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Should You Be Feeding Your Chickens This Superfood?

Should You Be Feeding Your Chickens This Superfood

Making sure your chickens’ diet is right, is the difference between having happy hens laying lots of eggs and grumpy hens who will peck your finger off if you go near them!
We changed our chickens’ diet last year and were amazed when within a couple of days their egg laying had plummeted- so we’ve been researching about chickens’ diets ever since.
This internet is packed with lists of do’s and don’ts when it comes to feeding your chickens, so more recently we’ve been experimenting with other ways in which we can keep our girls healthy and ensure they are still laying good quality eggs.
We aren’t interested in giving our girls manufactured supplements/tablets like they do at some commercial farms– in fact in many countries using growth enhancing antibiotics is now illegal fortunately.  So we went looking for natural herbal remedies instead.
Whilst researching we stumbled across this piece of research by Dr Zhao. He studied the effects that ginger has on hens. More specifically how feeding ginger to chickens affects their egg laying performance.

Ginger = Improved Egg Laying?

In the study they used 675 Hyline brown hens that were approximately 27 weeks old. These 675 hens were divided into 5 separate control groups. Each control group was given either with 0, 5, 10, 15, or 20 grams of ginger powder per kilogram of feed for ten weeks.
The ginger used in the study was given to the chickens in a variety of forms including: ginger powder, ginger root and also mixed in with water.
They found that hens supplemented with ginger powder started laying eggs with a greater mass and also found a higher amount of antioxidant in the egg yolks.
Dr Zhao concludes by claiming that the ‘optimum’ amount of ginger powder for laying hens is between 10-15 grams per kilogram of feed.
We also found another similar study that suggests ginger can be extremely beneficial for chickens.
It looks like we have found the perfect natural remedy to keep our girls heathy and laying eggs so please excuse me whilst we go and purchase a 20KG sack of ginger for my girls…

Is Ginger Really That Super?

Although feeding your chickens gingers looks like a great natural herbal remedy we would advise you to be extremely careful.
Is Ginger The New Chicken Superfood?
Interestingly in both of the studies above, neither commented on any potential negative side effects. However we know that ginger is a rhizome which can be poisonous if taken in certain quantities.
Studies detailing the toxicological effects of ginger with chickens are rare but we managed to find a few!
Worryingly one found that when ginger made up 1% of a chickens total dietary intake it resulted in things such as muscle swelling and in some cases death. In addition they found that the chickens had increased cholesterol levels and reduced amounts of protein.
The intensity of these side-effects was determined by the amount of ginger given and the length of time the chickens were given ginger. It was when ginger was given at a high dosage for a long amount of time that these side effects became more prominent.
Just remember that too much of a good thing can become a bad thing. Interestingly as well, when you feed your chickens food with strong flavours, such as curry spice, this can alter the taste of their eggs. So be careful as you might end up eating gingerbread tasting eggs!

Will We Be Using The ‘Superfood’?

We won’t be supplementing our chicken feed with ginger anytime soon. Ginger, like all other herbal remedies, should only be used occasionally.
Remember that in the studies above they are talking about commercial egg production which has a bad reputation of putting profits before their hens’ wellbeing.
We don’t do that with our chickens because there are our pets NOT profit machines.
We intend on only using ginger whilst our hens are moulting as it can help them moult faster.
The important thing to remember is that your chicken’s diet needs to be varied and include lots of different types of food.
Everything should be in moderation and they shouldn’t eat an excess of any type of food.
Recommend Food:

  • Good Quality Poultry Pellet: This is the cornerstone of any good chicken diet.
  • Vegetables: They love broccoli, potatoes, carrots.
  • Fruit: Banana, Apples, Pumpkin Seeds.
  • Kitchen Scraps/Garden Cuttings.

Discouraged Food:

  • Avocado: They can eat the skin, but we’d avoid avocados full stop.
  • Processed Foods: Cereal bars, crisps, sugary snack.
  • Citric Fruit: Oranges and lemons are a big no-no.
  • Dried Out Fruit.

Chickens need low salt, low sugar, whole grain foods and just remember, generally if you can eat it your chickens can too.
Like Avocados, the potential risks outweigh the benefits of serving up some ginger to our flock. There are other ways to encourage prime egg-laying abilities, and it often just comes down to a balanced diet. 
While the jury is still out about how long to feed ginger as a supplement, and how much to feed at a time, it’s wise to hold off on testing the theories on your own flock.
Since ginger can cause swelling and death in chickens, unless you know what you’re doing, I’d recommend sticking to a commercially formulated feed along with some of the safe supplements from the list below.

Other Poisonous Food

The food listed above is only discouraged, however the food listed below is poisonous to chickens and under no circumstances should you feed them to your chickens.
Apple Seeds: They contain slight traces of cyanide. Your chickens would need to eat a lot of apple seeds but better safe than sorry.
Onions: They contain a toxin called thiosulphate which can destroy your chickens’ red blood cells.
Raw Beans: They contain phytohemagglutinin which is posionious to both humans and chickens when uncooked.
Nightshade family: This includes tomatoes, rhubarb, pepper and eggplant all of which can be toxic.
Green Potatoes: Whilst potatoes are green and ripening they contain solanine which is poisonous to chickens. Once the potato has turned white you can feed it to your chickens.
Let us know in the comments what type of food you love to give your chickens…


Chicken Superfood

The Annual Backyard Chicken Blog Awards 2015

Just as a heads up for those of you who’ve missed it. We are currently hosting The Annual Backyard Chicken Blog Awards 2015 and the polls are still open. Thank you to the thousands of you that’ve voted already, but if you haven’t there’s still time to vote for your favourite.
Make sure you vote carefully as you’re only allowed one vote each. The polls close at 11:59PM EST on Monday 6th July 2015.

19 thoughts on “Should You Be Feeding Your Chickens This Superfood?

  1. I have always read absolutely no potatoes, also I have read that tomatoes are ok. My girls love cherry tomatoes. If course everything in moderation!

    1. Hi Beth,
      I don’t feed my girls tomatoes because they belong to the Nightshade plan family- which can be poisonous…

      1. Hi there. I believe its the plant itself that is poisionous, not the fruit of the tomato. I have fed tomatoes out of the garden to my chickens for years and they do fine with them.

        1. My chickens, when they were young, absolutely loved cherry tomatoes. Now, in their middle age, blueberries, spinach, dandilion greens grapes and chopped apples are their all time favorite treats, besides mealworms.

    2. I heard tomatoes are okay and potatoes are bad. I’ve been feeding my chickens tomatoes for couple of years. Checking with my veterinarian.

      1. I give my babies potato peels and I also give them roma tomatos. Not everyday! Once a month may be.

  2. Thank you for all this information on the up sides and down sides of ginger root for chickens, and also other things! We have a flock of about 8 now, we used to have 16 until a fox or a raccoon… But thank you! Our girls are about two years old and I’m always looking for a way to keep my girls healthy and happy. Thanks!

  3. Hi Claire,
    I find my chooks love left overs. Mashed potato, carrots and any greens. Also adore grapes. I have also added apple cider vinegar to the water to help with worms.
    Regards, Lyn

    1. Hi Lyn,
      Thank you for sharing- greens are also a big favorite of my flock 🙂

  4. I read often how chickens will eat anything set out. I have tried ground beef. They just throw it around the pen and I have to worry about botulism so no more meat for them. They will occasionally eat eggs. My finicky girls won’t touch apples, banana’s, carrots, potatoes, tomatoes, or even pumpkin seeds from your list above. They don’t like butternut squash. My aunt feeds garden tomatoes to her girls during canning season every year. My girls do love spinach (which I recently learned they should not eat), mustard greens, and the soft red stemmed kale. Heaven forbid I given them the heavier leaved kale though. They will eat carrot greens in winter when greens are more limited. Won’t touch in summer. They love cool juicy melon and strawberries in summer but won’t touch in winter. In fact, the only fruits they really eat in winter is raspberries and blueberries and sometimes cranberries if chopped and mixed into their grain mix. I only have a few backyard birds so they get spoiled with a daily dish of oats, flax meal, sunflower, quinoa, and chia. I chop some broccoli, cauliflower, or broccoflower into the mix most days along with some herbs which very daily. They also always get some greens in a suet suet feeder. I can’t wait to be able to start harvesting my own again. I give them some extra mealworms in winter when insects and worms are scarce. I sometimes treat them to some organic corn. Last ear I tried feeding a dish of fermented feed a day in addition to their pellets. They loved it but it got all gummed up in my salmon’s beard ad her beard had to be all cut off. No more fermenting until I no longer have a bearded bird. I also started out feeding organic mash but the girls picked through and there was so much waste that I switched to pellets. No more waste.

  5. That is really interesting. My girls eat absolutely anything. I don’t feed them avacado, green potoatoes, rhubarb leaves or citrus.

  6. My Barred Rock free range in Alaska. They eat rhubarb leaves with gusto and no effects. I feed them (in season, after harvest) brocoli, cauliflower, cabbage, leaves and grind same for winter add to feed. I feed them cooked fish gleanings for extra protein- they love it and leave the bones. Always told tomotoes put them off lay – maybe i’ll try then.I feed organic pellets and organic scratch with anything kitchen left over except avocado, onion. They lay xtra large eggs that are really heavy. In winter they have enclosed “barn” with dirt floor to bathe in and I supplement that with a plastic “concrete mixing” tub filled with dirt, sand and some diatomacious earth. Haven’t had any mites yet!! Hope this info helps – my girls will walk across some snow, so when it is low, I spread the old spent straw on a path to their outdoor enclosure which has some areas covered from the snow. Of course, have to supplement with heat lamps and timed lights during the low light months. Have heaters for their water founts too. Best wishes to all.

  7. Hello, reading about ginger powder, I see the amount of 10-15 gr/kilo, if it’s powder, how do they eat it? mixed in their pellets? Also apple cider vinegar, what is the ratio in their water. Should they have it every water fill? Can you add wild game bird seed as a scratch outdoors everyday? My chickens have had some feather loss, but they do not seem to be growing back….more on a pecking loss I believe.

  8. I have one hen who is scratching and picking out her own feathers! No sign of mites, or any other health issue. This is spring time, so it shouldn’t be moult… still
    I give 1/4 cup of apple cider vinegar in 1 gallon of water about 1 week out of every summer month.
    I also give the hens about 1 teaspoon of chia seeds soaked in about 1/4 cup of water in a separate little dish a couple times a week as one of their treats – they like it.
    They also get the leaves and heads from broccoli, cauliflower, and cabbage on a periodic basis (tied via a rope and hanging from the top of the run)…

  9. Hi,
    We have 6 lovely rescue hens and they are delightful, our children love them. We’ve had our chooks for around 9 months and their feathers grew back within 6-8 weeks and we have eggs from each of our ladies every day. Their body condition is excellent but recently on of our chickens is looking rather ragged. I see no sign of mites or lice, shes lower down in the pecking order, may even be at the botttom, but I dont know why shes looking like shes been dragged through the hedge backwards and the others are glossy and in excellent condition. Theres no evidence of bullying she is eating and laying. We have been giving her an extra feed to compensate if shes not getting as much feed as the others. Shes smaller (a little) but well covered. We only have hens, no cockrels.
    Any suggestions how we can restore her to her potential?

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