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Planting + Harvesting Sunflower Seeds for Your Chickens

How to plant and harvest sunflower seeds for your chickens or the wild birds.

Each spring I plant a few different varieties of sunflowers. The wild birds enjoy some of the seeds throughout the season.

The herbs and other edible flowers I also plant in the garden enjoy the natural shade that the towering sunflower stalks provide them from the sweltering summer sun.

And I harvest the rest of the seeds for my chickens.

Planting + Harvesting Sunflower Seeds for Your Chickens

Sunflowers are really easy to grow from seed, and make the garden look so cheerful with their huge yellowish orange petals! And they bloom right through the summer.

But by late summer it's time to harvest the seeds. Sunflowers seeds are an extremely nutritious chicken flock favorite and an excellent source of protein during the fall molting season.

Both our chickens and the wild birds and squirrels enjoy a sunflower seed treat through the cold winter months.

Planting Sunflowers from Seed

In early spring I start sunflowers from seed in eggshell cups. They live on the windowsill until the ground is warm enough for them to be transplanted outside. Then the whole eggshell gets put right in the ground. Sunflowers, as their name suggests, love nice sunny locations.

This year my favorite was the Teddy Bear miniature variety of sunflower, although I didn't harvest any seeds from them, instead the chickens enjoyed pecking at the petals and leaves once the blooms were a bit past their prime.

(I give my chickens the sunflower stalks when the garden is done for the season.)

Even though the Teddy Bear is a shorter variety of sunflower, it's large floppy leaves did a nice job shading our parsley and other smaller herbs.

All summer the squirrels and wild birds steal a few seeds here and there, but once the flower petals have fallen, it's time to protect the remaining seeds for the chickens to enjoy.

Black Oil Sunflower Seeds are a favorite of our flock, but any kind of seed is a nutritious treat for them. The chickens can eat them with the shell on or off, either way is fine.

Harvesting Sunflower Seeds for your Chickens

To save the sunflower seeds for your chickens, you'll need to protect the seeds from the wild birds until the seeds are ready to be harvested.

What you Need | 

  • Cheesecloth
  • Twine 
  • Brown paper bags 

What you Do |

Cover each sunflower head with a piece of cheesecloth (I use a double layer), gather the edges and tie them securely with twine at the back of the head around the stem.

Wait until the seeds have fully dried on the stalk (at this point, you can also cut the heads off and hang them in a dry garage or potting shed to dry completely if you wish).

Once the head is completely brown and the seeds are dry, remove the cheesecloth and - holding the seed head over a sheet of clean newspaper - rub your hand over the head and allow the seeds to drop.

Store them in brown paper bags in a cool, dry place to use as treats for your flock through the fall and winter. Compost the leaves  and stalks or let the chickens nibble on them.

Sunflower seeds are an excellent way to boost your chickens' protein intake, especially in the fall during molting season while they are growing in their new feathers, and an important crop for any chicken keeper.

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