Reason Why Wild-Bird Feed Isn’t Good For Chickens

Reason Why Wild-Bird Feed Isn’t Good For Chickens

You spend several hundred dollars a year on bird and chicken food because you have hummingbird feeders, suet, and platform feeders. You don't want to stop giving the birds food because you care about the environment. What about feeding your chickens wild bird seed and seeing if you can save money? Wild bird seed: safe for chickens to eat? Oh, well, let's check it out.

A few times over the past decade, I've peered out my kitchen window at the wild-bird feeders on my deck, expecting to see nuthatches and chickadees, only to find one of my hens poised dangerously on the deck rail, gleefully gobbling up bird seed. At first, I found it really humorous. Once I counted up the price of bird seed for my Orpington oinkers, though, the laughter immediately subsided.

I remedied the problem by upgrading to feeders that could not be accessed by squirrels or chickens. Still, my chickens always seem to make a beeline towards the deck when I bring out the bags of meal to replenish the wild-bird feeders, as if they expect to see some seeds tossed their way.

Not so long ago, I told this tale to an old buddy. Karen doesn't keep chickens, but her deck is decked out in wild-bird feeders of every size, shape, and color. Her face lit up as she pictured my Buff Orpington hens chowing down on some grain from my tube feeder. She finally turned to me and said, "Well, why not?"

Why Wild-Bird is Not Good For Chicken

I don't see why not. I stifled a smirk and switched gears. When I got home to my husband Jae, I almost lost my cool over the conversation.

I made a remark about giving chickens bird seed. I mean, really, can you think of anything else? Just looking at me, Jae said, "Well, why not? They have already begun to consume it.

It would be simpler to just buy more sunflower and safflower seed, he went on, seeing my confused expression, than to buy those plus starter, grower, and layer rations.

I immediately had two ideas.
One, it's clear that my husband wasn't keeping up with all of my writings. Two, other chicken keepers may share Jae's mistaken belief that feeding their birds bird seed is fine.

Here are three reasons why you shouldn't feed your chickens wild-bird seed:

Biosecurity Issues

Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI) and exotic Newcastle disease (END) are only two of the infectious bird diseases that migrating birds might bring back to your backyard flock. Sonia Hernandez, a professor of wildlife disease at the University of Georgia's College of Veterinary Medicine, led a team that discovered 72 different species of birds mixing with chickens in backyard coops, including 14 species considered to be a high risk for pathogen transmission.

Feeding backyard flocks food designed for wild birds can only increase the rate of contamination.

Nutritional Deficiency

Poultry feed is specially prepared to meet the nutritional requirements of hens throughout their whole lifespan. Poultry can't grow, get sick from vitamin and mineral deficiencies, and even become unable to move if they're let to get that bad.

Keeping chickens healthy requires feeding them a balanced diet. Because of this, we can't use scratch grains or any other supplement as the primary source of nutrition for our flocks.

The fat and calories in wild-bird feed aren't good for domestic chickens, and neither are the other nutrients it lacks. Occasionally rewarding a flock with a handful of sunflower seeds is OK. Chickens that have been raised on nothing but wild-bird feed are at risk of developing serious health problems.

Cost Effectiveness

A 50-pound bag of chicken feed costs around $17, though that can vary greatly depending on the brand and whether it is starter, grower, or layer rations. Contrarily, you'll have to shell out $27 for a 40-pound bag of black-oil sunflower seed. That might not look like much, but it adds up over time. The cost to buy 200 pounds of poultry feed is $68, while the cost to buy 200 pounds of sunflower seeds is $135. The cost of wild-bird food is estimated to be two times that of poultry food.

Can Chickens Eat Wild Bird Seed?

Chickens can safely consume wild birdseed, but it does not provide a balanced diet and is high in fat and protein and low in essential vitamins and nutrients. Chickens really enjoy the flavor, and when fed in moderation, it can be very beneficial.

We are avid thrifters because we keep chickens in the backyard and are always looking for ways to save money on things like feed, hen houses, nesting boxes, feeders, and other supplies. However, there are a few things to think about before switching out chicken feed for birdseed.

There's a wide variety of wild bird seed out there, but most blends contain these main ingredients:
  • Sunflower and millet seeds
  • Also, popcorn that's been broken.
  • Sunflower seeds are a staple in most bird seed blends since they are loved by so many different species.
Fillers like oats and other grains are utilized in many bird seed mixes despite their lack of nutritional value.

Birdseed is a great treat for your feathered companions, but it shouldn't be their primary source of nutrition.

So, what exactly do hens chow down on?

Chickens are notoriously opportunistic eaters. However, in order to thrive, they need to take in the proper nutrients. Earthworms, insects, bees, plants, fruits, and vegetables are other favorites.
You should make sure they stay away from things like these:
  • Pulses, either cooked or uncooked
  • Avocado
  • Green vegetables or fruits
  • Chocolate
  • ...or if it's moldy.
Chickens that are allowed to roam freely in a backyard will forage for their own food, which may include insects, seeds, and even wild foliage that is high in protein and healthy fats.

They could eat a snake or two if they have the chance. That is to say, chickens can eat just about anything without any ill effects, but if you want them to be healthy and lay eggs regularly, you'll need to provide them with protein and calcium.

And the only way to ensure they get enough of everything is to either buy commercial chicken feed that has been formulated for optimal nutrition or to feed them leftovers of specific types of produce, meat, and grains.

Crushed eggshells, surprisingly, are a great source of calcium for your chickens if you supplement their diet with them. To prevent the spread of bacteria, store-bought egg shells should be heated.

So, you can see that providing a balanced diet for your chickens isn't a one-and-done deal.

Feeding your chickens only birdseed isn't a healthy option, but there are plenty of other options.

Does Feeding Your Chickens Wild Bird Seed Have Any Advantages?

As we already mentioned, chickens love birdseed, but it can also be beneficial to include it in their diet.

For starters, the majority of birdseed is composed of seeds, which research has shown can guard against salmonella infections.

The high fat content of birdseed is another benefit. Chickens need to stay warm during the winter just like the rest of us do.

In the winter, chickens either reduce or stop laying eggs due to the lower temperatures and shorter days.

It's because your chicken is under more strain to stay warm, which forces their bodies to divert energy from producing eggs.

You must give them more calories so that they can produce the additional energy they need to stay warm.

And in that situation, bird feed is a great addition. This extra fuel can help keep your hens warm. So yes, occasionally feed those chickens birdseed, but especially in the winter.

How to Feed Wild Bird Feed to Your Chickens?

You already know that birdseed is a treat and not a meal if you own chickens and have read this far in the article.

So long as your chickens are eating a diet that is high in calcium and well-balanced, you can think of birdseed as a delicious treat for your chicken friends.

The simple fact is that feeding birdseed to your chickens is not difficult. Simply grab a few handfuls and scatter them sparingly across the ground to serve as their scratch. Don't go overboard, despite how persistently your chickens beg. If not, your chickens might become overweight and refuse to eat their regular food.

In this manner, you can let your chickens enjoy picking through the seeds without letting them eat the entire batch at once.

Chickens can consume wild birdseed in moderation without harm. During the chilly winter months, it keeps them warm and energized and also makes a fantastic reward.

Your chickens will feel comfortable eating wild birdseed. They may develop vitamin deficiencies and put on weight if they consume too much of it.

There are several varieties that both your backyard hens and animals will like eating, but it shouldn't be used as a replacement for their usual chicken feed.
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