Some day, you may be able to offer hemp seed as bird food
Published December 28, 2018
Sunflower is the single seed best for bird feeding — at least, that’s what I’ve been telling people since I first started feeding backyard birds in 1981. It attracts a wide variety, from chickadees and sparrows to jays and grosbeaks. Sunflower’s high protein content is nutritious, and the high oil content is extremely valuable in winter.
Unfortunately, insects take a heavy toll on sunflower crops unless farmers apply pesticides, but this is true of virtually all crops.
One seed is just as nutritious as sunflower but much more resistant to insect pests. George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and James Madison grew it for fiber. In 1942, the United States government promoted it as a necessary crop to win the war. And it’s listed among the best seeds for birds in older bird books. But I’ve never fed it to birds, and it’s not mentioned in any of my newer bird books. Why? Hemp has been illegal to grow in the U.S. for any reason without a special permit since 1970.
Now, in 2018, with a number of states legalizing marijuana use for certain medical conditions and even for recreational use, farmers are becoming increasingly interested in growing hemp, both the cultivars used to serve the marijuana market and the “industrial hemp” varieties that have too low a psychotropic content for use as a drug.
So far, most growers are focused on hemp fiber and hemp oil for human consumption, but one Canadian grower is marketing some for bird feeding.
‘Hemp, the Devil’s Birdseed’
In the chapter “Hemp, the Devil’s Birdseed” in their superb book, Feeding Wild Birds in America: Culture, Commerce, and Conservation (Texas A&M University Press, 2015), Paul J. Baicich, Margaret A. Barker, and Carrol L. Henderson write about the history of industrial hemp farming. [Read our review of the book.]
After discussing how popular hemp seed was for wild bird feeding for decades, they explain how federal laws have made it difficult to grow or import even strains with extremely low psychotropic value but why the tide may be turning:
“While it is illegal to raise industrial hemp in the U.S., numerous efforts are underway to return industrial hemp production to the position it once held. At least eight states have laws allowing for industrial hemp cultivation, despite a clash with federal law. The Drug Enforcement Agency still does not permit such production.”
Since the book’s 2015 publication, that is changing, at least a little. I live in Minnesota, where, starting in 2016, a handful of farmers have been growing industrial hemp as part of a pilot program by the Minnesota Department of Agriculture following strict federal guidelines. Following the 2017 growing season, the Minnesota Department of Agriculture’s website noted, “There are plenty of pilot participants that see much opportunity on the processing, value-added side, but acknowledge it will take time and plenty of money to get an industry established.”
Henderson is leading a hemp-seed testing program in Minnesota. Phase II begins on January 1 and runs through February 15. And you may have heard that the 2018 Farm Bill, which was just recently passed into law, legalizes hemp production. Eventually, the U.S. Department of Agriculture can create guidelines for the use and production of industrial hemp — including as bird food.
It will take years for hemp seed to be easily available and affordable. But as Carrol Henderson told me, “It’s nice to see a birdseed crop that would have zero anticipated pesticide use.” For those of us who love our backyard birds, hemp seed will be well worth waiting for.
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Hemp seed was a popular bird food back in the day, and it was listed as such in bird books. It hasn't been available for decades, but that may soon change.
Hemp Seed for Birds
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NEW STOCK & HUGE PRICE DROP. Australian grown hemp seed is a high source of essential Omega 3, 6 and 9 fatty acids. Great for breeding birds, chickens, racing birds or as a healthy supplement for pet birds. Great for chickens, finches, canaries, pigeons, budgies, and parrots etc.
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Hemp Seed for Birds. The new harvest is now in and there has been a huge price drop!
Disclaimer: In-store prices may vary from online prices. This item is repackaged and sold in a clear bag. Multiples of the same bag size will be combined into one bag.
Australian Grown Hemp Seed is a high source of energy, protein and essential Omega 3, 6 and 9 fatty acids. Great for breeding birds, chickens, racing birds or as a healthy supplement for pet birds. Great for chickens, finches, canaries, pigeons, budgies, and parrots etc. Hemp seed is also popular as freshwater fishing burley.
An excellent energy source with Protein 23%, Energy 5000 k/cal, Fat 31%, Carbohydrates 34%.
Hemp Seed for Fishing:
Hemp seed is also very popular as burley for freshwater fishing. Especially when soaked and cooked, the high oil content of hemp seed is very good at attracting trout and other fish. Click here to see a video on how to prepare the hemp seed for fishing .
Hemp Seed for Laying Hens & Birds:
Recent feeding trials with chickens have confirmed that hemp seed is an excellent source of nutrition for laying hens (chooks), where the omega fatty acid profile in eggs was favourably influenced after feeding hemp seed meal (Silversides et al., 2002). This is in agreement with empirical observations over thousands of years in China and other Asiatic nations.
Click Here for more information on Hemp Seed for Laying Hens .
Click Here for more information on Hemp Seed for Birds .
About Hemp: Hemp is not to be confused with Marijuana. While hemp looks very similar it has very low levels of THC (
Hemp seed can be legally produced under license in most states of Australia and in New Zealand and can be used for pet food, body care products and (under specified conditions in some Australian states and in New Zealand) for livestock feed. It may not currently be used for human consumption in Australia, but hemp seed oil may be consumed in New Zealand. (NSW DPI 2008)
Frequently Asked Questions:
Q. Is this hemp seed hulled or whole (unhulled)?
A. The seed is whole hemp seed ie unhulled.
Q. Is your hemp seed whole seed & can it be cooked so it can be used for fishing?
A. Yes, it is whole seed and can be cooked for fishing. See the video link above for how to cook hemp seed.
Q. Are you sure budgies will be able to crack open and eat hemp seed?
A. Budgies can be reluctant to eat hemp seed and it often takes time for them to learn how to crack them open. However, once they learn they very much enjoy them. The Budgies at our store are fed hemp seed regularly and they have no problem eating them.
Q. I was looking at your unhulled hemp seed and I wondering if it has been treated with any other chemicals in its production of to protect it from vermin etc.
A. I emailed our supplier and got this reply ” Australian hemp seed is harvested, cleaned and put into cold storage. No treatments are needed as it is stored at 4 Celcius pure untreated seed only”
Q. Has this hemp seed been grown with any chemicals (pesticides or fertilisers) or is it organically grown?
A. According to the manufacturer, this hemp seed is grown with AMPVA approved fertilisers but no pesticides were used.
Australian Grown Hemp Seed is a high source of energy, protein and essential Omega 3, 6 and 9 fatty acids. Great for breeding birds, laying chickens, racing birds or as a healthy supplement for pet birds. Also popular as freshwater fishing burley.