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Natural Chicken Keeping

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To me, natural chicken keeping means raising your flock without using any chemicals or commercial medications. You know... like nature intended!

When we first started raising chickens back in 2009, I knew that I wanted to raise them naturally. To me that meant without using any chemicals or commercials medications. You know... like nature intended! After all, we would be eating their eggs. 

The whole point of starting a backyard flock (besides the fact that chickens make AWESOME pets and are super fun to watch and they love to sit on your lap!), was to know where our food was coming from and to know that it was as healthy as possible.

Obviously, the conventional wisdom at the time which was to just feed your chickens regular feed and then hope they stayed healthy and then if (when!) they got sick, dose them with antibiotics wasn't really speaking to me.

At all.


Time to Do Some Research


So I started reading and researching and realized that there just wasn't that much information out there, online or in print, about holistic or herbal remedies for chickens. And what information I did find was just mentioned in passing or anecdotally, usually without any exact amounts, recipes or dosages.

But I wasn't going to let that stop me. Using common sense and talking with countless vets, a handful of poultry scientists and reading as much as I could from reputable sources like state university avian labs, I began incorporating herbs into my chicken keeping.


Over the next decade, I tossed herbs into my chickens' nesting boxes, I added them dried to their feedhung them in their coop, made them into salves and infusions and even gave them to my baby chicks in the brooder.

I planted my chickens their own herb garden, I watched what they ate when they were out free ranging and made note of which plants they preferred to take their dust baths in.

I didn't buy them commercial calcium supplements or grit, instead I fed their eggshells back to them and made them find their own "grit" in the yard or dirt driveway.



And I kept researching. 

And I started to realize that my chickens never got sick. Ever. They never had mites or lice or suffered from vent gleet or flystrike. They never needed to have poopy butts washed or suffered from bumblefoot or egg binding or swelled up eyes any of the other gross things that people were always emailing me to ask how to treat. 

They were just....healthy. Naturally. Hmm....


Time to Write my Own Book


In 2013, I wrote my first book Fresh Eggs Daily: Raising Happy, Healthy Chickens.....Naturally (St. Lynns Press) to chronicle and share all the things I was doing. It remains one of the top-selling chicken keeping books in the country to this day. What??? How cool is that?

And over the next few years, I wrote four more books which continue to detail all that I've learned over the last near decade of keeping chickens and ducks.

I started writing articles for poultry publications and visited top poultry science departments. I heard from several universities that they were reading my blog and actually teaching some of my methods to their students and using it for a reference.


Research Starts Emerging

And slowly, studies started to come out. Research was being done on using herbs with chickens! Much of it was being conducted outside of the United States, but I think it's only a matter of time before more studies are done here in the US.



Several years ago, the New York Times reported that a commercial chicken farm was using oregano as a natural antibiotic.

Shortly after, Perdue started running a series of commercials on television about how they are feeding their flocks parsley and thyme.

This was all so exciting to me because the studies and announcements that had started to come out were all validating what I've been doing with my chickens just based on my gut feeling, basic knowledge of the benefits of the various herbs, and common sense!

In my research, I ran across other old-timers advice like hanging curtains over your nesting boxes (yup, farmers used to hang old feed bags or burlap over their boxes) or using the deep litter method through the winter. It all just made SO much sense to me.

I worked with a university poultry science department that was conducting herbal studies with their poultry and hopefully (fingers crossed!) in the near future there WILL be widely published studies, exact dosages, and more widespread acceptance of natural chicken keeping.

The Naysayers

Sadly,I have to say that I have gotten a LOT of flack over the years. And sometimes outright nasty hateful comments. There are those who don't believe something works if there's not a study behind it. There are those who just don't believe that something works unless it's toxic and has a skull and crossbones on it!

Those who say, "well how much should we feed?" and "how often?" and because I can't give exact doses of the various herbs, they just pooh-pooh it all and claim I don't know what I'm talking about.

Even a major chicken feed brand started bad mouthing me because I feed my chickens treats and supplements - I guess instead of relying solely on commercial feed to keep them healthy.



But I personally believe very strongly in the power of herbs and other natural supplements.  The human race wouldn't have survived all these years without them. And my chickens wouldn't continue to be so healthy and live long happy lives without them.

And what's the worst case scenario? Herbs don't work? The ones I recommend are all safe and edible, they're easy and inexpensive to grow...I just don't see a downside.

Fortunately the naysayers are small in numbers. I think that the majority of those who raise chickens are doing it for the health and well-being of not only their families, but also their chickens, and eager for natural advice.

And hopefully as more and more of you adopt natural methods and keep talking about them, others will start to believe in them.

I have honestly been so pleasantly surprised at how many of you ARE interested in what I do. To have Fresh Eggs Daily grow from a small Facebook page seven years ago to one of the largest with over half a million followers is just crazy.

Many many others follow me on Instagram, Twitter and Pinterest.  And my blog is among the top-read and most respected poultry resource online.

Time to Start my Own Product Line

I ultimately realized that I was using some natural supplements with my flock that had been developed for other types of livestock. 

So several years ago I worked with an animal lab and launched a private label line of natural chicken keeping supplements that includes Poultry Probiotics, Flock Flax, Coop Kelp and Brewers Yeast with Garlic.  I add all these supplements to my flock's daily feed.

None of this would have been possible without so many of you supporting what I am doing over all these years, so THANK YOU!!!

p.s. my products are all available on Amazon.com and Chewy.com.



My Start in Chicken Keeping


One of my favorite photos from my childhood is this one of my grandmother holding a two (?) year old me while my grandfather feeds their chickens. I love that I am carrying on my family tradition! And trying to do it much as they did.


Natural chicken keeping is nothing new. I certainly didn't invent it, but I hope that I have done my part to re-popularize the concept and attempt to bring it into the mainstream.

It makes me so happy that I came full circle and am a chicken keeping just like my grandparents and great grandparents before me, I am raising my chickens largely without modern conveniences or commercial products and that just feels right to me.

This photo below is of my childhood home. As you can see, the house is still being built, but the barn is completed and the chickens have already moved in!



The Future of Natural Chicken Keeping


You can't shake a stick these days without running across a social media post or article talking about herbs for chickens. And it seems that every chicken keeping book coming out recently is including at least a section on herbal preventives and remedies for your flock.

And that's so exciting to me! 

I have faith that in the coming years, there will be more studies and proof that natural chicken keeping is not only a "thing", but the way to go. 

And as I see more commercial poultry products coming out that are natural and safe and not full of chemicals and harmful medications, it makes my heart so happy!

My oldest chickens are 8 and 9 years old and my oldest ducks turned 12 several months ago, so I guess all this natural stuff really does work! 

If you haven't read my first book yet, pick up a copy at your local bookstore, or from Barnes & Noble or Amazon.com to learn where it all started. At least for me...



Fresh Eggs Daily Natural Poultry Feed Supplements

Available from Amazon.com

Available from Chewy.com


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And check out my other books too! I share some of my herbal advice in each and every one of them!



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