Skip to main content

Can Chickens Eat Sunflower Seeds?

Kristie Leong M.D. is a family practitioner who believes in the power of nutrition and a healthy lifestyle to prevent and fight illness.

Can chickens eat sunflower seeds? If you feed chickens, it’s important to provide them with a diet that supports their health and egg-laying abilities. Chickens are omnivores, which means they eat both plant and animal products. They enjoy seeds, berries, leaves, and insects.

Chicken feed is comprised of grains, vitamins, and minerals. But what about sunflower seeds? Feeding your chickens sunflower seeds is a way to supplement their diet and chickens can eat sunflower seeds with some caveats.

Types of Sunflower Seeds

You can buy sunflower seeds shelled or unshelled, salted or unsalted, but not all are equally healthy for chicken. The healthiest sunflower seed for chickens are unseasoned and unsalted ones. One option is black oil sunflower seeds, a type of sunflower seed made for feeding wild birds and chickens, and also for bird feeders. Black oil sunflower seeds are available in the shell and pre-shelled.

Black Oil Sunflower Seeds Are Best

Chickens can benefit from sunflower seeds because they’re nutritious and have a high protein and fat content. Their protein content is over 25 percent, which is excellent for poultry.

Their fat content is high but the main fat in sunflower seeds is monounsaturated fat, the same type of healthy fat in olive oil and avocados. They also contain omega-3s, a type of healthy fatty acid in various plant-based foods such as walnuts, chia, hemp, and sesame seeds.

They Contain Vitamins and Minerals Too

Black oil sunflower seeds are an abundant source of vitamin E. This vitamin helps keep the skin and feathers healthy and promotes good egg production by increasing fertility in a hen.

Sunflower seeds also contain calcium, which helps strengthen bones and teeth in chickens. Calcium is necessary for proper eggshell formation. It’s important that you provide enough calcium to your chickens so that they can produce strong eggs with thick shells.

Zinc and Selenium Are Important for the Health of Chickens

Sunflower seeds also contain zinc and selenium. Selenium is an antioxidant and important trace mineral for reproduction in both men and chickens. It is involved in the synthesis of sperm cells, among many other important functions. According to, laying hens need 0.06 ppm of dietary selenium daily for healthy egg production.

Zinc plays an important role in reproduction as well as maintenance of reproductive organs (testes). When chickens don’t consume enough zinc, they can experience delayed growth and development and a higher risk of infection.

In addition, sunflower seeds contain antioxidants that help fight oxidative damage and reduce inflammation. Both humans and chickens can benefit from that type of protection.

Don’t Feed Roasted or Salted Sunflower Seeds to Chickens

Humans enjoy sunflower seeds that are salted or seasoned, but they’re not a healthy choice for chickens due to their higher sodium content. If you can find pre-shelled black oil sunflower seeds, it’s less messy, as you won’t have the shells scattered about. Plus, they can also be more economical.

Chickens can eat pre-shelled sunflower seeds by themselves or mixed with other treats like rice. However, chickens need a more varied diet than just sunflower seeds. Ensure that sunflower seeds don’t comprise more than a quarter of a chicken’s diet.

Chickens Enjoy Sunflower Seeds

Chickens love the taste and texture of sunflower seeds. They will eat them even when they're not hungry, so sunflower seeds are a fantastic treat for chickens. However, the high fat content of sunflower seeds means chickens can gain weight if they overeat these crunchy seeds.

An optimal time to increase the sunflower seed content of their diet is before winter. The extra fat stores they gain from munching on sunflower seeds help them stay warm during a cold winter.


Can chickens eat sunflower seeds? Yes! Black oil sunflower seeds are an excellent choice. You can feed your flock plain and shelled sunflower seeds if they don’t contain added salt or seasoning. Make sure not to give them too many at once since they're high in calories and fat; feed them small amounts throughout the day.