Do My Chickens Need Supplements?
Photos by William Moreland on Unsplash
The very short answer to that question is probably no. If you give your chickens a good quality feed and some corn, and let them peck around the garden for insects and small stones they use to grind down their food they should technically be getting everything they need.
Any supplement should be given to your chickens as a complement to a healthy and balanced diet, and not instead of giving them good feed or sufficient space to live out natural chicken behaviours. However, just like you might boost your own system with some extra vitamins and minerals, there are some things that you can give your hens that will help them stay healthier and give them more energy.
Particularly useful at more challenging times, like around a moult or during a particularly tough cold snap, we’ve listed all the supplements you might want to have in your cupboard:
Chickens don’t have teeth, but use small rocks and stones to grind their food down. Most free range chickens gather grit naturally while exploring the garden, but if you for some reason have to contain your chickens to a smaller area than normal, or if their run is covered in snow, you might need to add grit to their diet.
Make sure to choose something that is chicken specific and will have the right composition and size of components, like the Omlet Chicken Grit.
Vinegar, normally Apple Cider Vinegar, is a great booster all year around. It aids digestion, keeps internal parasites at bay, and is mildly antiseptic. In the winter it’s also fantastic to use preventatively to keep respiratory infections away from your flock.
Choose an organic or unpasteurised vinegar that contains a substance called ‘the mother’. It’s a gel-like substance that grows naturally on the vinegar, and it’s the mother that contains the most powerful enzymes and minerals that make the vinegar so beneficial.
Vinegar can be added to the chickens’ drinking water, approximately 10ml per liter of water.
As well as keeping vampires away, garlic has been used for its beneficial properties for centuries, and it’s a great addition to your chickens’ diet.
You can crush up a fresh clove or use garlic powder to add to the feed. It’s great for circulation, and can help with respiratory infections. It’s also said to help ensure a good appetite, so it’s ideal to give it to newly rescued hens that need a nutrient boost.
Plenty of herbs and spices are said to have medicinal properties that will help your hens keep their immune system in top condition. Verm-X is a 100% natural supplement that helps maintain intestinal hygiene and keeps the hen’s gut and digestive system in great condition, which can help keep parasites and infections away.
Oregano, cinnamon, parsley, turmeric and ginger are other chicken favourites that will increase vitamin levels and aid the immune system, and that grinded down can be mixed into your chickens feed.
Chickens use lots of calcium to build egg shells, so laying chickens can sometimes need a little more than they get from their pellets.
Equimins Egg Shell Improver is a great example of a supplement that contains high levels of calcium and phosphorus and will strengthen the quality of your chickens’ eggs. Ideal for ex battery hens or hens going through a moult.
This is a long term favourite with chicken keepers, a mineral supplement that will be beneficial to your chickens’ general health. It’s perfect for moulting, or to help maintain good appetite in winter.
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