What Are The Best Seeds For Chickens? A Complete Guide

Variety of Seeds in a Wooden Spoon

Article Summary

  • Seeds can be a nutritious addition to a chicken’s diet, providing protein, healthy fats, and essential nutrients.
  • While chickens enjoy seeds, it’s crucial to offer the right ones in moderation to avoid digestive issues.
  • Chickens can potentially choke on seeds, so precautions such as crushing hard seeds, mixing seeds into feed, and supervising treat time are recommended.

Are you looking to supplement your flock’s diet with nutritious seeds? Seeds can be a great addition to a balanced chicken diet. They are packed with protein, healthy fats, and other key nutrients chickens need.

However, not all seeds are created equal when it comes to chicken treats. Some can cause digestive upset or even toxicity. That’s why it’s important to know which seeds are chicken-safe and provide the biggest nutritional bang for your buck.

In this complete guide, we’ll cover everything you need to know about feeding seeds to chickens. You’ll learn:

  • Which seeds chickens can and can’t eat
  • The healthiest seeds for your flock
  • How to properly feed seeds to chickens
  • When and how much to feed
  • And much more!

Let’s dive in and explore the wonderful world of chicken seeds!

Can Chickens Eat Seeds?

The short answer is yes! Most chickens love pecking at seeds.

In the wild, chickens forage on the ground and eat a variety of seeds they find. They are naturally drawn to the protein and fat packed into tiny seed packages.

Domestic chickens still retain this natural drive to seek out and eat seeds. They provide mental enrichment as chickens peck and scratch to uncover them.

However, just because chickens like something doesn’t mean it’s necessarily good for them. Some seeds can cause issues if fed irresponsibly.

So while chickens can eat seeds, you need to offer the right ones in moderation.

Do Chickens Like Seeds?

Chickens absolutely go crazy for seeds!

Scattering a seed mix into their pen is a great way to keep chickens happily occupied for hours. They’ll excitedly scratch, peck, and gobble down their findings.

This natural foraging behavior provides important mental stimulation. A seed-strewing session prevents boredom and stress.

A seed-strewing session for chickens prevents boredom…

Seeds also appeal to your flock’s instinctive drive to seek out high-calorie morsels. Their small size means chickens can quickly ingest a big nutrient payload.

Different birds will show preferences for certain seeds over others. It may take some experimentation to discover your flock’s favorites.

Just be careful not to go overboard with high-fat seeds like sunflower. Too much can lead to obesity and other issues.

Can Chickens Eat Any Seeds?

While chickens love seeds, not every kind is safe for them to eat.

Some seeds and seed pods contain toxic compounds that can sicken or even kill chickens. That’s why it’s critical to know which ones should be off-limits.

Here are a few seed varieties that must be avoided:

  • Raw dry beans or peas – Contain lectins and hemagglutinin that damage chicken digestive systems
  • Apple seeds – Seeds contain trace amounts of cyanide compounds, which are toxic in large doses
  • Tomato seeds – Contain small levels of alkaloids like tomatine, harmful if eaten
  • Castor beans – Highly poisonous, containing the deadly toxin ricin
  • Ornamental seeds – Non-edible varieties may contain toxins
  • Moldy/spoiled seeds – Can cause mycotoxicosis

When in doubt, keep your flock from accessing mystery seeds. Stick with known chicken-safe seed varieties to avoid accidental poisoning.

What Types of Seeds Can Chickens Eat?

There are plenty of nutritious, chicken-safe seed options to choose from. Here are some of the top varieties to offer your flock:


Whole grains like wheat, barley, oats, millet, corn, and more provide carbohydrates. Look for whole seeds over processed mixes for more nutrition. Cook any dry beans, peas, rice or grains before feeding.

Leafy Greens

Lettuces, spinach, chard, and other leafy green seeds are excellent. They are high in vitamin A and antioxidants like lutein and zeaxanthin.

Sunflower Seeds

These are a great source of vitamin E, B vitamins, protein and healthy fats. Feed in moderation due to the high fat content.

Squash & Pumpkin Seeds

Packed with protein, omega-3s, zinc, and iron. Roast first to improve digestibility.

Flax Seeds

A superfood for chickens thanks to their omega-3s, lignans, and fiber content. Grind before feeding.


An ancient grain that provides lysine, magnesium, phosphorus, zinc and iron. Rinse quinoa first to remove saponins.

Chia & Hemp Seeds

Both tiny seeds supply a mega dose of omega-3 fatty acids vital to chicken health.


Sprouted chickpeas, lentils, mung beans etc are loaded with nutrients like vitamin C, folate, iron and potassium once sprouted.

These are just a few healthy seed options for chickens. Mix and match to provide nutritional variety.

Can Chickens Eat Niger Seeds?

Niger seed, obtained from the niger plant, is safe and nutritious for chicken consumption.

These tiny black seeds are rich in fat and protein — two key nutrients chickens need. Niger seeds also provide minerals like magnesium, phosphorus, and zinc.

You can feed niger in moderation as part of a mixed flock diet. They make a great high-protein treat. Chickens will enjoy foraging for the small seeds.

However, niger is very high in fat at around 40%. Too much can lead to obesity and other health issues. No more than 1-2 tablespoons per chicken daily is recommended.

Look for raw, untreated niger seed meant for livestock consumption. Cook any large batches first to destroy potentially harmful mold or fungi before feeding.

Can Chickens Eat Mustard Seeds?

Yes, mustard seeds are totally fine for chickens to eat. They make a tasty, nutritious treat.

These spicy seeds contain antioxidants, protein, omega-3s, calcium, iron, zinc, selenium, and magnesium. Mustard seeds may even have antimicrobial properties that support good gut health.

Chickens will happily gobble down plain mustard seeds. But for a more appealing flavor, try sprouting or roasting them first. This mellows the spicy kick.

Feed mustard seeds in moderation — no more than a teaspoon per bird per day. Too much can irritate their digestive tract.

Avoid giving chickens prepared mustard condiments, which often contain added salt, spices, vinegar and other ingredients that can be harmful. Stick to plain, unseasoned mustard seeds.

What Are The Best Fodder Seeds For Chickens?

Growing sprouted fodder at home is an excellent way to provide chickens with nutritious greens year-round. But which seeds make the best chicken fodder? Here are top options:

  • Barley – Highly palatable, barley fodder is packed with enzymes and antioxidants. It has the best conversions of seed to sprout.
  • Wheat – Wheatgrass is nutrient-dense and easy to grow. Chickens relish the tender sprouts.
  • Oats – Sweet, highly digestible oat fodder contains protein and beta glucans that support health.
  • Rye – This seed grows rapidly into greens with a high protein and enzyme content.
  • Broccoli – Chickens benefit from the vitamins, minerals and sulforaphane in broccoli sprouts.
  • Sunflower – These contain healthy fats and are easy to sprout. Good for variety.
  • Buckwheat – Despite the name, buckwheat is not related to wheat but is a nutritional pseudograin.

Try mixing together 2-3 fodder seed varieties for improved nutrition. Rotate between combinations to keep things interesting.

What Are The Healthiest Seeds For Chickens?

If you want to supplement your flock’s diet, these are some of the healthiest seeds for chickens:

  • Flax – One of the best sources of omega-3 fatty acids that promote skin/feather health. Also provides protein, fiber, and lignans.
  • Chia – A superfood seed bursting with omega-3s, protein, antioxidants, fiber, calcium, and more. Small but nutrient-dense.
  • Hemp – Hemp provides a balance of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids for optimal health. It contains all essential amino acids too.
  • Quinoa – Cooked quinoa is easy for chickens to digest. It offers a mega dose of minerals like iron, magnesium, potassium and zinc.
  • Pumpkin/Squash – Great for digestive health thanks to their fiber. Also packed with vitamin A, minerals, and healthy fats.
  • Sunflower (in moderation) – The high vitamin E, protein and healthy fat content makes these a nutritious treat in small amounts.

Focus on unprocessed, unsalted seeds without artificial additives. Offer one to two tablespoons per chicken a few times a week for a nourishing health boost. Monitor weight and adjust amounts as needed.

What Seeds Are High In Protein For Chickens?

Protein is crucial for chickens’ growth, egg/feather production, and overall health. Here are some of the top high protein seeds to feed:

Pumpkin/Squash – About 30% protein content. Also high in omega-3s and vitamin A. Roast or sprout for easier digestion.

Hemp – Packs 10g protein and all essential amino acids per ounce. A complete protein source.

Flax – Flax contains 18% protein including amino acids like arginine and glutamic acid. Grind before feeding.

Sunflower – Around 20% protein plus vitamin E. Feed unsalted in moderation due to fat content.

Sunflower Seeds on Countertop
Sunflower Seeds on Countertop

Chia – Contains 15-25% complete protein. Also high in omega-3s and antioxidants.

Quinoa – Cooked quinoa offers around 8g protein and all essential amino acids per 1/4 cup serving.

Peas/Beans – Dried legumes range from 20-25% protein. Must be soaked and cooked first to remove toxins.

Rotate between a variety of these high protein seeds to keep your flock in peak condition. Avoid overfeeding any single source.

What Seeds Can Chickens Not Eat?

While the majority of seeds are safe, a few varieties are toxic and must be avoided. Here are the seeds chickens should never eat:

  • Raw bean/pea seeds – Contain lectin and hemagglutinin toxins unless cooked.
  • Castor beans – Extremely poisonous, these contain the deadly ricin toxin.
  • Apple/apricot pits – Seeds have trace amounts of toxic cyanide compounds.
  • Tomato seeds – Have small levels of alkaloids like tomatine that can accumulate.
  • Datura/moonflower – Seeds and plants contain tropane alkaloids that cause hallucinations, convulsions, and death.
  • Ornamental seeds – Non-edible varieties potentially have toxins. Only offer seeds sold for consumption.

It’s also best to avoid moldy, rotten, or rancid seeds. Only feed seeds meant for chicken consumption and always check for recalls or warnings. When in doubt, don’t offer it.

What Are The Best Seeds To Plant For Chickens?

Chickens love fresh greens, so raising seedlings and sprouts just for them is rewarding. Here are some of the top seeds to plant:

Fodder Oats/Wheatgrass -These sprout quickly into tender greens chickens adore. Dense with nutrients.

Leafy Greens – Kale, chard, lettuce, spinach will provide vitamins and carotenoids.

Sprouted Grains – Sprout wheat, barley, rye for a healthy probiotic and enzyme boost.

Microgreens – Nutrient-explosion! Try broccoli, kale, radish, beets, or chard.

Sprouted Legumes – Chickpeas, lentils, peas offer protein and fiber once sprouted.

Raw Chickpeas
Raw Chickpeas

Herbs/Edible Flowers – Grow parsley, basil, edible flowers for yummy variety.

Sunflowers – Let a few go to seed and chickens will enjoy the nutrient-rich treats.

Make sure to grow seeds organically and avoid chemical pesticides. Rinse well before feeding seedlings to remove any grit or debris.

What Are The Best Seeds To Sprout For Chickens?

Growing sprouts is an easy way to provide chickens with fresh greens year-round. Try sprouting these nutritious seeds:

Lentils/Peas/Beans – Cheap, packed with protein and vitamins once sprouted. Soak 8-12 hours before sprouting to remove toxins. Rinse twice a day until sprouted.

Wheat/Barley/Oats – Grows quickly into tender, sweet grass chickens love. Rinse twice daily. Keep out of sunlight to prevent algae growth.

Broccoli – Higher in nutrients like vitamin C, K, and sulforaphane than mature heads. Rinse and drain 3 times per day until sprouted.

Sunflower seeds are nutritious sprouts high in protein…

Sunflower Seeds – These make nutritious sprouts high in protein and healthy fats. Rinse and drain twice a day.

Quinoa – An ancient grain loaded with minerals like iron, magnesium and potassium. Rinse well before sprouting to remove saponin coating.

Chia & Hemp – Both sprout easily and are bursting with healthy omega-3 fatty acids. Rinse 1-2 times per day.

Feed sprouts within a week of sprouting for maximum nutrition. Remove any rotten or moldy sprouts immediately.

How To Feed Seeds To Chickens?

Here are some tips for safely feeding seeds to chickens:

  • Introduce new treats slowly/one at a time to watch for reactions.
  • Scatter small amounts over their scratch area to encourage natural foraging behavior.
  • Mix into a crumble ration for balanced nutrition. Seeds should never exceed more than 15% of total diet.
  • Offer seeds in moderation – 1-2 tablespoons per chicken per day for most varieties. Adjust if needed.
  • Crush hard seeds or soak overnight to improve digestibility.
  • Sprout raw legumes and grains before feeding to remove anti-nutrients.
  • Provide grit to help chickens grind and digest seeds.
  • Never feed moldy, spoiled, rancid or expired seeds.
  • Always provide plenty of fresh water.

Monitor your flock’s droppings when introducing new seeds. Loose stools can indicate difficulty digesting high-fat seeds. Adjust amounts or frequency as needed.

From What Age Can Chickens Eat Seeds?

While newly hatched chicks live off the nutrients in egg yolk initially, they can start pecking at seed treats after their first week.

Here are some chick-safe seeds they enjoy:

  • Rolled or crimped oats
  • Finely cracked corn
  • Chopped greens
  • Dried mealworms
  • Finely chopped hard boiled eggs

Wait until 6-8 weeks to offer most whole seeds. Their digestive systems need time to mature. Cook any beans, grains or large seeds until chicks are 12 weeks to improve digestibility.


Always supervise chicks when feeding treats. Ensure proper ratios of starter feed to supplements for balanced nutrition. Never offer chick unsafe seeds like raw legumes, quinoa, dry rice etc.

As they mature, they can eat the same seeds as adult chickens. Tailor amounts to size and activity level. Support their rapid growth and development with proper nutrition.

Can Baby Chickens Eat Seeds?

Baby chicks under 6 weeks old have developing digestive systems still too delicate for most whole seeds. Their gizzards haven’t fully formed yet to grind hard foods either.

But there are some baby chick-safe seeds, sprouts and seedlings you can offer for treats:

  • Rolled or steel-cut oats
  • Chopped greens like lettuce, kale, spinach
  • Diced hard-boiled egg
  • Finely crumbled sunflower seeds or nuts
  • Sprouted wheatgrass and oat grass clippings
  • Mealworms
  • Finely cracked corn or millet
Young Chicks Feeding
Young Chicks Feeding

Introduce new foods slowly and watch for loose droppings. Limit treats to a tablespoon per chick daily.

Wait until 8-12 weeks old before introducing whole seeds. Cook any beans, grains or large seeds first. Prioritize easily ground options like millet, chopped greens, and soaked sunflower seeds.

A quality chick starter feed should still provide the majority of nutrition at this age. Supplement carefully with seeds.

Can I Give Chickens Wild Bird Seed Mix?

It’s best to avoid generic wild bird seed mixes. These blends contain filler seeds with little nutritional value for chickens.

Commercial bird seed often has:

  • Millet – Very high in starch and fat. Should only be fed occasionally.
  • Cheap grains like wheat, sorghum, barley – Lower protein than chicken feed.
  • Oily sunflower seeds – Healthy in moderation but can quickly lead to obesity.
  • Dried corn – Lower nutritional value. High carbohydrate content.
  • Fake candy/dyed seeds – Absolutely not!

The protein and fat content is also not optimized for chicken health. Too much of these low-quality seeds could lead to malnutrition.

If offering bird seed, make it just a small part of their diet. Pick out any candy coatings first. Supplement with higher protein poultry feed.

You’re better off buying or sprouting seeds specifically meant for chicken consumption. Or plant treats like sunflowers in their run!

What Seeds Are Toxic To Chickens?

While most seeds are harmless, a few varieties are toxic and must be avoided:

  • Raw bean, pea or legume seeds – Contain hemagglutinin and lectin, which are poisonous to chickens unless thoroughly cooked.
  • Castor beans – Extremely poisonous as they contain ricin. Even small amounts can be lethal.
  • Apple seeds – Contain trace amounts of cyanide. Safe in small doses but deadly if consumed in large quantities.
  • Tomato seeds/stems – Have low levels of alkaloids like tomatine. Can be toxic if chickens eat enough.
  • Onion/garlic – Can cause hemolytic anemia in chickens. Allium plant toxicity.
  • Ornamental seeds – Non-edible flowers like larkspur, lupine, morning glory contain poisonous alkaloids.
  • Moldy/spoiled seeds – Potentially fatal mycotoxins from molds and fungus. Never feed rotting seeds.
  • Raw potatoes/sprouts – Contain solanine, chaconine and other glycoalkaloids poisonous to chickens.

It’s also best to avoid unidentified seeds. Only offer seeds sold specifically for poultry consumption from reputable sources. Check for manufacturer recalls or warnings.


Exercising caution helps prevent accidental seed poisoning. If unsure about the safety of any seed variety, keep it away from your flock.

Can Chickens Choke To Death On Seeds?

Yes, it’s possible for chickens to choke to death on seeds or other food items. Taking precautions can help prevent this:

  • Avoid feeding whole seeds that are very small and round. Crush flaxseeds.
  • Mix seeds into feed instead of offering alone. Less likelihood of gorging.
  • Supervise treat time. Never give chickens unlimited access to loose seeds.
  • Soak hard seeds like dried corn or beans overnight. Softens hulls for easier swallowing.
  • Grow fodder/sprouts instead of feeding dry seeds. Much easier to digest.
  • Add insoluble grit to their diet. Helps grind and digest seeds in the gizzard.
  • Skip seeds altogether for chicks under 10-12 weeks old. Stick to chick starter feed.

Monitor birds when introducing new seed treats. Discontinue if any difficulty swallowing or breathing is observed. Preventing seeds from jamming the throat is key.

In summary, most healthy chickens enjoy pecking at seeds in moderation with no issue. But taking basic precautions helps avoid problems. Get to know your flock’s preferences and offer a variety of nourishing seeds safely.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the best seeds to grow for chickens?

When growing seeds for chickens, consider options like sunflower seeds, flaxseeds, and pumpkin seeds. Sunflower seeds provide a good source of healthy fats, while flaxseeds offer omega-3 fatty acids. Pumpkin seeds are rich in vitamins and minerals, promoting overall chicken health. These seeds can be easily integrated into a chicken’s diet and contribute to their nutritional needs.

What seeds are high in protein for chickens?

For a high-protein boost in your chickens’ diet, consider incorporating seeds such as soybeans, black oil sunflower seeds, and hemp seeds. Soybeans are particularly rich in protein and can be a valuable addition to chicken feed. Black oil sunflower seeds are not only high in protein but also provide essential fats. Hemp seeds offer a complete source of protein and other essential nutrients, making them beneficial for chicken health.

What seeds can chickens not eat?

While chickens have diverse dietary preferences, there are seeds they should avoid. Avoid feeding chickens seeds from plants like apples, cherries, and peaches, as these seeds contain cyanide, which can be harmful to chickens. Additionally, avoid giving them avocado pits and rhubarb seeds, as these can be toxic. Always remove the seeds from fruits that contain them before offering the flesh to your chickens to ensure their safety and well-being.