As a farmer, you probably spend a good bit of time perusing the aisles of your local feed store. In fact, you may actually spend more time there than you want to, but during your visits you likely see all kind of fascinating items. One thing in particular of interest is black oil sunflower seeds. Although you may have seen the bag with wild birds on it, black oil sunflower seeds (also known as BOSS) are actually a versatile feed item that can benefit many types of livestock. As a matter of fact, sunflower seeds are a useful component in many animals’ diets and have multiple benefits.
Chickens in particular enjoy black oil sunflower seeds and there are many pros associated with their consumption. Whether fed as part of regular meals or given as treats, chickens will readily devour sunflower seeds, or even the whole sunflowers themselves if given the chance. Just remember that prior to introducing sunflower seeds to your flock that you purchase the variety marketed for wild birds; sunflower seeds with added seasonings intended for human consumption should not be given to chickens.
Once you introduce sunflower seeds to your chickens, there are many changes you will begin to see taking place. For starters, their outward physical appearance will begin to change. Since sunflower seeds contain oil, they are a great source of fat and will therefore add a little weight to birds. This is a good thing going into winter because this extra fat will translate into warmth when temperatures drop. Another physical change will come in the form of feathers. The very same oil that adds fat to their diet will make feathers glossy and shiny. This is important because the impact of this additional dietary item on feathers will help keep their bodies insulated against cold and dampness. Even if you do not wish to feed sunflower seeds all year, adding them to rations during fall and winter is quite helpful to birds living in cold climates.
It has also been said that black oil sunflower seeds play a large role in egg production. If you have hens that aren’t laying like they used to, try adding sunflower seeds to give them a productivity boost. You should not only see a boost in the number of eggs laid, but also the quality, making sunflower seeds a worthwhile addition to your chickens’ diet. Even if you don’t see a change in the egg production of older hens and ultimately decide to cull, you will see an increase in their weight beforehand.
If you do opt to add sunflowers to the diet of your laying hens, it is important to avoid going overboard. More is not necessarily better and sunflower seeds should not exceed 1/3 of a bird’s regular diet. That small amount truly is enough to make a world of difference, but not only to chickens. Cattle, horses, sheep, and other animals also both enjoy and benefit from sunflower seeds. You will notice things such as weight gain and shiny coats, but again, take care not to overfeed as sunflower seeds are rich in fiber and lignin which can amount to too much of a good thing.
In the event that you choose to add sunflower seeds to your farm animals’ diet, many feed retailers should have a bag readily available. The going price usually hovers around $20 for 20 pounds. This makes for a reasonably priced investment in healthy animals, not to mention delicious fresh eggs for your own breakfast as a tradeoff!