As with most domesticated (and semi-domesticated) animals adding extra vitamins and nutrients to their diet can only help to improve their overall health and longevity. Providing specific vitamins to your chickens that will target nutrient deficiencies and boost their immunity can be a game changer when it comes to maintaining a happy flock.
Here we will delve into the world of chicken vitamins and discuss the pros and cons of distributing them to your flock. We will give a list of the best ones to consider and discuss what they do and why they’re important.
Why Should I Give My Chicken Vitamins?
Anybody that has had the pleasure of raising chickens is probably very familiar with the fact that they are easily stressed. Some chickens can handle a little stress, but most do not cope well. The smallest change in environment, whether it’s adding a new batch to the flock or a cold snap, can cause a bird to stress out to the point where they lose their appetite and stop eating altogether. Not to mention there are chickens that are more susceptible to ailments.
Obviously when a chicken is no longer eating as much as they should you will see a nosedive in their overall health and nutrition. This is where providing good chicken vitamins and supplements can really help as they offer extra nourishment that they’re missing by ingesting less feed.
Chicken vitamins can still help birds that rarely have to deal with stress. A boost in nourishment is never a bad thing as it can help to battle different ailments and diseases that you may not be aware of. Vitamins not only ensure optimal nutrients for your flock, but they also encourage faster growth and even better breeding.
What If I Don’t Give My Chicken Vitamins?
Well, for the most part, as long as you maintain a good overall diet for your flock, which includes plenty of fruits, vegetables, grain, grit, bugs, and fresh water, you should be in good shape. Generally, if your birds are healthy you can get away with not having to dish out extra vitamins and minerals.
With that being said, there’s usually no harm in it either. Giving chickens vitamins on a regular basis can only help the health of your flock. It will ensure that if there are any gaps or deficiencies in their provided diet that it’s taken care of.
There are times throughout the year where they simply can’t get enough vitamins and minerals on their own. Vitamin D, which chickens usually get from sunlight, is an example of this. In the winter, when they spend a lot more time in their coop versus out in the cold, they may start to suffer from not getting enough Vitamin D. This situation is where providing them with a boost of Vitamin D3 will come in handy.
Ok, I Get It. What Chicken Vitamins Should I Give?
There is a general overall effect of vitamins, a common goal if you will, which is proper nutrition and development. However, just like vitamins for people, each individual chicken vitamin focuses on a different purpose. For example Vitamin E will help ensure proper growth for a chicken whereas Vitamin A focuses on the health of the esophagus lining, nose, and other mucus producing glands.
As is usually the case each chicken may require its own unique set of vitamins to ensure proper nutrition. Unless there is a specific problem you’re encountering with an individual bird or two, you would be good to distribute freely among the entire flock. Your best bet, once you’ve decided to start giving your chickens vitamins, would be to find a good multivitamin that you can easily add to their food or water supply.
Luckily there is a whole market dedicated to information on vitamins for chickens, so it won’t be too difficult to find something that will fit your exact needs. You should take special care not to overdo it on the vitamins as it could do more harm than good. You should be well-informed on what exactly you’re giving your flock. If you have any questions don’t hesitate to call a licensed professional, like a vet that specializes in chickens and their diet, for clarification.
You will also need to consider what the purpose of your chicken is. For example, a chicken that you’re raising to be a broiler bird (or meat bird) will likely benefit from a totally different vitamin than one that you want to produce more eggs. You will have to do your research, especially if there’s a certain health aspect you want to focus on.
How Do I Distribute Chicken Vitamins?
There will be different distributing instructions depending on which vitamins you decide to go with. Some chicken vitamins come in liquid form that will easily mix with their water, some come in a powder form that you will need to add to their feed, and others may come in a tablet or drop form that will need to be distributed manually. Make sure that you read any instructions that come along with the vitamins you’ve decided to give to your flock, including how to distribute and how much, so that you do it right.
If you are one that prefers old-fashioned natural vitamins – Yay for you! – there’s an option for that, too. There are specific foods and herbs that you can give out to your chickens that, if they decide to eat, can significantly boost their vitamins and nutrients. Below is a quick reference to some natural items that can ramp up a chicken’s overall nutrition and health.
If you’re thinking about all things nutrition, then our article on what to feed chickens might be a useful read.
This aids in repelling insects and other parasites (like mites and worms) and give a mega boost to your feathered friend’s immune system. Chopping up a few cloves and simply adding it to your bird’s water feeder can do the trick.
You will need to make sure to replace the cloves of garlic every few days. Make sure not to fall for the “more is always better” way of thinking as too much garlic has been known to lead to issues with anemia and weakness in chickens. If you notice any changes in your flock’s overall disposition lower the number of cloves until things seem back to normal.
It’s no secret that a chicken’s diet should consist of a multitude of items and layer feeding usually suffices. Specific greens, like chickweed, dandelions, and plantains can be high in calcium, copper, manganese and other essential vitamins. Adding these to your chicken’s feed can ensure that their nutrients are at their optimal levels.
Certain herbs do certain things for chickens. By grinding these herbs up and sprinkling a little in their water and/or feed, you can achieve amazing results. Oregano helps the immune system fight against diseases like avian influenza, E. Coli, salmonella, and more.
Parsley, which is high in important vitamins like A, B, C, E, and even K, has been known to improve and increase healthy egg production. Cinnamon is an antioxidant that helps with inflammation and bacterial infections. The list goes on, so you can find many natural herbal remedies to add vitamins for your chickens, without doing so directly.
Fruits are a sufficient source of vitamins for people, so imagine what they must do for chickens. Bananas are good to ensure your flock is getting enough B12 and B6 (as well as protein, magnesium, fiber, and of course potassium). Berries, especially blueberries and strawberries, are a great source for nutrients, like phosphorus and selenium, for your chickens.
If you can you may want to plant a few berry bushes around your run or yard that your chickens can freely peck at and eat. This will not only serve as a great treat for them, but will also provide them with an excellent source of minerals and antioxidants that will boost their immune systems.
You can also consider ways to increase the nutrition of other things they’re already ingesting. For example we all know that seeds are a necessary part of a chicken’s diet, but what about sprouted seeds? These are not only a special treat for the chickens, but sprouted seeds also bring the nutrition up to a whole other level and will only take one extra step of soaking for a bit to allow the plant to begin creeping out of its shell.
You can also provide your flock with some fermented feed. Fermenting your feed simply involves soaking it in water for a few days (as the fermentation will occur naturally without you having to do much more than an occasional stir). It’s more cost-effective and less wasteful, too! Fermented grain feed will boost your flock’s gut bacteria and unlock other nutrients that they otherwise wouldn’t have access to.
Taking a Holistic View
There are many ways to provide your chickens with extra vitamins, so it will ultimately come down to your personal preference and what is best for your flock. No matter what, a chicken needs a balanced diet that can at least provide the minimum carbs, protein, vitamins, and fat to sustain them.
For the most part chickens that are in good health will be able to get enough vitamins naturally from the food you’re already providing them and shouldn’t require too much additional intervention. With that being said, chickens that are ill in any way can benefit greatly from some extra vitamins.