Harvesting Sunflower Seeds for Your Chickens

Each spring I plant a few varieties of sunflowers. The wild birds enjoy some of the seeds throughout the season, and 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 Southern sun.

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

In early spring I start sunflowers from seed in eggshell cups [Read HERE for the tutorial on starting the seeds].

They reside on the windowsill until the ground is warm enough for them to be transplanted outside. All summer the squirrels and wild birds steal a few seeds here and there, but once the flower petal 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, so I plant a few different kinds.

This year my favorite was the Teddy Bear miniature variety, 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.

But for the other sunflower varieties, to harvest the seeds all you will need is some cheesecloth, twine and brown paper bags. Here's what I 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 (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 or butcher paper, rub your hand over the head and allow the seeds to drop.

Store them in brown paper bags in a dry place to use as treats for your flock through the fall and winter. Compost the leaves  and stalks.

Sunflower seeds are an excellent way to boost your chickens' protein intake in the fall while they are growing in their new feathers and an important crop for any chicken keeper. [For more information on the molting process, read HERE.]

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