Can Chickens Eat Seeds? A Detailed Guide To Seeds for Poultry

As a chicken owner, you want to make sure your flock is getting proper nutrition. Seeds can provide important vitamins, minerals, and protein to supplement your chickens’ diet. However, not all seeds are safe or ideal options. This guide covers everything you need to know about feeding seeds to chickens.

Article Summary

  • Certain seeds like sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, flax seeds, oats, quinoa, hemp seeds, watermelon seeds, cantaloupe seeds, chia seeds, and others are safe for chickens in moderation.
  • Seeds can provide essential vitamins, minerals, and protein to supplement a chicken’s diet.
  • Introduce new seeds slowly, monitor for adverse reactions, and avoid large portions of seeds prone to spoiling or containing toxins.

What Are the Best Seeds for Chickens?

Chickens can safely eat certain seeds in moderation. The top seed choices to offer your flock include:

Sunflower Seeds – These are a fantastic source of vitamin E, selenium, magnesium, and protein. Feed sunflower seeds either whole or crushed. They contain high fat content, so offer just a handful 2-3 times per week.

A Close-up View of Sunflower Seeds

Pumpkin SeedsPumpkin seeds provide lots of zinc, iron, magnesium, phosphorous, manganese, and copper. Their omega fatty acids support immune health. Give 1-2 tablespoons per chicken once or twice weekly.

Flax SeedsFlax is high in omega-3 fatty acids for feather and egg health. The hard outer shell passes through the digestive tract intact, so grind before feeding. Give chickens 1-2 teaspoons of ground flax 2-3 times per week.

Oats – These whole grains can be soaked and sprouted for chickens to enjoy the highly digestible form. Sprouted oats offer protein, fiber, and phytonutrients. Feed 1-2 tablespoons per chicken daily.

Quinoa – This “supergrain” seed provides all nine essential amino acids making it a complete protein. It also boasts antioxidants, iron, and lysine. Cook quinoa and serve a few tablespoons once or twice a week.


When introducing new seeds, do so slowly by mixing a small amount into their feed. Monitor for any adverse reactions.

Are Apple Seeds Safe for Chickens?

Apple seeds contain trace amounts of cyanide. The fruit flesh is fine for chickens to eat. However, the seeds pose a potential choking hazard and contain toxins that can build up. Avoid feeding apple seeds directly. If your flock scavenges fallen apples, that small exposure to seeds should not cause harm. But never let chickens gorge on bucketloads of rotten apples due to toxin risks.

Can Chickens Eat Bird Seed?

Most wild bird seed mixes contain sunflower seeds, millet, cracked corn, and other small grains that chickens can safely consume. Look for a mix without added dried fruit, which chickens don’t digest well. Offer bird seed as an occasional treat only, not a main diet component. The smaller seeds provide needed protein and fats missing from standard chicken feed. But bird seed lacks the balanced nutrition formula chicken feed offers.

Are Flax Seeds a Good Option for Chickens?

A Bowl of Flax Seeds
A Bowl of Flax Seeds

Yes, flax seeds provide healthy omega-3 fatty acids and protein. Their hard outer shell passes through the digestive tract intact when whole. For chickens to absorb the nutrients, you must grind the seeds first. Then stir 1-2 teaspoons of ground flax per chicken into feed 2-3 times per week. Or mix flaxseed meal into baked treats. Just avoid feeding too much flax at once due to the high oil content.

Can Chickens Safely Eat Hemp Seeds?

Hemp seeds offer chickens chlorophyll, fiber, zinc, iron, magnesium, and quality protein. Their omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acid balance benefits chicken health. Introduce hemp seeds slowly mixed into feed to monitor reactions. Feed 1-2 tablespoons per chicken 2-3 times per week. Hemp seeds spoil quickly due to the oil content. Store any leftovers in the refrigerator.

Are Jalapeño or Other Hot Pepper Seeds Safe?

Jalapeños and other hot chili peppers contain capsaicin. Birds do not register the “heat” from capsaicin the way mammals do. Chicken taste receptors differ, so spicy foods pose no issues. Small amounts of most dried pepper seeds add beneficial antioxidants and bioflavonoids to their diet. But avoid feeding large quantities as peppers belong to the nightshade family.

Can Chickens Eat Pumpkin and Other Squash Seeds?

Pumpkin, butternut squash, acorn squash, and other hard-shelled squash varieties provide lots of valuable nutrition in their seeds. These seeds offer protein, omega-3s, manganese, magnesium, phosphorous, iron, copper, zinc, and fiber. Rinse and dry roast squash seeds to intensify the flavor. Then add 1-2 tablespoons per chicken to their diet a couple times a week. First introduce small amounts to watch for any digestive upset.

Are Raw or Roasted Sunflower Seeds Better for Chickens?

Chickens can safely eat either raw or roasted unsalted sunflower seeds. Raw sunflower seeds have a higher moisture content. So they spoil more quickly than roasted. The roasted variety packs a more concentrated nutrient punch ounce for ounce. Feeding a handful 2-3 times weekly gives chickens valuable protein, vitamins, minerals, and healthy fats. Mix into feed or offer free-choice in a bowl in small amounts to prevent gorging.

Can Chickens Eat Watermelon Seeds?

Yes, chickens can eat small amounts of watermelon seeds either straight from the melon flesh or dried. The seeds provide protein, magnesium, iron, zinc, copper, and vitamin B6. They are high in fat, so limit intake to a tablespoon or so 1-2 times per week. Any more may cause loose droppings. Toss the melon flesh in too for added hydration on hot days. Avoid letting chickens access decomposing piles of melon rinds containing seeds after parties or cookouts.

Are Cantaloupe Seeds Safe for Chickens to Eat?

Like watermelon seeds, cantaloupe seeds are fine for chickens in moderation. Cantaloupe seeds offer comparable nutrition – protein, omega-3s, fiber, iron, zinc, phosphorous, manganese, magnesium, and copper. Mix a few teaspoons directly into feed every so often. Or allow free-range birds to peck seeds out of waste melon rinds on occasion. But don’t leave piles of rotting melons in the coop or run, as excess seeds could cause diarrhea.

Can Chickens Have Chia Seeds?

A Jar Filled Of Chia Seeds
A Jar of Chia Seeds

Yes, chia seeds provide chickens with omega-3 fatty acids, protein, antioxidants, and a huge variety of vitamins and minerals. Their gelling action also supports hydration. Stir a spoonful of chia seeds into feed or yogurt treats every other day. Limit intake since chia contains lots of fat. Monitor eggs for any fishy odor, which can occur if chickens eat too many omega-3 rich foods. Discontinue chia if that happens.

What Are Fodder Seeds for Chickens?

Fodder refers to sprouted cereal grains, legumes, or oilseeds. Wheat, oats, barley, alfalfa, mung beans, peas, lentils, and quinoa can be grown as fodder for chickens. These sprouts pack more concentrated nutrition compared to their dry form. Fodder systems allow automatically harvesting sprouts for chickens to eat. You can either purchase or build your own fodder system. Or simply sprout seeds in jars for chickens to enjoy. Fodder offers live enzymes, antioxidants, vitamins, and protein.

Can Chickens Eat Safflower Seeds?

Safflower seeds provide a solid protein and fatty acid profile but are not as nutritionally dense as other seed options. They are small in size, so safflower seeds are suitable for small chicken breeds. Safflower has a tough hull requiring a long digestive tract to break down. Offer just a sprinkle in feed every so often. Safflower grows well in hot climates. So allowing chickens to nibble flowers in the garden can give them a nutritional boost.

Are Sesame Seeds Good for Chickens?

Sesame seeds are very high in oil content. This makes them prone to rancidity. So they should be fed in limited amounts. Opt for unhulled black sesame seeds, as the hull protects the fatty acids inside. Give chickens just 1-2 teaspoons of sesame seeds a couple times a week. Look for cold-pressed organic sesame oil for higher antioxidant levels. Or allow chickens to forage in the garden if you grow sesame plants.

Can Chickens Eat Green and Red Pepper Seeds?

Both green and red bell peppers contain healthy antioxidants. Their mild sweet flavor comes without the spicy capsaicin chemical. A few tablespoons of assorted diced peppers added to feed occasionally will provide vitamin C. The small seeds also pack decent protein and minerals. Since peppers belong to the nightshade family, don’t overdo intake. But the seed and fleshy pulp of mild varieties is safe for chickens in moderation.

In summary, chickens can safely enjoy a variety of seeds in small amounts as part of a balanced diet. Focus on nutrient-dense seeds high in healthy fats, protein, and minerals. Slowly introduce new seeds, watching for any digestive issues. And avoid large portions of seeds prone to spoiling or containing toxins. With the proper supplemental seeds, your flock will reap major nutrition.

What seeds can chickens not eat?

Chickens should avoid eating raw or dried kidney beans, apple seeds, potato sprouts, rhododendron leaves, azaleas, foxgloves, lily of the valley, oleander, and yew plants, which are all toxic to chickens. Chickens also have difficulty digesting whole raw peas, corn, beans, rice, etc.

Can chickens digest seeds?

Yes, chickens can digest most seeds quite well when the seeds are crushed or ground into smaller pieces. Whole raw seeds like dry beans, peas, and corn pass through a chicken’s digestive system largely undigested. But chickens digest seeds effectively when the seed coats are broken open by grinding or crushing.

What are the best seeds for chicken feed?

Some of the best seeds to include in chicken feed are wheat, cracked/crushed corn, milo, millet, safflower seeds, barley, oats, brown rice, flax seeds, and sunflower seeds. These seeds provide protein, carbohydrates, omega fatty acids, and other key nutrients essential for chicken health and egg production. Moderation is key as too much of certain seeds can lead to health issues.