So, Can Chickens Eat Sunflower Seeds?

Chickens, like most birds, eat seeds. It only makes sense. But sometimes what makes the most sense to us doesn’t always hold up under scrutiny.

two chickens eating sunflower seeds

Take sunflower seeds for instance. They are enjoyed as a portable, tasty, and somewhat messy snack around the entire world, and you might instinctively think that chickens could eat them with no problem.

But is it true? Can chickens eat sunflower seeds safely?

Yes, chickens may safely eat sunflower seeds so long as they are not salted or seasoned with harmful ingredients. They are packed with vitamins and minerals, including many B vitamins, folate, iron, magnesium, manganese, and phosphorus.

Well, as it turns out some things make sense because they are sensible, and chickens eating sunflower seeds is definitely one such example.

However, you don’t want to feed your chickens any sunflower seeds that are flavored, seasoned or salted, and you definitely don’t want to feed them to chicks.

Keep reading to learn everything you’ll need to know about giving your chickens sunflower seeds.

Nutritional Profile of Sunflower Seeds

Although they are most commonly enjoyed as a salty and fun snack, sunflower seeds are surprisingly nutritious.

Sunflower seeds contain abundant vitamins, including B1, B2, B3, B5, B6 and vitamin E. They also contain folate and choline.

Things are just as good concerning the minerals contained in sunflower seeds, with calcium, iron, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, potassium and zinc all being present in quantity.

Surprisingly, these seeds are quite low in sodium unless they are salted, meaning you won’t have to worry about that so much when feeding them to chickens but we’ll talk more about that in a minute.

Benefits of Sunflower Seeds for Chickens

Chickens, like many birds, will get a lot from eating seeds, and sunflower seeds are no exception.

The vitamin B1 in sunflower seeds will help your chicken’s metabolism function properly, while vitamin B2 helps maintain a healthy digestive system.

Vitamin B3 is essential for proper circulation and cellular health, B5 is key for stress reduction, B6 helps with the metabolism of proteins and carbohydrates and vitamin E is a powerful antioxidant.

The minerals in sunflower seeds are similarly super for good health in chickens.

Calcium for strong bones and feathers, iron for healthy blood, magnesium for energy production, manganese for a healthy nervous system, phosphorus to maintain cell health, potassium for proper hydration and zinc for a properly functioning immune system.

Truly, for a humble seed they seem to have it all!

Sunflower seeds are also an excellent source of essential fatty acids, which help to keep your chicken’s feathers healthy and shiny while also reducing inflammation.

Can Chickens Eat Whole Sunflower Seeds?

Yes, and safely. Most adult birds will eat them that way, hull and all, to be broken down in their gizzard. Adult chickens are very competent seed eaters, so no need to worry about them choking.

Can Chickens Eat Hulled Sunflower Seeds?

Yes, they can. Chickens will still enjoy “hulled” sunflower seeds, also known as sunflower hearts or kernels.

Smaller birds might appreciate them more since this notably decreases the size of the seed they swallow.

Never Feed Seasoned or Salted Sunflower Seeds to Chickens

The biggest mistake you could make when feeding sunflower seeds to your chickens is to give them the kind that are meant just for human consumption, as these are often salted or seasoned with all sorts of ingredients that are harmful to birds.

Extra salt, seasoning blends, sauces and all the rest are not good for your birds in any way and must be avoided. You only want to give your birds plain, unsalted sunflower seeds.

Things like salt, sugar, butter and the like are all bad for birds and can lead to major problems like salt poisoning, which can be fatal.

In fact, even finding plain, unsalted sunflower seeds at the grocery store might prove to be pretty tough!

If you want to give your chickens these seeds, you might have the best luck getting them from a pet store or feed store that specializes in bird feed. They’ll have the kind you need…

How Often Can Chickens Have Sunflower Seeds?

You can give your chickens sunflower seeds as a treat every once in a while, but they shouldn’t make up the majority of their diet.

A couple of times per week is fine, but any more than that and you might start to see some problems.

For one thing, too many sunflower seeds can lead to weight gain in chickens. Seeds are very calorie dense, so if your chickens are eating too many of them they might start to put on a few extra pounds.

Yes, chickens can get fat! This can lead to all sorts of health problems, so it’s best to avoid overfeeding sunflower seeds.

A good rule of thumb is to limit consumption of sunflower seeds and all other treats or supplemental foods to just 10% of your flock’s total calorie intake.

Most of their calories should be coming from their chicken feed. Sunflower seeds are wholesome, for sure, but you can overdo it!

Preparing Sunflower Seeds for Your Flock

It does not get any easier than this. Just put some sunflower seeds in a bowl and set it down in front of your chickens, or scatter them in their enclosure. They will know what to do from there!

If you want to get a little bit more creative, though, you can add a few to their other foods for interest, or mix in some hulled seeds with other treats.

Don’t Feed Sunflower Seeds to Baby Chicks

As much as some will argue against it, you should not feed sunflower seeds to chicks: They can choke on them. Even the hulled seeds can be a bit too much for chicks.

Consider also that the digestive tract of a chick is not as developed as that of an adult chicken, so they might not be able to digest sunflower seeds as easily. This can lead to digestive upset and other problems.

It’s best to wait until your chicks are at least six weeks old before you start feeding them sunflower seeds, at the earliest, and even then I would recommend against it.

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