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Spice Up your Chicken Keeping for Better Flock Health

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Common spices have far greater benefits than just flavoring your food, they also can improve your chickens health!

Since ancient times, man has been using spices as a seasoning for food. But spices do far more than just ramp up the flavor quotient in foods, they also deliver a dose of healthy benefits for both animals and people. 

So why not add some spice to your chickens' diet ?

Like much else in the natural chicken keeping realm, not a lot of studies have been conducted on using spices with chickens.

But common sense tells you that adding various types of herbs or spices with beneficial health properties to your chickens' diet periodically can only lead to healthier chickens.

In fact, many of these spices are thought to help battle coccidiosis, the #1 killer of baby chicks, which is one reason I add a bit of spice to my chick feed for my growing babies right from the start.

Spice Up your Chicken Keeping for Better Flock Health

Although I couldn't find many studies or references outlining exactly how much of any given spice is beneficial, a sprinkle here and there of cayenne pepper, cinnamon or turmeric on occasion can only be beneficial, kind of like how we season our own food. 

Like most other things, variety in moderation is best.

So here are a few of the spices I recommend incorporating into your chicken keeping for better flock health.

Black Pepper

Believe it or not, black pepper is packed with vitamins and nutrients.

Black pepper also:

  • acts as anti-inflammatory
  • is an antibacterial
  • has antioxidants helping to flush toxins from the body
  • increases absorption of nutrients in other foods
  • benefits respiratory health
  • quiets coughs.

Since chickens are susceptible to respiratory issues, a little black pepper can be extremely beneficial to them.


Cayenne Pepper

According to old-timers, cayenne pepper can be added to your chickens' feed in the cold months to help warm up your chickens and boost egg production.

This practice lives on apparently, at least according to various social media posts that pop up each winter, that adding a bit of the cayenne pepper to your chickens' water can also get them laying again. 

According to this article in the Dallas Morning News back in 2012, it does work, but I can't find any definitive proof that it works. 

However cayenne does:

  • fight bacterial infections
  • keep rodents out of your chicken feed
  • make nice orange egg yolks

Cayenne pepper also has other health benefits, making it one of the best spices to sprinkle onto your chickens feed.

Cinnamon

Cinnamon doesn't just make baked goods and warm oatmeal taste delicious.

Cinnamon also:

  • reduces inflammation
  • helps treat infection
  • is an antibacterial 
  • has antioxidant properties 
  • can help guard against neurological diseases
  • treats nasal congestion and coughing

Cinnamon contains a compound that thins blood, which means that it also helps circulatory systems, which improves blood flow to combs, wattles and feet, also helping to prevent frostbite.

Since chickens have such complex breathing systems and are so susceptible to respiratory issues, adding cinnamon to their diet is extremely beneficial. 

Read more about using cinnamon in your chicken keeping HERE.

Garlic

Garlic is a nutrition powerhouse and is thought to be a natural wormer .

Adding garlic to your chicken feed can help to:

  • boost the immune system
  • improve respiratory health
  • repel mites, lice, ticks and other parasites
  • reduce the smell of chicken manure 

Garlic can be added to your chickens' diet by floating whole cloves in your waterer, offering crushed fresh cloves free-choice, or adding garlic powder to the feed.

Small chicks should also be offered crushed fresh garlic, free-choice, early on so they develop a taste for it.   For more on using garlic with your flock read HERE

Ginger

Ginger has also been studied as a dietary supplement for laying hens by adding  a .1% ratio (1 gram of ginger per kilogram of feed) ginger to chicken feed.

Ginger can:

  • result in better laying performance
  • increase egg size
  • work as an anti-oxidant

Read more HERE.

Salt (the exception to the rule)

Salt is the one exception to the rule. And salt is the one spice to stay away from when you're feeding your chickens. Just as in humans, too much salt in your chickens' diet isn't a good thing. 

Too much salt can lead to:

  • hypertension
  • digestive problems
  •  heart and kidney issues
  • dehydration
  • an electrolyte imbalance

 Avoid feeding your chickens any salty treats such as chips, pretzels or overly processed foods.  

The one exception is if you have a hen suffering heat exhaustion and you're treating her with homemade electrolytes. Otherwise, steer clear of overly salty foods for your family and your chickens will benefit also from healthier leftovers. 

Turmeric

Turmeric is best known for providing color to mustard and curry dishes, but it also has some amazing health benefits for chickens. 

Taken internally, turmeric: 

  • is a powerful anti-inflammatory which can bring down swelling due to bumblefoot
  • acts as an antibacterial 
  • works as a digestive aid
  • is an anti-oxidant
  • is an antiviral which boosts the immune system
  • helps maintain healthy skin, eyes and brain functions
  • aids in the treatment of chicks suffering wry neck

Applied topically, turmeric also:

  • speeds healing 
  • helps repair damaged skin from pecking or a predator attack

The National Institute of Health even suggests that adding turmeric as a dietary supplement can increase resistance to avian necrotic enteritis.

Adding 1/3 to 1/2 teaspoon to the feed of an ailing hen is the recommend dosage. For more information on adding turmeric to your flock's diet, read HERE. 



So consider adding some spice to your chickens' diet, even if it's merely by spicing up the vegetables and whole grains your family eats and then sharing the leftovers with your flock. 

That will help benefit everyone's health!

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