Can Chickens Eat Bird Seed? Here’s Everything You Need To Know

Article Summary

  • Chickens can eat bird seed in moderation as a nutritious treat or supplement to their diet.
  • Safe seeds in bird mixes include millet, cracked corn, oats, sunflower seeds, and safflower seeds.
  • Choose bird seed mixes without dried fruit, couplings, or heavily dyed seeds; opt for organic blends.

Chickens can definitely eat bird seed, but there are some important considerations when feeding it to them. Bird seed can make a nutritious treat or supplement to a chicken’s diet, but should not be their sole food source. Read on to learn more about feeding bird seed to chickens.

Is Bird Seed Healthy for Chickens?

In moderation, most bird seed is perfectly healthy for chickens. Many bird seed mixes contain grains and seeds that provide protein, carbohydrates, fiber, and healthy fats. Some examples are millet, cracked corn, oats, sunflower seeds, and safflower seeds.

When choosing a bird seed, avoid mixes with dried fruit or couplings…

When choosing a bird seed, avoid mixes with dried fruit or couplings, which are high in sugar and can cause digestive issues. Also steer clear of heavily dyed seeds. Opt for an organic, natural bird seed blend without artificial additives. Check the ingredients to ensure there is nothing potentially toxic to chickens.

What Seeds Can Chickens Not Eat?

While the majority of bird seeds are safe, there are a few varieties chickens cannot eat:

  • Chocolate or coffee flavored seeds – Contain theobromine and caffeine, which are toxic to chickens.
  • Raw dried beans or peas – Chickens cannot digest these properly. Must be cooked first.
  • Unsprouted raw pumpkin or squash seeds – Contain a compound that can interfere with nutrient absorption. Must be sprouted or roasted first.
  • Moldy or rancid seeds – Contain mycotoxins that can make chickens very sick.

When in doubt, look up a seed online to verify it is safe before feeding to chickens. It’s better to be safe than sorry.

How to Feed Bird Seed to Chickens?

The best way to feed bird seed is free choice in a separate dish or spread out as a supplemental treat. This allows the chickens to choose how much they want to eat.

Try sprinkling a small handful (a few tablespoons) per chicken directly on the ground, mixing into their feed, or putting it in a separate dish in their coop. Let them peck at it through the day.


Make bird seed no more than 10% of their total daily food intake. Their main diet should still consist of complete layer feed and treats like fruits, veggies, and insects.

How Much Bird Seed to Feed Chickens?

As a general rule of thumb, feed 1-2 tablespoons of bird seed per standard sized chicken per day. Bantam or smaller breeds may only need 1/2 to 1 tablespoon per bird.

Adjust amounts based on your chickens’ appetite and interest…

Adjust amounts based on your chickens’ appetite and interest in the bird seed. If they ignore it, reduce the amount. If they devour it, you can increase to the higher end of the recommended amount.

Overfeeding bird seed can lead to obesity and malnutrition if they fill up on it instead of their layer feed. Stick within the recommended 1-2 tablespoon per standard chicken per day limit.

Can Chickens Eat Wild Bird Sunflower Seeds?

Yes, sunflower seeds are perfectly safe and nutritious for chickens. The black oil sunflower seeds often found in wild bird seed mixes are a great source of protein, healthy fats, fiber, vitamins, and minerals like vitamin E, thiamine, magnesium, and selenium.

In moderation, chickens can eat both the shelled kernels and whole sunflower seeds. If feeding whole, provide crushed or cracked sunflower seeds so the chickens can easily digest them. Just note sunflower seeds are high in fat, so feed smaller amounts.

Can Baby Chickens Eat Bird Seed?

Bird seed can be fed to baby chicks as an occasional treat once they are 2-3 weeks old. At this age, they are eating starter feed and can handle small amounts of supplemental seeds.

Wait until chicks are fully feathered and 6 weeks old before feeding larger amounts of bird seed. Their digestive systems are too delicate when very young to properly process seeds.

Always grind or mash any hard seeds and grains well before feeding to baby chicks. Avoid sunflower seeds until chicks are 8-12 weeks old since they are high in fat.

In summary, bird seed can add variety to a backyard flock’s diet. Stick to 1-2 tablespoons per chicken per day, avoid potentially toxic seeds, and grind up any whole seeds before feeding babies. Used right, seeds offer a healthy, natural treat!

Frequently Asked Questions

Is it OK to feed chickens wild bird seed?

Feeding chickens wild bird seed is generally not recommended. It often lacks essential nutrients chickens need. Opt for a balanced poultry feed to meet their nutritional requirements.

What seeds can chickens not eat?

Chickens should avoid seeds from fruits like apples, cherries, peaches, and apricots, as they contain potentially harmful cyanide compounds.

What foods can’t chickens eat?

Chickens should steer clear of chocolate, caffeine, salty snacks, sugary treats, spoiled or moldy foods, onions, garlic, and citrus fruits due to toxicity risks.

How do you sprout bird seeds for chickens?

To sprout bird seeds for chickens, soak them in water for several hours, then drain and rinse. Continue rinsing daily until sprouts emerge, providing a nutritious treat rich in enzymes and nutrients.