickens to eat safely. There is a risk of choking, especially for smaller or younger chickens.
- Pest attraction: Spilled seeds can attract unwanted pests like possums and insects, which can bring diseases to your coop.
- Increased expense: Regularly buying bird seed can add to your feeding expenses. Generally, quality bird seeds often come at a higher price than standard chicken feed.
- Potential for toxicity: Some bird seeds, specifically those designed for wild birds, may contain additives or pesticides harmful to chickens.
It is clear that giving bird seeds to chickens can be good, but you should do it carefully. Just make sure to keep a balance, not give too much, and pick the right kind of seeds to keep your flock healthy and happy.
Fun Fact: In the winter, giving chickens bird seeds as treats is a great idea. It can help keep them warm because the extra protein in the seeds can be digested even on chilly nights.
Do Chickens Like Eating Bird Seed?
Chickens are not particularly picky eaters, as their natural instinct is to peck at anything that looks edible. Therefore, you can expect that they will readily eat bird seeds alongside a wide variety of other foods.
However, it is important to feed bird seed to chickens in moderation. Even though they like it, bear in mind that too much can lead to obesity or nutritional deficiencies.
In other words, it’s best to balance their enjoyment with their dietary needs.
Check out this video to see how you can use these seeds as part of your chickens’ daily meals:
Is Wild Bird Seed Safe for Chickens?
Wild bird seed is safe for chickens if given in moderation and not as their sole diet. Yet, it’s important to remember that these seeds are formulated for wild birds, not chickens.
A friend of mine tried feeding her flock wild bird seed. She thought it would be a healthy treat, but she was careful not to replace their regular diet with it.
After a while, however, she noticed some of the seeds looked odd. Upon closer inspection, she found mildew and mold. She also learned that these seeds weren’t stored or processed with chickens in mind.
Realizing the potential risks, she decided to stop using wild bird seeds. She went back to using chicken-specific feed and treats, which she felt were safer and more nutritious for her feathered friends.
Best Bird Seed for Chickens
When you are picking bird seeds for your chickens, it is important to choose ones that are good for their health and safety.
Here are eight types of bird seeds that your feathered pals will love:
- Black oil sunflower seeds: Commonly referred to as BOSS, black oil sunflower seeds are a powerhouse of healthy fats and proteins, essential for a chicken’s feather growth and vitality.
- Millet: Easy for chickens to digest and packed with vitamins, millet is a great choice. It’s also a hit with chickens for its grassy, corn-like taste.
- Oats: A great source of carbohydrates, protein, and fiber, oats are particularly beneficial in colder weather to help keep chickens warm.
- Safflower seeds: Safflower seeds are high in protein, fat, and fiber. They are a bit harder for chickens to crack open, providing an engaging eating experience.
- Flax seeds: Known for boosting omega-3 fatty acids, flax seeds are beneficial for improving the quality of chicken eggs.
- Wheat: Often a key ingredient in chicken feed, wheat is an excellent energy source that provides essential nutrients that your flock needs.
- Pumpkin seeds: Pumpkin seeds are a delicious treat that also aids in the natural deworming process for chickens.
- Sesame seeds: A 2019 study mentioned that sesame seed supplementation improved the oxidative stability of chicken eggs, potentially enhancing their shelf life.
Just remember to buy your bird seeds from a reliable source, though. You would not want your chickens consuming dangerous agricultural chemicals from poor-quality seeds.
Note: Be cautious with seeds from fruits like apples, peaches, and apricots. Such seeds are poisonous to chickens — they contain cyanide — and can be lethal.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can Chickens Eat Sunflower Seeds With Shells?
Yes, chickens can safely eat sunflower seeds with shells. The shells won’t harm them as their gizzard can grind up even small rocks.
Pro Tip: If you want to create a fun chicken treat, you can combine sunflower seeds with peppers. To be specific, you can make a Suet Cake, Flock Block Knock Off, or a Pepper Chicken Snack for your feathered friends.
Can Chickens Eat Bird Seed Every Day?
No, chickens should not eat bird seed every day. It’s better to use it sparingly, perhaps mixed with their regular feed, to ensure a balanced and healthy diet for your chickens.
Can Baby Chickens Eat Bird Seed?
Baby chickens can eat bird seed, but only after they are a few weeks old. Initially, their diet should be limited to starter feed, as their bodies are still too delicate for other types of food.
So, have you ever given your chickens some wild bird seed? If so, we’d love to hear your thoughts in the comment section below. And if you have any questions about this, feel free to ask — we are here to help!