The first of the year is approaching rapidly. Many times thoughts of healthy resolutions, eating better, exercising and overall wellness start to enter everyone’s thoughts. A fresh, new start to a promising year. I’ve found that it’s also a good time to think about re-examining the health of the animals on our farm. The goats are hopefully pregnant again and it’s time to start thinking about adjusting their supplements in preparation for their freshening of milk, and their babies to come. The chickens, guineas, ducks and turkeys will also be raising young this spring. Their bodies are taking a break from egg laying through the cold, grueling winter. It’s a nice time to give everyone a boost!
Right now we are experimenting with a product called Seabuck 7. We are doing a 30 day trial and I plan to report what we find in the health differences in our flock on the new supplement.
After much research, I’ve also decided to add garlic to their feeding regimen.
It might sound funny, but it was actually our dog that led me to make this change.
For a long time I’ve always thought that garlic, like onions, was toxic to chickens. This debate exists in the dog world as well. I’d always heard to never give dogs onions or garlic. So when sharing a bite of pork, or steak with our dog, I was always careful to never include meat that was heavily seasoned with the vegetable bulbs.
It wasn’t until we switched dog food brands. Our golden retriever was having skin irritation issues and ear infections. Our vet suggested that we switch to a dog food that was wheat and corn free. We found a grain-free holistic brand and his skin and ear issues were completely gone within a week. We were very happy with this new dog food but I noticed that in the ingredients list, garlic was included. Not just included, but sort of “advertised” as a healthy addition. This confused me. Wasn’t garlic and onions bad for dogs?
I started doing a bit more research and learned that while garlic and onion are in the same family of vegetables their nutritional makeup is quite different.
As onions and garlic grow, they absorb sulfur in the soil. These sulfuric compounds are the reason onions and garlic smell so fragrant and add so much flavor to food. It’s also the reason why we cry when chopping onions. Onions and garlic contain one sulfuric compound that has a level of toxicity, this element is thiosulphate. In large doses it is even toxic to humans. However our systems are able to process the amounts that are in both garlic and onions without harm.
Onions contain much higher quantities of thiosulphate than garlic, which is why it is safe to feed garlic (in small quantities) to our chickens but not onions.
So why bother to feed garlic if there are any concerns at all?
The reason I’m interested in feeding garlic to our flock is because it’s heavily supported claims that it helps aid the immune system and assists in respiratory ailments.
Winter time is the perfect formula for bacterial infections. Due to the weather, the flock is cooped up more often, there’s less free ranging which means less nutritious, fresh grass and weeds, less exposure to sunshine, and healthy insects etc. The harsh weather also puts more strain on the flock.
Garlic seems to be a great addition to help our birds combat the more difficult season.
Here’s some more stuff I found on garlic. While most of this is not scientifically backed, many swear to these benefits:
Garlic is a great antibacterial
Supports respiratory health
Supports immune systems
Larger and quantity of eggs
Lowers the sulfur content in droppings which can lead to a better smelling coop
Some say it makes the gut less favorable for worms and parasites.
The only bad thing I could find, was that some were concerned that the addition might give their eggs an “off” flavor. However, many said this was simply not true.
I will report back to you on how our flock is doing with the new addition to their diet.
Here are some common sense suggestions:
Do not feed in large quantities
As with any dietary change, do so gradually and see how your flock reacts
Discuss any concerns with your veterinarian
I encourage you to do your own research, speak to your veterinarian and decide for yourself what you feel comfortable feeding your flock.
Do you feed your chickens garlic? What health benefits do you see with this addition? Share with the community by leaving a comment below, or visit the Community Chickens Facebook Page.