Each spring I plant sunflowers along the back of my herb garden. Not only do the tall stalks and large leaves provide shade for the herbs during the height of summer, the sunflower seeds make a nice, inexpensive treat for our chickens each fall. [Read here to find out how to start your seeds using eggshells]
Sunflower seeds are a great source of protein that will help your chickens through the fall molting season. To harvest your seeds once the blooms are spent, you only need some cheesecloth, twine and small paper bags.
Once the petals have fallen in late summer, cover each seed head with a double layer of cheesecloth, securing around the base of the stem with the twine, to prevent wild birds and squirrels from eating all the seeds. Let dry completely (at this point you can cut the heads off the stems and dry in a garage or mud room, if you wish).
Once the seeds are completely dry and the head is brown, remove the cheesecloth. Holding each seed head over newspaper, rub your hand over the seeds to allow them to drop. Store the seeds in brown paper bags in a cool, dry spot and use as treats for your flock.
Chickens can eat the seeds hulled or in the shells, so there's no need to shell the seeds for them if you don't want to. Compost the spent seed heads, leaves and stalks, but remember to save a few seeds to plant the following spring.
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