If you grow your sunflowers for yard decoration only, you are missing out on the benefits that the flowers can bring beyond the growing season. Sunflower seeds are a favorite bird food, and you can take your backyard or garden sunflowers and turn them into bird seed. Birds are fond of both black oil and gray striped sunflower seeds, although according to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, black oil sunflower seeds are easier for birds to eat, as they have a thinner shell and smaller seed. Turning your sunflowers into bird seed takes little effort, but can yield satisfying results for both you and your feathered friends.
Wait for the head of the sunflower to bend down, and for the back of the flower head to turn brown.
Cut the sunflower head off the stalk with your garden shears, leaving 12 inches of stalk attached to the sunflower head.
Put a paper bag over the sunflower head and tie it to the neck of the sunflower.
Tie a string to the stalk of the sunflower, and hang the covered sunflower head upside down for three to five days. This allows the sunflower head to dry out completely so the seeds can be easily removed.
Take down the hanging sunflower, but continue to keep it upside down, pointed into the bag. Gently untie the bag, keeping the sunflower head over the bag as you do. This will allow the bag to catch any seeds that may be falling from the flower head.
Rub your hand back and forth across the sunflower head to loosen the sunflower seeds and allow them to drop into the bag.
Store the sunflower seeds in an airtight container. This will prevent mold and mildew from developing on the seeds, and it'll keep squirrels and mice out as well.