Finding new and interesting foods for your chicken to eat is quite a common occurrence. When trying to find this unique new treat, a lot of people naturally gravitate towards bird seed.
Since chickens are birds and have a natural diet that seems to contain a mix of seeds, you may be inclined to believe that chickens can eat bird seed. However, things aren't as straight-forward as that.
Can Chickens Eat Bird Seed?
Yes, chickens can eat bird seed as long as it's given as an occasional snack. It isn't the healthiest food for them, but it's quite tasty and isn't a health hazard. When fed appropriately, it's totally fine for chickens to eat.
While it isn't recommended to feed bird seed to chickens as a dietary staple, many chicken owners will offer it every couple of days to keep the chicken's diet interesting. This is done by either putting it in a small cup or by scattering it on the ground and letting the chickens forage for the seeds.
What Do Chickens Eat In The Wild?
In order to better understand why bird seeds are edible but not the best for chickens, it's important to know what the natural diet of a chicken looks like. Chickens have existed for an extremely long time, directly descending from dinosaurs. Over this time, they have been exposed to many of the same foods, resulting in their bodies becoming optimized for the processing of those foods.
This makes it very important to match your chicken's diet to the diet of a wild chicken. They are designed to thrive off of certain foods and may not be able to process foods that they haven't experienced before.
Fortunately, chickens are omnivores that eat just about anything that they can find. It's this diverse diet that has made chickens quite hardy and allows them to properly digest a wide array of different foods.
The natural diet of a chicken includes fruits, vegetables, seeds, nuts, grasses, small insects, lizards, and even mice. The mix of ingredients within bird seed are all quite natural for chickens and would not cause any internal problems when fed appropriately.
Health Benefits & Dangers Of Bird Seed For Chickens
Bird seed has quite a few health benefits, but it can also be dangerous in some aspects. Fortunately, those dangers are quite minuscule and are easy to avoid if you're decently well-educated about chicken health.
The main problem with bird seed is that it's not up-to-par in terms of nutrition when compared with a dedicated chicken feed. Most bird seed mixes contain too much fat and don't have enough vitamins and calcium (which is very important for year-round egg laying).
If you utilize bird seed as a staple in your chicken's diet, you'll quickly see them experience a nutritional deficiency and the health problems that come with it. Therefore, it's important to know what the nutritional needs of a chicken are and supply them with food that meets those needs, then using bird seed as a snack.
Aside from that, bird seed has a few benefits! Aside from the fact that it's delicious to chickens, it also contains a good amount of vitamins and amino acids that chickens do require to live. There have also been studies that show that diets containing whole grains and seeds can help to prevent salmonella infections.
Bird seed is also a great winter food for chickens. Many owners provide their chickens with mixtures of bird seed and cracked corn as a supplement that helps chicken produce body heat. So, not only does bird seed taste great, but it also provides a good amount of utility!
How To Feed Bird Seed To Chickens
Since bird seed isn't a great food to feed to chickens, you need to make sure that you're doing it properly in order to avoid any health problems within your flock. Fortunately, it isn't hard to ensure that your feeding habits are top-notch.
First of all, the first thing that you need to focus on is making sure that your chickens have a complete diet. This primarily includes a high-quality chicken feed in addition to ample fruits and vegetables. A diet such as this will ensure that your chicken is getting all of their essential nutrients. After you get this down, then you can focus on providing snacks such as bird seed.
In feeding the bird seed to chickens, most owners take the simple approach of simply throwing a handful of it into the grass as part of their scratch. This ensures that the chickens stay entertained in searching for the seeds, but doesn't give them access to too much at once.
Also, as stated previously, some owners will combine bird seed with a little bit of cracked corn to help their chickens produce body heat to get them through the colder winter months more comfortably.