Tall, yellow flowers waving gently in the breeze, sunflowers, besides their beauty, produce seeds eaten by humans, wildlife and livestock. Poultry, including laying hens, scarf down sunflower seeds. They're more than just tasty; sunflower seeds benefit laying hens. Sunflower seeds marketed for wild birds can be fed to poultry. Black-oil sunflower seeds contain more protein than other varieties of sunflower seeds for wild birds. Sunflowers seeds should be limited to no more than 1/3 of laying hens' diet.
Fed as treats or food staples, sunflower seeds help to keep laying hens' feathers healthy. Black-oil sunflower seeds contain more oil than gray-striped and other types of sunflower seeds. Like other birds that crowd feeders and gobble down sunflower seeds, chickens utilize the oil in the seeds to aid in keeping them warm and dry in cold or inclement weather. Including sunflower seeds in the diet of laying hens that are shown helps to give their feathers the glossy look prized by poultry judges.
Egg Quality and Production
According to BackyardChickens.com, a website dedicated to people raising home flocks, sunflower seeds aids in laying hens' egg production. A Brazilian study found increased egg weight in hens fed sunflower seeds. Its researchers stated that increasing levels of sunflower seeds in daily rations did not affect feed intake, feed conversion or yolk color. When sunflower seeds are fed to hens, feeders should use the same amount they would use of commercial chicken feed.
Because they are rich in oils, sunflower seeds add fat to the diet of laying hens. Fats help to keep hens warm as temperatures drop. If laying hens aren't fed sunflower seeds year-round, then they can be added to the hens' rations from late autumn throughout the winter months. For people who cull hens when their egg production ceases or drops, or for dual-purpose birds, hens fed sunflower seeds should be a good weight for processing.