Winning the war against disease in your chickens can be as simple as boosting their immune system by incorporating foods and supplements into their regular diet. A good balanced diet composed of age-appropriate feed and a never ending supply of fresh clean water is an egg-cellent foundation. Adding egg-ceptional supplements and garden fresh herbs, fruits, vegetables, seeds and grains will attract the wild soul of your chooks and they will flock like crazy to their feeders. Though chickens have long been domesticated, their innate desire to live off the land means adding these “real” foods to their diet is a natural choice. Immunity boosting foods are generally rich in antioxidants such as Vitamins A, C and E, contain the minerals selenium and zinc and carotenoids- the pigments found in plants- such as beta-carotene which converts into Vitamin A.
Let’s take a “peck” at some easy ways to build up your chooks’ immune systems by incorporating a few egg-stras into their diet.
1. Create Egg-straordinarily Beautiful Beginnings
Newborn chicks hatch with an egg-cellent start-having consumed the nutrient rich yolk from the egg just prior to hatching, chicks hatch equipped with most of the essential nutrients they’ll need for approximately two days. Lacking only Vitamin C, the yolk is basically a chick’s lifeline until they take their first peck at their starter feed. One of the most nutritious additions to a chick’s diet is eggs! Scramble up an eggs or two and mix in a little minced garlic as a boost for their developing immune systems.
Whether you have brooder or Mother Hen babies, both will greatly benefit from a little egg-xtra nutrition added to their starter feed. Sprinkle a little probiotic powder, brewer’s yeast, moistened oats, finely chopped dandelion greens or chickweed on their feed and mix. Other egg-cellent immunity building choices include cooked brown rice, sea kelp, sesame seeds, wheat bran, uncooked oats – which help to keep their vents free and clear of buildup- herbs such as oregano, parsley, cinnamon, mint, tarragon, finely chopped bay leaves, clover, sage and Echinacea.
2. Apple Cider Vinegar-Jack of All Supplements
Since one of the first acts you do as backyard chicken keepers is to dunk your chicks’ beaks into water to encourage drinking, a simple waterer can be vital in boosting your chicks’ immunity. Just a couple drops of Apple Cider Vinegar added to your chick’s waterer several times per week boosts immunity and promotes good digestion and respiratory health. Apple Cider Vinegar, or ACV, is useful in preventing illness in backyard chickens and you can say farewell to pesky internal parasites! ACV creates a very unwelcome environment for harmful parasites to take up residence. It removes toxins from the bloodstream, thins mucous to promote better respiratory health and contains antibiotic and antiseptic properties.
3. Herbs for Hen Health
Herbs provide healthy medicinal properties for humans and chickens alike! Adding herbs to your chooks diet is a sure fire way to boost their immune system and add variety to their diet.
Bay Leaves, Echinacea and Dandelion Greens-a trio of immunity boosting herbs:
Bay Leaves actually “stem” from the Bay Laurel shrub and will happily thrive indoors or outdoors in pots. Medicinally, Bay Leaves contain many essential antioxidants, vitamins, minerals and are known for their antiviral properties.
Echinacea is easily started from seeds sown indoors or planted directly into the garden patch in late spring. A helpful ally in warding off the common cold and in fighting viral infections, Echinacea is a helpful healing herbal gem for both you and your feathery friends.
Dandelions seem to thrive no matter what! This rich vibrant weed is a delightful addition to any chicken salad you serve up. Dandelions are high in protein, chock full of antioxidants, vitamins and minerals, AND aid digestion, improve the function of all other organs and boost your flock’s nutritional intake.
Some other hip happenin’ healthy herbs for general good health include coriander, sage, spearmint and tarragon.
Herbal tea is overflowing with immunity boosting nutritional goodness and a delightful treat for chickens. Spend some quality time with your chooks and host a feathery tea party! Simply brew up some lovely herbal tea and serve-mini teacups are optional. You can stick to the traditional mint or lemon mint tea or mix it up a little and sip some strawberry ginger or blueberry cinnamon tea. Leave in the brewed herbs when serving and your chooks will no doubt peck them up!
4. Fresh Fruits and Vegetables-All Natural Health
Chock full of essential vitamins, minerals and antioxidants, berries, kiwi and papaya are a sweet treat and dietary supplement your chooks will love.
Cruciferous vegetables such as kale, broccoli, lettuce and cabbage are ideal immunity boosters and vibrant spinach or sweet baby spinach are delightful additions to your flock’s diet. Colorful capsicums are another crunchy treat to tempt your chooks. Garlic is an immunity boosting powerhouse! Garlic is gung ho to build up your flock with the building blocks they need to fight disease.
5. Spectacular Nutrition from Simple Seeds and Grains
For the active health conscious foraging chicken on the go, seeds and grains are the go to snack peck. Adding supplemental seeds and grains into your chook’s regular diet makes great sense-foraging chickens naturally eat seeds and grains regularly, so they’re more apt to give these familiar foodstuffs their peck of approval.
Sunflower Seeds: Sunflowers seeds are rich in vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and protein. And a big hit with the chooks.
Pumpkin Seeds: These powerhouse seeds are rich in vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and protein and are an egg-cellent natural wormer, to boot! And, chickens can eat the pumpkin flesh too. Just be sure your pecking chooks have access to grit so as to aid in the digestion of the fibrous flesh.
Flax Seeds: Flax seeds are a wonderful all around health food- filled with antioxidants, minerals and omega-3 fatty acids, flax seeds also boost egg laying, enhance feather condition and lessen your chooks’ chances of developing cancers.
Great Grains: Some egg-cellent grains to choose from include oats, barley, malted grains, corn and wheat berries. Grains are a great source of protein and immunity boosting minerals. Plus, chickens love them! Do you have a green thumb? Why not have a go at sprouting your own grains? What a wonderful way to ensure that your chooks have access to fresh grains throughout the year!
6. Proactive Probiotics and Fabulous Fermented Feed
Adding probiotics to your chicken feed is an easy way to ensure your chooks get an egg-stra dose of immune system power. Just what are probiotics, though? Simply put, probiotics are live microorganisms or good bacteria that improve an individual’s health, feathery or non-feathery, when present and active in the digestive system to keep things moving along smoothly. Probiotics are typically available in powder or liquid form to add into your chooks’ feed or water.
Another wonderful way to add probiotics into your chooks’ everyday diet is to offer them yogurt. Now, while chickens do not possess the enzymes necessary to digest the sugars found in dairy products, a little plain yogurt now and then is just fine. Yogurt, an egg-cellent source of protein, calcium and potassium also contains active probiotics for active chooks.
Serving your flock fermented feed is a fantastic way to promote good health and increase resistance to disease. Fermenting feed for farm animals is an age old process. It provides many benefits for your flock-the fermentation process increases vitamins and protein content, creates more easily digestible feed, greatly improves quality of eggs and tends to generate firmer droppings! Is it any wonder that backyard poultry and livestock keepers have been doing it for ages.
Putting it All Together
Egg-speriment with different combinations of ingredients. Your chooks will be flap-happy with glee to have such variety! Most of all, delight in the knowledge that you are building strong, healthy, active chickens who will be the “feather” of your eye!