Can Chickens Eat Sunflowers? Benefits & Nutrition Facts
Yes! Sunflowers are among the best treats for chickens. In particular, sunflower seeds are highly nutritious and chickens love them. Sunflower seeds are rich in nutrients like methionine, which is an important amino acid that your birds need to stay healthy.
There are also plenty of vitamins and minerals such as magnesium and vitamin E. Apart from sunflower seeds, your chickens can also feast on sunflower petals and stems including the stalk. Most importantly, the sunflower does not have toxins in any of its parts. So, this plant is entirely safe for your chickens to eat.
Are Sunflower Seeds Good for Chickens?
Absolutely yes. Sunflower seeds are a good choice of treats for your chickens. This is because they are an easy and affordable source of high protein supplements to your chickens’ diet. In fact, seeds from the sunflower plant are not only a summer icon but also an important autumn treat for your birds. They simply give your flock of chickens a protein boost they need in their usual diet.
However, there are two types of sunflower seeds; black and striped. With black sunflower seeds, you can expect higher levels of oil content. Typically, the black sunflower seeds have around 40% to 50% oil content.
This is the main reason why you should consider growing the black sunflower seed varieties for your chickens. These seeds are healthy for both your flock of chickens and your family.
Striped sunflower seeds are larger than black seeds but they have around 25% oil content. Mostly, the striped sunflower seeds are sold for chicken and wild bird feed.
Benefits of Chickens Eating Sunflower Seeds
Whether black or striped, sunflower seeds are a good delicacy for chickens. These tiny seeds contain vitamin B, calcium, and magnesium. The high magnesium content in sunflower seeds acts as a catalyst to your chicken’s calcium metabolism. Magnesium also promotes smooth muscle tone in hens, which is important in laying eggs.
Vitamin B plays a significant role in boosting your chickens’ immune systems. This vitamin also strengthens the same immune system, keeping your birds healthy throughout. Calcium, however, is responsible for making the beaks and bones of your birds strong.
High levels of protein sunflower seeds are a perfect treat for your flock of chickens. Protein in the sunflower seeds is about 26%. For that reason, sunflower seeds provide a great boost for your flock in terms of nutrition. The protein in these seeds is usually helpful in times of stress, especially during the molting period or extremely cold weather conditions.
Antioxidants are available in sunflower seeds. Typically, natural antioxidants in these seeds act as a booster to your chickens’ immune system.
Sunflower seeds also have healthy fats that are beneficial to your chickens as well. These healthy fats help in the production of high-quality eggs. No wonder chickens fed on a diet consisting of sunflower seeds produce eggs that are colorful with dark rick egg yolks and shiny plumage.
Even though sunflower seeds come with numerous benefits to your chickens, they should be fed in moderation. Bear in mind that sunflower seeds are part of tasty treats and your chickens can highly depend on them to the extent of ignoring their usual chicken feed.
What Age Can chickens eat sunflower seeds?
You must know that raw sunflower seeds are frequently fed to layers and broilers. Therefore, it is possible to include them in your chicken feed without any concern. Just like any other type of food, a lot of care is needed when giving your chickens sunflower seeds.
Remember, the sunflower seeds have a high content of caloric acid and oil compounds. As such, these compounds are only suitable for adult chickens.
Sunflower seeds are not to be given to baby chickens. They should not be included in the chicken diet of birds aged below 30 days or one month old after they have been hatched.
Above that age, you may add a few sunflower seeds to your chicks’ feed. This should be done mainly with mixed feed. The amount of sunflower seeds should not be more than 1% of your young chickens’ daily consumption rate. However, as your birds grow, the volume of sunflower seeds should be increased to about 15%.
How to Feed Sunflower Seeds to Chickens?
Your chickens will undoubtedly like these little black or striped sunflower seeds. Unlike the songbirds, chickens cannot open the sunflower seeds before eating them. Instead, they swallow them whole including the hull.
Once swallowed, the sunflower seeds get ground up easily as they get down to your chickens’ digestive tracts. So, you don’t need to chop the sunflower seeds before feeding them to your chickens. All you need to do is to feed them whole.
Alternatively, you may hang a full head of sunflower seeds just above your chickens’ heads.
Most likely they will enjoy pecking at the seeds as they feed. In other words, hanging a head of sunflower seeds in the coop can be a wonderful winter boredom buster, especially when bugs and greens are in short supply.
Can You Give Chickens Sunflower Heads?
Yes, chickens love sunflower heads because they contain seeds and other edible parts. Apart from that, a whole sunflower plant does not have toxins that can harm your chickens. The head in particular is a great source of iron, fiber, and phosphorus among others. All of these nutrients provide more health benefits to the chickens.
Do Chickens Eat Sunflower Stalk?
Besides the sunflower seeds, your chickens can also eat the stalks of this plant. The sunflower stalks are rich in fiber, which is helpful in the digestion system of your birds. Make sure to cut the stalk into small pieces before tossing them to your chickens.
The idea behind chopping the stalks into tiny pieces is to make it easy for your chickens to eat them. Normally, a mature sunflower stalk has tough fibrous cells that can be difficult to eat.
Another thing is that, if your birds are in a playful mood, give them a few whole sunflower stalks so they can spend hours pecking at them. This is another way of managing boredom in your flock.
Can Chickens Eat Sunflower Leaves?
The answer is yes. Remember that the whole sunflower plant does not have toxic substances. This means that the plant’s petals, stems, stalk, and even leaves are safe for your birds to feast on. The leaves contain nutrients such as vitamins and minerals which are all helpful to your feathered friends.
These leaves are also soft, thus, easy to eat. So, instead of leaving your sunflower leaves to go to waste after harvesting the seeds, you can chop them into small pieces and pass them to your chickens. They will certainly enjoy eating them alongside their commercial feed all day long.
Can Chickens Live Only on Sunflower?
Not at all. Even though chickens find sunflowers to be delicious, they should not be allowed to eat them throughout. Sunflowers should be considered a normal treat for your feathered friends rather than their daily meal. This is attributed to the fact that sunflowers do not have all the essential nutrients that your chickens need to grow and stay healthy.
Besides, sunflower seeds can make your chickens gain weight. This is due to the fact that sunflower seeds have high oil content which can increase healthy fats in your chickens’ bodies. While gaining weight can be an advantage to chickens raised for meat, it can also be detrimental to other chickens’ health.
On the other hand, feeding chickens too many sunflower seeds can lead to impacted crops, especially if they have no access to enough grit. To avoid this problem make sure you have enough grit to help in the digestion of sunflower seeds.
Can Chickens Eat Sunflower Oil?
Yes. Sunflower oil has health benefits to your chickens. A little black oil sunflower seeds in your chickens’ diet can help supplement the much-needed nutrients. Usually, this sunflower oil has vitamin E which strengthens the chicken’s immune system. With a strong immune system, your chickens can easily fight diseases such as E. coli, Coccidiosis, and bronchitis.
The sunflower seed oil has plenty of protein (around 26%). So, when you feed your birds on sunflower seed oil, just know you are helping them boost their health, especially when under stress (in cold weather or during molting time)
There is also linoleic acid in sunflower seed oil. This nutrient plays a significant role in boosting your chickens’ weight, making your birds get ready for cold winter months in addition to increasing their nutritional value and egg quality.
Your chickens can eat sunflower including its seeds, stem, and petals. Sunflower is a rich source of vitamins, minerals, and essential oils, which are nutritional to your flock of birds. Give your chickens sunflower seeds and other parts as a treat but not as their main meal.
As a treat, make sure to feed your chickens in moderation. This is because the difference in fat content in both striped and black sunflower seeds is not going to provide all the nutrients that your chickens need.