Nutrition plays a large role in the health of young chicks and laying hens. By setting up ways for your chickens to access a natural diet, whether it is a free-range of your backyard, or a portable coop, they will be healthier.
You can also grow your own herbs or buy dried herbs to make teas to supplement their diet. Chickens already love to forage, all you have to do is make sure they have access to the things they need! Many of these are "weeds" you probably already discard from your garden. They are actually very nutritious and even medicinal plants not only for your chickens, but for us too!
Herbs for nutrition:
Raw Garlic-Have this available year long for your chickens. You can also mash it in their drinking water for not only the nutritional benefits, but also the anti-bacterial and anti-viral properties to prevent and curtail infections. Have raw garlic available for newly hatched chicks, so they will learn to eat it at an early age.
Nettle-Urtica dioica-Nettle is rich in calcium, protein, manganese, phosphorus and potassium. A wonderful all around herb.
Alfalfa-Medicago sativa-Rich in protein, amino acids, minerals and chlorophyll. Make a tea from dried alfalfa to keep hens healthy for breeding and producing eggs.
Lamb's Quarters-Chenopodium album-Rich in protein, calcium, vitamins A and C, B-complex and iron. An all around herb for the digestive system.
Dandelion-Taraxacum officinale-Rich in protein, vitamins A,C,K,D, B-complex, iron, manganese, phosphorus and trace minerals. Dandelion is a complete food for building the immune system. Give dandelions freely to your young chicks and hens. You can even make a tea and offer that free choice as well.
Organic apple cider vinegar-Mix with their water for a superb digestive tonic.
Herbs for the nest:
Birds in the wild use medicinal herbs to line their nests. The aromatic volatile oils have anti-bacterial and anti-parasitic properties. You can imitate this natural process by applying a few handfuls of the fresh herbs to the nest before a hen goes broody. Adding the herbs periodically during the spring and summer can help keep parasites at bay.
Peppermint, spearmint, catnip, oregano, wild bergamot, lavender, rosemary, sage, basil, thyme and fennel are aromatic herbs that freshen the nesting box.
Want your hen to be relaxed and calm? Lavender and peppermint will relieve her stress while brooding.
If you would like to learn more about raising chickens in the backyard visit Backyard Chickens for more information and resources.
�2010 Shanna Ohmes
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