Can Chickens Eat Bird Seed?

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Deciding what to feed your chickens can be a very daunting task, as there are many brands and types of food to choose from. You may be wondering if bird seed is a good choice for your chickens.    

In some instances, birdseed can be a nice treat for chickens. However, chickens require a proper, balanced diet. 

Birdseed contains much more fat content than chicken feed, and it does not have the proper amounts of vitamins and nutrients healthy chickens require.

As you read on, you will learn about the different vitamins and other ingredients in various types of birdseed compared to the proper amount of nutrients a chicken requires daily.


Is Bird Seed Safe for Chickens?

The answer is… YES! Birdseed is safe for chickens. There are many nutritional things you can feed your chickens.

The most important thing to remember is that chickens require a balanced diet, just like any other pet. Bird seed is an excellent source of proteins and fats that will help to fatten them up and can even help to keep them warm through the winter. 


Nutrition Values of Bird Seeds for Chickens

Chickens have very specific dietary needs and require nutrition to stay healthy. Below you will see a table of the most important nutritional requirements for chickens, along with a side-by-side comparison of how each type of birdseed satisfies them.

 Nutrition required
per day
(Leghorn, egg laying)
Millet
(100 g)
Dried corn
(100 g)
Sunflower seed
(100 g)
Calories280 kcal378 kcal365 kcal584 kcal
Protein16 g11 g9.4 g21 g
Vitamin A440 mg64 mcg15 mcg
Vitamin D55 mg
Vitamin E0.55 mg0.1 mg0.5 mg33 mg
Vitamin B120.44 mcg
Riboflavin0.24 mg0.3 mg0.2 mg0.4 mg
Calcium3.8 g8 mg7 mg78 mg
Phosphorus350 mg285 mg210 mg660 mg
Magnesium55 mg114 mg127 mg325 mg
Sodium165 mg5 mg35 mg9 mg
Potassium165 mg195 mg287 mg645 mg

As you can see from the table above, chickens require 280 total calories (kcal) a day. Compared to 100g of bird seeds, millet bird seed contains 378 kcal, dried corn feed contains 365 kcal, and sunflower seed feed contains 584 kcal. Feeding these types of seeds to your chickens isn’t necessarily unhealthy occasionally, but as you can see, the required vitamin needs are not always met.

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To ensure that your chickens are healthy, they need to intake 16 g of protein. As you can see, Millet and Dried corn are much lower in protein. Sunflower seeds provide a good amount of protein but lack other essential vitamins, such as Vitamin A, B12, Calcium, and sodium. 

On the other hand, sunflower seeds exceed the recommended amounts of vitamin E, riboflavin, phosphorus, magnesium, and potassium. Therefore, sunflower seeds may be a good treat every now and then for your chickens, and it wouldn’t be healthy for them to eat these regularly.

If you look at the vitamin D on the table, you can see that the recommended amount chickens should intake is 55mg. However, looking at the different options of bird seed and their contents, you can see that none of the seeds listed above contain any vitamin D. They also do not have any vitamin B12. 

Millet and dried corn feed also lack in vitamin A, vitamin E, calcium, phosphorus, and sodium that are required to keep your chickens healthy. These two feeds also exceed the amounts of magnesium and potassium, as well as caloric intake. 

It is essential that you make sure your chickens have a healthy, well-balanced diet. By looking at the above chart, we can see that these feeds vary from the recommended amounts, and they can easily throw off the diet of your chickens. 


What Kind of Birdseed Do Chickens Like?

There are several different kinds of bird seeds. Listed below are just a few that are nutritional and safe for chickens.

Wild Bird Seed

Wild Bird Seed

This is a mixture of cracked corn, sunflower seed, and millet. Although chickens LOVE wild bird seed, it is low in essential vitamins and has a high-fat content. If your chicken’s diet contains enough vitamins and calcium, then wild bird seed is a great, occasional treat for your chickens. 

During the winter, wild bird seeds can provide an extra layer of fat to your chickens to help keep them warm, happy, and comfortable. Unhappy chickens do not play very well, and stressed meat chickens do not taste as good as healthy, happy, free-range chickens.

Black Oil/Stripped Sunflower Seed

An excellent snack for your chickens. They contain an amino acid called methionine, which is a vital amino acid for chickens. They also contain vitamin E and calcium, which help with laying chickens’ health. 

Sunflower seeds are also a great source of fat. Again, this should not replace the regular diet of your chickens, but sunflower seeds are a great treat for your feathered friends.

Suet

This is also a great treat for your backyard friends during the colder months if you live somewhere where cold, brutal winters are a concern. Suet comprises fat, proteins, and other essential foods such as berries, oats, nuts, etc.

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Can Chickens Eat Bird Seed as Their Primary Source of Food?

I would caution using only bird seed to feed your chickens. Remember, they need a balanced diet.

Bird seed is okay for an occasional meal, but specific chicken feed provides the proper daily nutrition. Chicken feed is specifically designed to provide the appropriate number of vitamins, minerals, and fats chickens need to continue growing healthy and laying healthy eggs.


Can Chickens Eat Bird Seed As a Treat?

Bird seed can be the perfect treat for chickens, as it provides a lot of different vitamins and fats! Different types of birdseed contain many natural fruits, vegetables, and corn, all of which are healthy for chickens.

However, keep in mind that chickens will lay many more eggs a year than wild birds do. Therefore, an occasional bird seed treat is okay, but a balanced diet is essential for your chickens. 

Another way of looking at things would be, humans often love eating pizza. Yes, it may have vegetables, dairy, and protein. However, it is not a healthy substitute for a human to eat pizza for every single meal! Just as human bodies need a healthy diet to function properly, so do chickens.


Can Baby Chickens Eat Bird Seed?

The answer is yes! Yes, they can. However, it is important to remember that these are babies! They need a balanced diet and proper nutrition to grow into healthy young chickens. Depending on the purpose of your chickens, meat or laying chickens will depend on the type of diet you want to give them. 

Can Baby Chickens Eat Bird Seed?

Also called broilers or fryers, meat chickens are typically butchered within 6-9 weeks of age. For all types of chickens, it is crucial to maintain a clean, healthy water source. High protein starter mash is extremely important for meat-type chickens, as it provides the proper nutrients for these chickens to put on weight and grow more quickly, including the occasional birdseed treat that won’t hurt these little guys. 

Laying-type chickens typically begin laying eggs between 4-6 months. Therefore, these chicks need a more balanced diet.

Feeding these chicks a healthy balance of fresh fruit, mealworms, and vegetables, as well as a good brand of high-quality chicken feed, is crucial. Laying eggs also takes a lot of calcium from chickens, so providing a good supplement in their diet that includes calcium is also extremely healthy for laying-type chickens.


Conclusion

Chickens are such a great source of not only food for the whole family, but they are also quite entertaining to watch. One of my most cherished memories with my grandpa was sitting on our old back porch, watching our flock of chickens run around the yard free and energetic as ever, pecking at everything in sight that moved. If chickens have a healthy and balanced diet, they will grow into great laying hens for meat chickens.

Therefore, in conclusion, chicken can safely eat bird seeds as treats. 

But is bird seed an appropriate diet supplement?” No, chickens require an extremely well-balanced diet to achieve maximum value and yield the best results. “Can baby chickens eat bird seed, as well?” Yes, if they have a balanced diet of other nutritious meals.