Can Birds Eat Hemp Seeds? Let’s Find What the Research Says!

can birds eat hemp seeds

Hemps seeds are rising in popularity amongst nutritionists and health enthusiasts. If you are near as health conscious as I am, chances are hemp seeds are your pantry staple already.

From smoothies to cereal bowls and even falafels, the nutty and wholesome hemp seeds compliment sweet and savory dishes.

Personally, hemp seed butter is the crowd winner in my household and bird feeders.

Birds can feast on unhulled and hulled hemp seeds, also known as hemp hearts. These tiny seeds are an excellent source of nutrition and provide the perfect dietary balance for our feathered friends.

Despite their earlier bad rep, hemp seeds are here to stay. The versatility of this nutritionally dense food is mind-boggling.

Not only are they healthy enough to be a superfood for humans, but they also hold impeccable nutrients for birds.

Why Do Hemp Seeds Have a Bad Rep?

It’s inevitable to contemplate why I mentioned hemp seeds having a bad rep in the past. Hence, before you lose your marbles scouring the internet for answers, let me inform you.

If you are unaware, hemp seeds derive from the cannabis plant. Therefore, it was the primary deal breaker regarding hemp seed consumption.

Organic hemp seeds in a wooden bowl

However, in light of recent studies, it has been proven hemp seeds do not contain any psychedelic chemicals present in cannabis (FDA responds to GRAS notices).

Although cannabis is the source to obtain hemp seeds, they are not part of the drug itself. Thus, establishing them to be perfectly safe for consumption by humans.

Nonetheless, it remains to be determined whether hemp seeds are safe for birds or nothing. So why not find it out together?

Are Hemp Seeds Safe for Birds?

Birds require organic nutrients in their diet. Protein and Fiber are the two building-block nutrients when deciding what foods to introduce into a bird’s diet.

If you’re struggling to find that perfect addition, you’ve chosen the right article!

Hemp seeds are the key ingredient for the ideal balance of protein and Fiber in a bird’s diet. Apart from these, hemp seeds are chock full of fatty acids like Omega 3 and Omega 6.

Fat-soluble vitamins are always welcome to a bird’s diet. Hemp seeds are there to deliver just that.

Simply put, hemp seeds are the super seeds to add to your bird seed mix.

I’ll discuss the matters and any benefits hemp seeds offer briefly.

What Are the Health Benefits of Hemp Seeds for Birds?

As I previously mentioned, hemp seeds are a powerhouse of nutrients.

Yet, their benefits remain to be a mystery.

A male northern cardinal feeding on bird seeds

Hemp seeds are perfect for people ranging from bird enthusiasts to poultry farmers. The high fiber and protein content are great building blocks for muscle growth.

In hatchlings, these aid with healthy muscle growth and prevent Musculoskeletal diseases.

A balanced protein and fiber diet can eliminate high risks of diseases such as Angel Wing Disease. The essential amino acids in hemp seeds deliver just that.

Hemp seeds contain fatty acids that build a healthy immune system in birds to fend off skin infections and other adverse conditions.

Egg binding is a crucial advantage in considering providing hemp seeds to birds.

The fat-soluble antioxidants are a bang for your buck to aid the reproduction of poultry and endangered birds through egg binding.

Hemp seeds contain linoleic acid, allowing birds to sustain a healthy body mass. Linoleic acid is notoriously known for reducing hikes of LDL cholesterol. In addition, it protects birds from cardiovascular diseases and obesity.

Studies have proven the abate ratio of cannabidiol (CBD) content of hemp seeds introduces stress-relieving effects on the brain. In addition, it will benefit birds acclimating to a newer habitat.

Why Are Hemp Seeds Not a Part of Store-Bought Bird Food?

It’s a question for the masses as to why hemp seeds are not a part of the commercialized bird seed mix. By now, it might’ve crossed your mind too.

Despite the abundance of nutrition, hemp seeds are still frowned upon for daily consumption.

A hemp leaf with shelled hemp seeds

The extraction of hemp seeds from the cannabis plant is still a big no-no amongst consumers. It also results in a reduced supply of them as supply and demand are inefficient.

Although hemp seeds don’t contain any psychedelics (tetrahydrocannabinol aka THC) like the cannabis plant, it’s somewhat new that nutritionists are researching more about hemp seeds.

Perhaps the bird community will also catch wind of the rising popularity of hemp seeds.

Yet, it’s likely that it’ll be years before hemp seeds get included in the mass-produced bird mix.

On the good side, you can personalize your seed mix now and hop in on the trend before anyone else!

The Downside of Hemp Seeds to a Bird’s Diet!

Despite all the vital nutrients that hemp seeds provide, a common problem you’ll come across when providing hemp seeds to bird feeders.

Hemp seeds come in two ways, with shells (aka unhulled, shelled) and hulled (aka dehulled, hemp heart).

The issue begins with shelled hemp seeds. Shelled hemp seeds are a common choking hazard in birds with smaller beaks.

The small size of hemp seeds is difficult for birds to dehull. Hence, unhulled hemp seeds can lead to choking hazards and indigestion.

Shelled hemp seeds are still an excellent option for parrots and pigeons, as they add a substantial amount of fiber. 

However, shelled hemp seeds restrict the types of wild birds visiting your bird feeders.

Hemp hearts in a wooden bowl

If migrating birds are frequent visitors to your bird feeder, opting for hemp hearts is best suited.

One way to differentiate between shelled and dehulled is to identify their colors.

Hemp seeds with shells arrive in a brown lentil-like shade. They are also likely to be whole instead of broken into smaller sizes.

Unlike shelled ones, hulled hemp seeds come halved in size with a tinge of green in them and no brown skins.

Despite this, the CBD content of hemp seeds causes mild side effects, including:

  • Fatigue
  • Dehydration
  • Polydipsia
  • Drowsiness

It’s important to remember these side effects can easily counteract with a few additions to a bird feeder. In addition, hydration can help avoid these symptoms.

And, of course, to avoid these symptoms altogether, the consumption of hemp seeds should remain moderate and substantial.

A sprinkle or two of hemp seeds every day can ensure succoring these side effects and deliver all the vital nutrients.

Which Vitamin-Rich Seeds You Can Pair Hemp Seeds With?

Since hemp seeds are exceptionally new to bird enthusiasts, it’s inevitable to hit rock bottom when introducing them.

Striped sunflower seeds in a wooden bowl

Birds are versatile creatures and the least picky animal known to humans. Yet, they are still hesitant to try unfamiliar foods.

The best way to introduce hemp seeds to their diets is to pair them with their usual seed mix by increasing the amount until they’re substantial.

Some of the treasured grains that are fan favorites amongst all birds are:

  • Sunflower Seeds
  • Spray Millet
  • Popcorn Kernels
  • Flax Seeds
  • Safflower Seeds
  • Rapeseed

There are plenty of things to disguise hemp seeds initially for birds. It is only necessary up until birds are familiar with hemp seeds.

Frequently Asked Questions

Here, I will answer the FAQs about feeding hemp seeds to birds.

Can Birds Eat Hemp Hearts?

Hemp hearts are de-hulled hemp seeds. They’re perfect alternatives to regular shelled hemp seeds as they eliminate the choking risk.

Hemp seeds are a superfood for birds; hence, having the de-shelled version (hemp hearts) will save you a lot of time having to disguise it when letting your bird try them out for the first time.

The shells of hemp seeds provide extra fiber. However, it’s not worth the choking hazard.

Can Wild Birds Eat Hemp Seeds?

Adding hemp seeds to your bird feeder will attract wild birds as they don’t have access to them in nature.

Hemp seeds derive from the cannabis plant, which birds don’t consume; thus, they are unfamiliar with hemp seeds in nature.

Hemp seeds in the bird feeder will allow wild birds to cherish their benefits.

Final Remarks

To sum up, hemp seeds are a superfood for birds and humans. Unfortunately, finding an alternative seed for hemp seeds is profoundly impossible. 

After taking ever into account, there’s no need to find an alternative! Despite facing some minor obstacles, hemp seeds provide nearly all vital nutrients.

Hence, without further ado, add it to your bird mix today!

Photo of author

Written and Fact-checked by David Neff

Author at BirdBonica

David is an expert birder and bird parent with in-depth knowledge of birds. He has years of experience observing birds in their natural habitats, studying their diets, behavior, and more. (Learn more about David here...)

1 thought on “Can Birds Eat Hemp Seeds? Let’s Find What the Research Says!”

Leave a Comment

BirdBonica logo - A bird icon and BirdBonica text

The ultimate resource for pet bird owners, birdwatchers, backyard birders, and bird enthusiasts.

BirdBonica.com does not intend to provide veterinary advice. The content here is provided solely for informational purposes on an “as is” basis at user’s sole risk. Please consult a licensed veterinarian in your area for pet medical advice.