You have hummingbird feeders, suet, and platform feeders, and it costs you several hundreds of dollars a year to both your birds and chickens. Being the nature lover, you are, you don’t want to stop feeding the birds. But is it possible to save money by feeding your chickens wild bird seed? Can chickens eat wild bird seed? Well, let’s take a look.
Can Chickens Eat Wild Bird Seed?
Wild birdseed is safe for chickens to eat, but it is high in fat and low in essential vitamins and nutrients to provide a well-balanced diet for your flock, especially laying hens. Chickens love the taste, and it can be a great treat when fed in moderation.
As backyard chicken owners, we’re always looking for ways to save money on food, chicken coops, nesting boxes, food storage containers, etc. But before you substitute birdseed for chicken feed, there are several things you should consider.
What’s in Wild Bird Seed?
Wild bird seed can come in many variations, but most mixes are primarily made up of:
- Sunflower seeds
- And sometimes cracked corn
Almost all birdseed mixes contain sunflower seeds because they attract many varieties of birds.
Oats and other grains are also used as filler in many bird seed mixes but offer little nutritional value.
Chickens love birdseed, but it’s low in vitamins and high in fat, which makes it a wonderful treat for your feathered friends as long as it’s not the only thing they eat.
What do Chickens Eat?
Chickens will eat almost anything. That said, they require essential vitamins and minerals to thrive. They also love eating earthworms, insects, bees, vegetables, fruits, etc.
There are some items you should make sure they avoid, such as:
- Dried or raw beans
- Green potatoes or green tomatoes
Or anything moldy.
If your chickens are free-range in your yard, they’ll come across plenty of vitamin and protein-rich foods themselves, including insects, seeds, and wild vegetation.
They might even nibble on a snake or two. This is to say, chickens can eat a wide array of items with no negative impacts, but if you want your chickens to be healthy and consistently produce eggs, they need protein and calcium.
And the only way to guarantee a well-balanced diet is by feeding them high-quality commercial chicken feed or feeding them scraps of select fruits, vegetables, proteins, and grains.
Also, supplementing your chicken’s diet with crushed eggshells is an excellent source of calcium for them, believe it or not. (Just make sure to heat any shells from the store-bought eggs to kill any bacteria.)
As you can see, a well-balanced diet for your chickens isn’t a one-size-all process.
There are many different ways to make sure your chickens eat a healthy diet, but only feeding them birdseed isn’t one of them.
Are There Any Benefits to Feeding Your Chickens Wild Bird Seed?
As we previously stated, birdseed is delicious to chickens, but adding birdseed to their diet can also be some value.
For one, birdseed is mostly made up of seeds, which studies have shown can prevent salmonella infections.
The other perk of birdseed is its high-fat content. During the winter months, chickens, like the rest of us, need to stay warm.
With the temperature dropping and the lack of daylight hours, chickens either reduce or cease laying eggs in the winter months.
It’s because your chicken has more stress on them to keep themselves warm, which means their bodies need to redirect energy away from creating eggs.
This increased need for energy to stay warm means you need to provide them more calories for your chicken to make energy.
And that’s where bird feed makes a great supplement. It can provide that extra fuel to keep your hens warm. So yes, feed those chickens birdseed occasionally, but especially during winter months.
How to Feed Wild Bird Feed to Your Chickens?
If you’re a well-informed chicken owner and have made it this far into the article, you already know that birdseed is a treat and not a meal.
So assuming your chickens have a well-balanced diet that’s high in calcium, you can treat birdseed as an excellent snack for your chicken friends.
The truth is, feeding birdseed to your chickens isn’t rocket science. Just take a handful and spread it sparingly onto the ground as a part of their scratch. No matter how much your chickens beg, don’t overdo it. Otherwise, it can lead to your chickens being overweight and not wanting to eat their regular food.
This way, your chickens can enjoy pecking around for the seeds without allowing them to gobble a whole pile at once.
Can Wild Birdseed Provide Laying Hens With The Nutrition They Need?
The best part about owning a coop of chickens is the fresh eggs available at your fingertips.
Chicken eggs are made up of 7 parts:
- the shell
- the membranes
- the albumen (the white part)
- the yolk
- the chalazae
- the germinal disc
- and the air sac.
The main parts to consider are the shell, the membranes, the white, and the yolk.
- The eggshell is made up of calcium carbonate, hence why chickens need so much calcium in their diet.
- Inside the egg is two membranes. They encompass the albumen and protect against bacteria. And these two membranes are made of protein, which is why chickens also need a ton of protein.
- The white of the chicken egg, or the albumen, is made of vitamins, protein, minerals, and water. Besides a well-balanced diet, chickens need a TON of water to create an egg, and that’s because the egg is almost 75% water.
- The yolk is where the magic happens. It’s where the proteins, minerals, fats, and vitamins are located.
The difference between domestic chickens and wild birds is chickens lay eggs year-round, while wild birds lay only a few eggs a year.
So while birdseed can help the little birdies lay eggs, domestic chickens require a lot more calcium and protein than wild bird seed provides.
When chickens aren’t laying eggs, it’s because their diet is lacking some essential ingredient.
Chickens need around 20 grams of protein and calcium, phosphorus, vitamin D, fat, and water to lay an egg.
Chickens especially need a high volume of calcium to provide their eggs with strong shells.
If you want to guarantee your chickens are getting everything they need to produce eggs, then the best thing would be to feed them commercial chicken feed.
Then anything else you feed them can be used as a supplement, such as wild bird seed.
Best Wild Birdseed for Both Chickens and Birds
There are several types of bird feed available on the market. Here are some best types to feed both your chickens and wild birds during the cold winter months.
Black Oil Sunflower Seeds
If you can only afford to buy one type of seed during the winter, opt for the black oil sunflower seeds (also known as BOSS). Over 40 species of birds eat them, and your chickens will love the taste.
Your chickens will devour the sunflower seeds or even the whole seed. They love eating sunflower seeds. However, sunflower seeds marketed for human consumption containing added seasonings are not safe for chickens.
Suet is a great winter treat for both backyard chickens and birds. It contains fat, protein, and other essential nutrients that will help your flock during the cold winter months.
Opt for suet cakes that contain dried berries, oats, corn, nuts, etc. You can buy suet blocks at your local pet store, Walmart, Amazon, or even make your own.
Many bird feed mixes contain cracked corn because birds love them. Your chickens will love them, but moderation is the key. Too much of it can cause your chickens to become obese.
A handful can provide your chickens a lot of carbs and a quick burst of energy.
Squirrels hate them, but chickens love them! Throw them a handful, and they will try to pick the Safflower out first. The best part is they are a great source of Omega 6 fatty acids, Vitamins E and K, which will help support a healthy immune system.
Niger Seed and Thistle
If you have a thistle feeder, don’t forget to share your chickens when you fill it up. They are a good mix of fat, fiber, and protein, making it the perfect comfort food snack during the winter for birds and backyard chickens.
When fed in moderation, wild birdseed is safe for chickens. It makes a great treat and helps keep them warm and energetic during the cold winter months.
Wild birdseed is comfort food for your chickens. Too much of it can cause them to gain weight and suffer from vitamin deficiency.
It is not a substitute for their regular chicken feed, but there are some types that both your wildlife and backyard chickens will love eating!