If you own chickens, you know that they can eat pretty much anything. Meats or plants, fruits or vegetables, nuts and seeds; it all goes down the hatch.
But speaking of seeds, maybe our chickens can have one of the most common types of seed mixes around. Wild bird seed! Can chickens eat wild bird seed?
Yes, chickens may eat wild bird seed with complete safety, but it is not nutritionally complete, and in particular is lacking several essential minerals. Chickens can eat it as a treat or for quick energy, but should not rely on it as feed.
On one hand, it makes total sense that chickens would be able to eat wild bird seed. They are birds, after all, and still fairly close to their ancient, wild ancestors.
But on the other hand it is a bit surprising to learn that wild bird seed is so deficient for them when it comes to nutrition.
It is an interesting topic, that’s for sure, and there’s plenty more to learn so keep reading.
Can I Give My Chickens Wild Bird Seed Mix?
Yes, you can. Wild bird seed is totally safe for chickens to eat, and they will often enjoy it as a treat.
However, it is important to remember that this type of seed mix is not complete in terms of nutrition, and therefore should not be used as a main source of food for your chickens.
What’s in Wild Bird Seed Mixes?
The exact composition of wild bird seed mix varies from type to type, and even from brand to brand, but generally contains a variety of different seeds.
The most common ones are sunflower, safflower, millet, and cracked corn. Some mixes also contain peanuts, nyjer seed, and even dried fruit.
All such mixes are designed to attract a wide variety of different birds, and as such are not really tailored towards the unique needs of any one species.
This means that while they might be fine for your chickens as an occasional treat, they are not sufficient as a primary feed for your chickens.
Health Benefits of Wild Bird Seed for Chickens
Wild bird seed is not bad for chickens, but it is hardly complete, either. That being said, your flock will get vitamins, minerals and calories from it.
The exact ratio of nutrients varies significantly depending on the contents and the mix of ingredients, but you can generally depend on the following common ingredients to supply certain vitamins and minerals.
Sunflower seeds are a good source of vitamins E and B, as well as essential fatty acids. Safflower seeds contain linoleic acid, which is important for proper feather growth.
Millet is high in carbohydrates, which can give your chickens a quick energy boost. And cracked corn is a good source of fiber.
As you can see, there are some concrete benefits to feeding your chickens wild bird seed mix.
However, it is important to remember that this type of feed should not be used as a sole source of nutrition for your flock.
Chickens require a diet that is complete in terms of all the essential nutrients, and wild bird seed just doesn’t cut it.
What Important Nutrients Are Chickens Missing When They Eat Wild Bird Seed?
The main nutrients that chickens are missing when they eat wild bird seed are protein, calcium, and phosphorus.
Protein is essential for proper growth and development in chickens, and while sunflower seeds do contain some protein, it is not enough to meet a chicken’s needs.
Chickens need a diet that contains at least 20% protein, and most wild bird seed mixes fall far short of this mark.
Calcium is another important nutrient for chickens, as it helps to ensure strong bones and eggshells (for laying hens).
Again, while some calcium can be found in various bird seed mix components, it is not nearly enough to meet a chicken’s demands.
And finally, phosphorus is necessary for proper kidney function and metabolism in chickens. Once again, while wild bird seed mix does contain some phosphorus but not enough.
Can Chickens Eat Thistle Seed?
Yes. Thistle seed is a type of seed that is often found in wild bird seed mixes. This seed is actually quite high in protein, and chickens enjoy eating it.
However, it should not be used as a sole source of protein for your flock, as it does not contain all the essential amino acids.
Can Chickens Eat Safflower Seeds?
Yes, they can. Safflower seeds are safe for chickens, and contain protein, fat and some vitamins.
Can Chickens Eat Cracked Corn?
They sure can. Cracked corn is safe for chickens, and is high in carbohydrates. It is often used as a treat, or to help fatten up chickens before slaughter.
Can Chickens Eat Black Oil Sunflower Seeds?
Absolutely. These sunflower seeds are actually loved by pretty much all chickens, and you can expect them to prioritize these above all others in the mix. And don’t worry: they can eat the hulls, too!
Can Chickens Eat Bird Suet?
Yes. However, while chickens can safely eat suet, it is not particularly good for them. Suet is very high in fat, and can lead to obesity in chickens if fed in large quantities.
Can Wild Bird Seed Provide Laying Hens with the Nutrition they Need?
Unfortunately not. Wild bird seed mix does not contain enough calcium to support healthy, continuous egg production in chickens.
If you are feeding your laying hens a diet that consists mostly of wild bird seed, you can expect them to lay fewer and smaller eggs than they would if they were being fed a more balanced diet, and a sharp lack of calcium might lead to egg failure or even hens turning on and eating their own eggs to “recycle” their calcium investment.
How Often Can Chickens Have Wild Bird Seed?
You can toss some bird seed to your chickens any time they need a snack, or allow them to gobble up any leftovers when you are done putting it out for wild birds.
You should not feed it to them regularly, however. Even eating smaller amounts at every meal means they will fill up on the bird seed and miss out on the other food that has the nutrients they need.
In short, while wild bird seed can be fed to chickens as an occasional treat, it should not be used as their primary source of food.
What’s the Best Wild Bird Seed for Both Your Chickens and Birds?
There’s no easy answer to this question. While there are many different types and brands of wild bird seed mixes on the market, not all of them are created equal.
It really depends on your specific chickens and what they like to eat.
However, we recommend looking for a mix that contains a variety of seeds and then supplementing it with mealworms and calcium-rich items, as this will provide your chickens with more the nutrition they need, at least, while still allowing them to enjoy a tasty treat.
Preparing Wild Bird Seed for Your Flock
There’s nothing to it: simply scatter the seed on the ground and watch your chickens go to town!
Alternately, so long as you moderate the quantity you can place it in a bowl or feeder for them to access more readily.
Can Baby Chicks Have Wild Bird Seed, Too?
Yes, but you must take care to ensure your chicks are getting plenty of nutrition that they desperately need while they are small.
Wild bird seed is particularly risky in this regard since chicks can fill up on it so easily. That being said, like adult chickens there is nothing in wild bird seed that is going to harm them outright.
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Tom has built and remodeled homes, generated his own electricity, grown his own food and more, all in quest of remaining as independent of society as possible. Now he shares his experiences and hard-earned lessons with readers around the country.