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5 Reasons to Feed Cayenne Pepper to your Chickens

Adding cayenne pepper to your chickens' diet in the winter has some pretty spectacular benefits.

Like most birds both poultry and waterfowl, chickens do have a decent sense of taste, but with a few limitations. While they have taste receptors for "bitter", "salty" and "sour" like we do, they lack the receptors for "sweet" and "spicy". Same goes for ducks.

So they can (and will) happily eat all kinds of spicy foods without a problem.

Cayenne Pepper and your Chickens

Spicy foods your chickens might enjoy include:

  • jalapeno peppers
  • chili peppers
  • whole or ground peppercorns
  • hot pepper flakes 
  • cayenne pepper 

These foods contain capsaicin which is the component in the plants that makes our eyes water, throat burn and makes us break out in a sweat. Chickens, however, will be unaffected.

Cayenne Pepper and Wild Birds

However, this trait doesn't just apply to chickens, it's also true for wild birds. While they possess the TRPV1 receptor which is responsible for allowing a being to feel the effects spicy foods, it doesn't get activated when they eat foods such cayenne pepper or hot pepper flakes, like ours does.

But just because chickens can't feel the effects of the spice, should you be feeding them cayenne pepper? 

I say yes. Adding cayenne pepper to your chickens' diet (in the winter specifically) has some pretty spectacular benefits. 

5 Reasons to Feed Cayenne Pepper to your Chickens

Here are five reasons to feed cayenne pepper to your chickens. 

While not entirely supported by science (I mean, what really is when it comes to raising chickens?), there's no harm in feeding cayenne pepper to your chickens, so there's only an upside to sprinkling some spice into their feed.

Keep Rodents out of your Chicken Feed with Cayenne Pepper

It's not just humans who feel the burn of spicy foods.  Other animals can't tolerate the fiery spice of the capsaicin. 

And in fact, wild bird seed companies sometimes add cayenne pepper to their seed mixes to keep squirrels, chipmunks and other rodents from eating all the bird seed. 

The mammals won't want to eat the spice-covered seeds, while the chickadees, blue jays, woodpeckers and other wild birds happily feed all winter long. 

So if you have a rodent problem in your chicken coop or are tired of chipmunks sneaking in to eat your chicken feed, try mixing in some cayenne pepper into it.

But there are other reasons to feed cayenne pepper to your chickens.

Battle Bacteria with Cayenne Pepper

While capsaicin won't kill bacteria, it has been shown in studies to disperse it. Chickens fed capsaicin ended up with the bacteria in their bodies broken down into smaller groups that weren't as strong and less able to create harmful infections. 

So adding cayenne pepper to your flock’s diet could help them to fight off bacterial infections and stay healthier. 

Fight Salmonella with Cayenne Pepper

In another study, in an effort to fight salmonella, which can be present in poultry flocks both commercial and backyard, researchers at Virginia Tech University fed a half of a group of chickens capsaicin and then dosed all the birds with salmonella bacteria. 

The chickens fed the capsaicin were then tested and it was found that compared to the control group not fed the capsaicin, half of those fed the spicy additive no longer had the salmonella bacteria in their internal organs.

Flush Internal Parasites with Cayenne Pepper?

Some people claim that cayenne pepper will also flush internal parasites/worms from the body. But again, I couldn't find any actual studies to back up that claim. 

However on the off chance that it does, it's just one more reason to add some cayenne pepper to your flock's feed.

Get Dark Orange Egg Yolks with Cayenne Pepper

Cayenne pepper and other foods containing the carotenoid xanthophyll work to make nice dark orange egg yolks in the eggs the hens who eat the foods lay.  

The pigment in the foods hens eat passes through to their egg yolks with any excess stored in the hens' feet and beaks. 

Increase Circulation and Prevent Frostbite with Cayenne Pepper

Some old-timers and others claim that adding cayenne pepper to a flock's diet keeps the hens laying right through the winter with no added light in their coop

While I've never seen any studies to definitively confirm this other than anecdotal evidence, cayenne pepper does help to improve circulation, reduce inflammation, and increase blood flow to the extremities which can help to prevent frostbite on combs, wattles and toes in the winter.

So adding some cayenne pepper to your chickens' daily feed in the winter especially isn't a bad idea.

 Health Benefits of Cayenne Pepper

Cayenne pepper also provides lots of health benefits for humans and animals. It can help aid in digestion, boost immune system health, increase iron absorption and also provide a good amount of Vitamins A, B and C plus potassium and magnesium. 

Capsaicin is also an antioxidant.

How to Feed Cayenne Pepper to your Chickens

So now that I've convinced you that feeding cayenne pepper to your chickens is a good idea, you might be wondering exactly how to feed them?

So here are some suggestions for feeding cayenne pepper: 

  • sprinkle cayenne pepper over their dry feed
  • add some water to their dry feed and mix in some cayenne pepper
  • mix some cayenne pepper into scrambled eggs

How Much Cayenne Pepper Should you Feed to your Chickens 

I've not found definitive studies that state exactly how much cayenne pepper is most beneficial for chickens. But like other supplements, I would say that about 1% would be effective. 

So just a sprinkle of cayenne pepper for a small flock or a few teaspoons for a medium flock every few days should do the trick! 

So don't hesitate to share spicy foods with your flock! They'll enjoy them and also benefit greatly health-wise. 

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