I have been raising my chickens naturally for about 4 years now and have learned a lot about supplementing my flock. Along with my flock’s daily ration of layer feed I also throw in some nutritious, beneficial supplements. These eight natural supplements for chickens will help improve their health and laying ability!
Most of these supplements I feed on a weekly basis and my chickens love them! These supplements can help boost your chicken’s immunity to certain diseases, increase egg production, and improve feather health! I love feeding my chickens these supplements and enjoy seeing them healthy and happy!
Herbs make a great supplement for chickens. There are many types of herbs that can be grown and fed to chickens. Each herb has it’s own amazing health benefit too! Here are a few herbs categorized by their benefits:
- anti-inflammatory- calendula, comfrey, feverfew, violets, and yarrow
- antibiotics- nasturtium, oregano, and thyme
- anti-parasitic- oregano, peppermint, sage, and tarragon
- laying stimulant- fennel, garlic, marjoram, nasturtium, nettles, and parsley
- insecticides- basil, bay leaves, catnip, lavender, lemon balm, marigold, mint, nasturtium, rosemary, sage, and thyme
- overall health- nettles, parsley, sage, and spearmint
I feed my chickens both fresh and dried herbs. The easiest way to feed chickens herbs is to add it to their feed or hang it up in their enclosure so they can eat it free-choice. Check out my Homemade Chicken Feed Supplement recipe for a great way to include herbs in your chicken’s diet!
A little side note from herbs, I also give my chickens a little bit of oregano oil, which is derived from the oregano plant. I mostly give it to them during the winter, when they are all cooped up, to help prevent disease and maintain their health. The easiest way I have found to feed it to them is by adding one drop to a half a cup of cooked oatmeal. Do not give oregano oil to your chickens in excess, it is a very concentrated oil and could be dangerous in large amounts.
I love feeding my chickens oats, and they love them too! Oats are a great source of protein, fiber, and antioxidants. They also contain four B vitamins, zinc, calcium, copper, iron, and magnesium! Oats can also be fed to chicks to help keep them healthy and strong. Just make sure you offer some chick grit so the chicks can easily digest the oats. I feed whole oats to my hens during the summer to keep them laying. In the winter I make my hens warm oatmeal, which they appreciate on cold days, and helps keep them energized to stay warm.
Seeds are a wonderful source of nutrients and chickens absolutely love seeds too! The two seeds that I feed my chickens most are sunflower seeds and flax seeds.
Sunflower seeds are great for improving cardiovascular health and they are anti-inflammatory. They also stimulate the natural production of oil for chickens to wipe on their feathers. I feed sunflower seeds to my show birds in preparation for a show to help make their feathers shine. Do limit the amount of shelled sunflower seeds that you feed your chickens at one time, as the shells can be hard to break down and could cause crop impaction.
Flax seeds are an excellent source of omega-3’s. In fact, hens that are fed flax seeds actually have higher omega-3 levels in their eggs, which makes them more nutritious! Flax seeds also contain amino acids. They aid in improving overall health, feather quality, and help hens maintain a healthy weight. Another awesome benefit of flax seeds is that they also can reduce the chance of cancer in chickens!
Kelp is packed with tons of beneficial vitamins and minerals! It contains calcium, magnesium, nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, sodium, copper, iron, and selenium! It also contains many vitamins including, A, B1, B6, B12, D, E, and K along with 21 amino acids. To say that kelp is a nutrient powerhouse would be a understatement! Kelp helps improve fertility in cocks, hatchability in fertile eggs, feather quality for show birds, and good bone development in chicks! I feed kelp to my chickens at least every other week and I also offer it to my pullets as they grow. I mostly add it to their feed but it can also be sprinkled on treats such as oatmeal.
Garlic has many great health benefits for your chickens! It is a great anti-parasitic, bug repellant, supports respiratory health, and aids the immune system. Garlic even helps hens have a better feed conversion, which is the measure of how much a hen eats and how she converts that into body mass or eggs. Feed garlic in moderation as it is part of the onion family which contain small traces of the toxin thiosulfate, which destroys red blood cells. I feed my chicken garlic once a week and have never had any problems. Some sources say that garlic can taint the flavor of a chicken’s egg but I have never tasted any difference in my eggs. I add garlic powder to their feed during the summer and crush fresh garlic in some oatmeal to feed them in the winter.
#6. Apple Cider Vinegar
Apple Cider Vinegar (ACV) has amazing health benefits for chickens! It is a great immune booster and helps the body absorb minerals and calcium, it improves respiratory health and aids in mucus membrane health. ACV is an antiseptic so it helps kill germs too! Another great benefit is that it helps combat coccidiosis, a disease which can be fatal, and sour crop or impacted crop, which are also serious problems. One reason why AVC is so beneficial is because it helps balance pH levels in drinking water and in a chicken’s body. Disease causing microbes thrive in a pH level of 7.5-9 but good microbes prefer a pH level of 5.5-7. Apple cider vinegar can help balance out the pH levels so that disease causing microbes cannot survive. This is called competitive exclusion, which is when you fend off harmful microbes by encouraging the growth of beneficial ones.
I use Bragg organic apple cider vinegar, which is unpasteurized and has the ‘mother’ enzymes in it, the ‘mother’ enzymes contain all the health benefits. I add AVC to my flock’s water once a week in a ratio of one tablespoon of AVC to one gallon of water. Do not use metal waterers when you are giving your chickens AVC water, as the vinegar will rust the metal waterer. Apple cider vinegar can actually make water more tasty to chickens and is helpful for getting sick chickens to drink.
#7. Cayenne Pepper
Chickens do not have heat sensors on their tongues, so feeding them cayenne peppers or cayenne powder is not a problem. I mostly use cayenne pepper as an internal parasite preventer. It is thought that internal worms do not like the hotness of the pepper and will either die or be passed out. Cayenne pepper is also great to use during the winter to help your hens stay warm. The cayenne pepper will help improve circulation, which can prevent frostbite, and keep the chicken’s blood flowing. It also aids in digestion, respiratory health, and is an anti-septic. I add a sprinkle of cayenne pepper powder to their feed every other week. You can also offer your chickens whole cayenne peppers, although I have never tried that!
#8. Blackstrap Molasses
Blackstrap molasses is actually obtained from the processing of sugar cane. It contains some great vitamins and minerals like iron, calcium, magnesium, vitamin B6, potassium, and selenium. Blackstrap molasses can help improve bone health and increase the amount of iron in the blood. I feed blackstrap molasses to my chickens only on occasion, as too much of it can cause diarrhea in chickens. I add a tablespoon to some pumpkin or crushed pumpkin seeds. You can also add a little drizzle to their drinking water to help during times of stress.
All the great benefits of these eight natural supplements are sure to keep your flock happy, healthy, and productive! I love feeding my chickens supplements and even add ‘meal planning’ for my chickens into my weekly schedule! A few supplements each week can make a difference!