Check out these 3 natural ways to support your chicken’s immune system! Most of these things you probably have on hand already, and you’ll need just a little time to prep and share them with your sweet flock.
We try to keep things as natural as possible here at our home. From the food we eat, to the food we feed our animals, the soaps and shampoos that go in our hair and clothes and even our first aid kit!
So, lets take a look at supporting our chicken’s immune systems naturally and safely!
Why support a chicken’s immune system?
Coming from an animal husbandry stand point, when an animal is in your care, it is your duty to make sure it is well and cared for! This goes double if you are planning to either harvest said animal for food or use its eggs or milk.
When you enter into this relationship with an animal, you want to give it the respect it deserves, no matter what its purpose is. So while caring for that animal, making sure its health is optimal is just one of many focus points of that relationship you will have with it.
Chickens are going to come into contact with many pathogens, viruses, bacteria, diseases and so on in its every day life! That is completely normal as a chicken forages for food on the ground, eats bugs and may be around other parts of nature that other wild animals have also been in contact with.
What you want to do, is give that chicken support for its little chicken immune system to fight off any unwanted invaders.
If you expect eggs and happy chickens then you also want healthy chickens!
Watch my video on how to support a chicken’s immune system!
Let’s talk about some things that can bog down a chicken’s immune system-
If you are concerned about boosting your chicken’s immune system then it makes sense to also consider some factors in play that could potentially lower that immune system as well!
Space– Chickens kept in over crowded spaces can fall ill much quicker. Try to stick to the minimum 3 square feet of space in the coop per chicken and 8 square feet per chicken in the run. Cramped spaces can lead to easily passed infections and diseases. The more space the better! The Happy Chicken Coop website has a great article about space here.
Stress– Stress is a surefire way to lower any immune system, including a chicken’s! Be sure that your chickens are stress free by keeping aggressive animals away from them. Little access to outside areas or natural sunlight can also lead to stress!
Food/Water– Unclean water dishes give bacteria and parasites easy access into a chicken’s body, be sure to check your water dishes regularly and give them a good scrub. Feed can also harbor mold so keep an eye on that as well.
Clean run/coop– Piled up droppings and mushy damp chicken run areas can also lead to lowered immune systems. Be sure to keep your run areas mostly dry and the droppings picked up in a timely fashion or start using the deep litter method!
Here are the 3 natural ways to support your chicken’s immune system!
The first natural chicken immune booster is garlic!
There are components in garlic that have been studied to show therapeutic and antioxidant effects in broilers and laying hens. Garlic has also been found to have stimulatory effects on immune system cell functions by protecting them from oxidative stress. Allisin, the active compound found in garlic has well known antimicrobial properties and can decrease gut pathogenic populations. Garlic has also shown to be great at being antiviral, anti parasitic, anti fungal and antibacterial in chickens too. There have even been studies that showed adding garlic into the diet of a laying hen will increase yolk weight of eggs! Pretty cool, huh? Here’s my source for these interesting studies.
Many of the studies done on chickens and garlic used a .5% to 5% dietary addition to the birds food intake to see these results.
So how much garlic should I feed my chicken and how?
You could crush a few cloves of garlic and soak it in a water jug over night, straining the water in the morning and refilling the chicken’s waters with your garlic water potion. Or you can crush a few cloves and add it atop your chicken feed too! *The use of garlic in a metal waterer will cause corrosion!
So far, I have used the water soaking method once every couple of weeks. I don’t like to add anything for too long very consistently with the chickens. I thinks its good to switch dietary supplements every so often.
What about garlic powder? That seems to be a toss up. Do I think garlic powder could hurt? No. But I would prefer using raw garlic because the loss of nutrients and compounds through preparation is possible when making a garlic powder.
Herbs for supporting chicken immune systems-
There are plenty of herbs known for boosting immune systems and as an added plus, many of them you can grow in your own yard! Save a few bucks and a trip to the store by growing these yourself.
Here are just a few (there are many more) of the top herbs for immune supporting:
Parsley– High in vitamins K, D, A and folate. It also contains magnesium, folate, iron and selenium and also promotes circulatory system development.
Oregano-Helps to establish a strong respiratory system and is also considered to have the following properties: antibiotic, antioxidant and antibacterial.
Basil– Has anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties. Gives mucus membrane support and is also rich in magnesium.
Echinacea– Stimulates the immune system and has even been studied to decrease lesions in the intestines of poultry infected with Coccidia! (source) The only downside of this herb is that when given fresh or dried, the results were low but when given as a tea (made from the dried roots) through water the benefits were greatly increased. You could also dry the petals and leaves and mix with feed, add the seeds to fermented feed or sprout them too.
Sage– Anti-parasitic, antibiotic and also supports the immune system.
You can choose to dry these herbs and add to your feed or give them fresh straight to your chickens. As with the garlic above, I don’t feed all of these herbs every day. I trust my gut and observe my flock and administer herbs as I see fit.
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Lastly, another great chicken immune support is fermented feed!
Here is an entire blog post dedicated to explaining the benefits of fermenting chicken feed from myself.
But a few quick focus points for fermented feed and why it can boost your flock’s immune system is:
- Fermentation will add probiotics to the chicken feed which will add diversity to the gut flora and help to minimize the bad bacteria.
- Fermented chicken feed will be better absorbed by your chickens which will equals better nutrition!
- Once fermented, vitamins and minerals contained in your feed will be more bioavailable, boosting the nutritional value of the feed itself for your chickens.
So, by fermenting your chickens feed you will be essentially upping their nutritional intake as well as giving them a dose of probiotics and all of these things are going to greatly boost their immune system!
Here’s a video explaining how to ferment your flock’s feed:
What kind of immune boosting supplements for chickens can I buy?
I do keep a container of Rooster Booster on hand and add it to my flock’s water occasionally. Its full of probiotics, vitamins and minerals.
I have a friend who really loves NutriDrench for her poultry as well!
Sometimes it’s just nice to have other supplements on hand for emergencies or ease of use.
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Well there you have it, my fellow chicken lovers! I hope these 3 natural ways to support your chicken’s immune system finds you and your flock well. Let me know if there is a specific immune supporting herb or technique that you use for your sweet birds!
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