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PostPosted: Wed Feb 15, 2012 6:11 pm 
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Junior Champion Bird
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I have a bed of sunflowers that is going to seed and I want to clean out and replant. I also have a bag of sunflower seeds I have been using sparingly as scratch. I'd love to just throw the whole plants from the bed in to the chooks as they go nuts for the seed heads and have fun picking the seeds out. I've checked the protein content and it is probably 28% according to this reference:

http://www.livestrong.com/article/26122 ... wer-seeds/

The girls get more green pick that they can possibly eat, oyster shells free choice and a layer pellet. Are there any potential problems to too much protein from the sunflower seeds or will they just burn it as energy the way humans would? I was planning to hold off on the scratch atm anyway. They only get it twice a week or so when I want them to dig over the compost they are making for me.

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PostPosted: Wed Feb 15, 2012 6:30 pm 
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Great Game
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i think people reserve the amounts because of the oil/fat content is extremely high. that and one of the sunflower types (cant recall if its striped or blacks) have been reported to make feathers fall out? i cant recall the reference for that but ive seen it multiple places.

i too have large 40kg bags which i mix into feed and after 12months of mucking around with blends ive cut right back to under 5% total mix and use wheat as a broad-cast feed for scratching if i want to personally feed them.

will be interested to hear other peoples ways :thumbs:


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PostPosted: Wed Feb 15, 2012 6:31 pm 
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Golden Brush Turkey
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the protein content in excess combined with the oil content make sunflower seeds fattening...............so do need to be used sparingly. that being said an odd occassion when you chuck in a sunflower head will not harm them. the sunflower heads also last a long time once they are ripe, so you have a longterm treat for your girls!

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PostPosted: Wed Feb 15, 2012 6:39 pm 
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Golden Kingfisher
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I do that - store them and now and then toss in a flower head.

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PostPosted: Wed Feb 15, 2012 6:56 pm 
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Junior Champion Bird
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Ok. I'm sure more people will give advice but for the moment I'll resolve to store them.

Interesting about the feather loss. I wonder what it could be from.

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PostPosted: Wed Feb 15, 2012 7:10 pm 
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Golden Kingfisher
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Let them dry a bit before you store them and keep them in a fabric sack or pair of old stockings.

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PostPosted: Wed Feb 15, 2012 8:07 pm 
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Dapper Duck
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I grew up spending a lot of time on a family sheep station. They also grew sunflowers and other crops.

The cockatoos and galahs would eat so much sunflower seed that their feathers did fall out and they'd die an awful death on the ground or often they'd just drop dead in/from the sky. :(

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PostPosted: Wed Feb 15, 2012 10:19 pm 
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Junior Champion Bird
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Oh wow! That is horrid. Hmm, when i get a moment I'll see if i can find anything on it because I am really curious now. Too tired now to do it properly.

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PostPosted: Wed Feb 15, 2012 10:27 pm 
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Golden Kingfisher
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I know that Wikipedia isn't the source of all unassailable fact but this article says that sunflower seeds do not cause widespread feather loss in parrots - it's a virus (probably spread when parrots flock to do things like munch on sunflower crops): http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Psittacine_beak_and_feather_disease


Edit for typo!!

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Last edited by 70%cocoa on Wed Feb 15, 2012 10:41 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: Wed Feb 15, 2012 10:37 pm 
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Golden Phoenix
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Hmmm.

My very quick readings seem to indicate that the supposed link between sunflower seeds and feather loss is documented almost exclusively in the parrot/cockatoo families, not in chooks.

While I dislike using Wikipedia as a primary information source, this seems to be a reasonable place to start.

Quote:
Psittacine beak and feather disease is a viral disease affecting all Old World and New World Parrots (Psittacini, Hookbills). The virus belongs to the family Circoviridae. The virus attacks the feather follicles and the beak and claws-growing cells of the bird, causing progressive feather malformation and necrosis. In later stages of the disease, the feathers develop constrictions in feather shafts, cease development early until eventually all feather growth stops.
[...]
Over the years, Australian people seeing birds like this have thought their condition was caused by exclusive sunflower seed diet, which is often the main source of food for Australian cockatoos in captivity. Dr Ross Perry remembers being taught at Sydney University in 1969 that "a common feather loss disease of cockatoos is caused by too much sunflower seed in the diet"[1]. This is now known to be false.

(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Psittacine ... er_disease)

There's a couple of references to "black sunflower seeds are a known cause of feather loss in poultry" on some poultry/permaculture sites, but with no supporting data, I'm inclined to treat it as "a common feather loss disease of cockatoos is caused by too much sunflower seed in the diet" turning into "sunflower seeds cause bird feathers to fall out"; both of which appear to be inaccurate.

My skim-information does, however, suggest that if you feed your birds too much sunflower seed, they become deficient in the nutrients they require, partly because parrots (and chooks!) utterly adore sunflower seeds and are prone to ignoring all other food sources in favour of the sunflowers. So they get fat and unhealthy because of an unbalanced diet, and feather loss could result from the nutritional deficiency.

A head of almost-ripe sunflower seeds seems to last a few days in my pens, probably because of the work involved in getting the seeds out. It's not like it's just sitting there as easy pickings, so they get bored and go after the easier foodstuffs - their nice healthy pellets and mixed grains and so on.

So in summary:

* I am dubious about the direct link between sunflower seeds of any variety and feathers falling out of birds of any variety (but willing to be proven wrong!);
* Over-indulgence in the favourite food of sunflower seeds can result in nutritional deficiencies and even chook obesity, which can impact the health of the chooks;
* a small quantity of sunflower seeds do no harm and can do good.
* Yes, there is such a thing as too much sunflower seeds :)

edit: 70%cocoa found the same link as me and posted MUCH more succinctly :)


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PostPosted: Wed Feb 15, 2012 10:42 pm 
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Golden Kingfisher
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LOL, snap! Geeks of one mind :wink:

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PostPosted: Thu Feb 16, 2012 7:00 am 
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Junior Champion Bird
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Thanks guys. I'll give it a search later on but, as usual, you've trumped me with your fact finding. You'd need a captive population of parrots with a controlled diet to proove the effect which i guess is possible but who would bother? A captive population of chooks is much easier. My particular captive population of chooks can demolish a sunflower seed head within a day easily, so I'll be judicous in feeding them.

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PostPosted: Thu Feb 16, 2012 7:35 am 
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Golden Kingfisher
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With that approach I'm sure all will be well.

Your chooks will have a lovely time.

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PostPosted: Thu Feb 16, 2012 1:05 pm 
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Dapper Duck
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I'll do some more research too...I need to know now. :) All I know is that the same species of birds fed on various crops all year round in massive flocks. It was only when the sunflower seed heads matured that the feather falling and sky dropping happened...in BIG numbers. It never happened with the wheat, corn, sorghum, lucerne etc

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PostPosted: Thu Feb 16, 2012 1:26 pm 
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Golden Phoenix
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It may be that the gorging almost exclusively on the high-fat, oily, protein-rich seeds, not found in such quantities in the Australian wild, was triggering nutritional deficiencies and possibly exacerbating an existing outbreak of beak-and-feather disease. So the sunflower seeds were causing the deaths, but not quite in the way implied.


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