Growing black oil sunflower and millet seeds for birdseed


Please provide information on 2 types of seeds used for birds – black oil sunflower seeds, millet, including where to purchase the seeds.  I want to grow plants so I have an ongoing harvest of these seeds for the birds.



Black oil sunflower seed is the among the most popular birdseeds, and attracts dozens of bird species to the yard.  The seeds are black in colour and are quite meaty compared with the usual striped sunflower seeds that humans eat.  They have thinner shells so are easy for small birds to eat, and also pack more calories and nutrients in every bite.

Offer the seeds on a platform or tray feeder, as seeds might be too large and get stuck in tube or mesh feeders.  You can also sprinkle the seeds on the ground.  As the discarded seed hulls will make a mess around the feeders and can damage grass and other plants, many people provide hulled seeds or sunflower chips instead of whole seeds. See an earlier post, Plants that will survive sunflower seed hulls toxicity.

Millet is an ingredient in many bird seed mixes, but can also be offered by itself – doves and sparrows love it, as do pigeons. Other options for feeding birds include peanuts, suet , a good brand of mixed seed (should contain black-oil sunflower seed, cracked corn, white proso millet, possibly peanut chips, sunflower hearts, dried fruit – avoid products with wheat, milo), safflower seed, cracked corn, mealworms, fruit and even homemade treats (do your research).

It is challenging to locate sources to purchase sunflower and millet seeds, and as Master Gardeners we are not permitted to recommend any particular company. The Canadian Seed Catalogue Index lists companies across Canada that sell seeds of all sorts – I suggest checking the catalogs posted on sites and contacting the companies. Check with your local nursery – if seeds are not available there, they may be able to help you find a supplier.

The best option likely is to plant the seeds found in the birdseed mix you purchase to feed the birds in your yard. Black oil sunflower seeds can be planted, 2.5-5 cm (1-2) inches deep, 20-30 cm (8-12 inches) apart in full sun, once all danger of frost has passed, in any type of soil, no fertilizer needed.  Stagger plantings over a period of several weeks.  As for millet, simply sow seeds (e.g., white proso millet) from the birdseed mix.  Sow the millet in a thick later, cover lightly with soil and keep seeds moist until the sprouts are 5-7 cm (2-3 inches) tall – the millet should mature in under 10 weeks, and the birds should start finding the seeds well before the seeds ripen.

All the best in your quest to feed the birds!