Few plants are as delicious and intriguing as garlic. It not only carries interesting myths, superstitions, and stories, but it’s also an important ingredient in numerous types of cuisine, from Italian to Chinese.
But perhaps the most significant quality of garlic is its much-touted medicinal properties. You may love garlic, but can you feed it to your chickens? We’ll answer that question in this article.
What are the Medicinal Properties of Garlic?
In folk medicine, garlic was used to treat a wide array of diseases, from flu and common cold to the plague. Besides, pagans attached mystic power to garlic, and they often used to it in their rituals to ward off malevolent and dark forces.
Today, garlic is used to bolster immunity in humans, thanks to its rich content of diallyl sulfides and allicin. It also has antimicrobial, antioxidant, antitumor, and antivascular disease properties. Research backs most of the claims about garlic’s positive effect on human health, but do these benefits also extend to chickens?
Should You Feed Your Chicken Garlic?
The first question that we should explore is, how safe is garlic for chickens? Well, for years, chicken keepers have used garlic to help treat or fend off a wide range of poultry ailments, including infections, respiratory issues, and as an immunity booster.
A publication in Veterinaria describes garlic as royalty among the medicinal plants. It has antiviral, antibacterial, antiprotozoal, and antifungal properties. Besides, it boosts digestion, immunity, and weight gain. Additionally, it improves meat quality and reduces bad cholesterol in chickens’ eggs.
There are some claims that because garlic belongs to the same family as onions, it may be toxic to chicken, but those claims are simply not true. Garlic contains only tiny traces of thiosulphate, the element that onions contain in significant quantities.
Thiosulphate causes jaundice or devastates red blood cells leading to chicken developing anemia. It can even kill your chicken, which is why you should only feed you chicken minimal and controlled portions of onions.
Conversely, you should give your chicken moderate quantities of garlic combined with a balanced diet. For your chickens to thrive, they need the get the right mix of micro-nutrients (minerals and vitamins) and macro-nutrients (fats, carbs, proteins).
If chickens have never consumed garlic, you shouldn’t just toss a whole bulb into the chickens’ water. They simply won’t drink it. Instead, you should start with smaller doses and then gradually increase the quantity
Is Garlic Safe for Your Chicks?
Yes, but it should be all be in moderation. Your chicks will get many health benefits from consuming garlic from food and drinking water. It will bolster their immunity and ward off worms. Besides, chicks that get a taste of garlic while they’re young will likely embrace it as grown chickens.
The author of The Chicken Health Hand Book, Gail Damerow, recommends that you should start by giving your chicks a tiny amount of garlic, not more than once clove per liter of water. Add crushed garlic to the chicks’ water twice every week.
The garlic water shouldn’t stand for more than 48 hours. During the other days, you should just give them ordinary water. Importantly, observe how your chicks react to the garlic water. If they give it a wide berth, you should revert to plain water.
You can then try giving it to them a few days late. Besides, you should reduce the quantity of garlic in the water and increase it gradually.
Health Benefits of Garlic for Chicken
Garlic is oft-touted by dubious sources as a cure-all for every health condition, from the common cold to cancer. Much of the information is false. So, what are the precise, evidence-supported benefits of garlic for chickens?
It’s an Immunity Booster
Suppose your chickens look a bit off, with the feathers dropping or falling off. If there are significant shifts in their drinking and eating habits, if they don’t want to leave the coop, or showing any other sign of emerging or underlying health conditions, you should give them a bit of garlic. It’ll bolster their immunity and thus hasten the healing process.
Obliterates Bad Bacteria
Due to the increasing antibiotic resistance in humans, a lot of countries now either discourage or have illegalized antibiotic-rich poultry feed. Garlic is an effective and beneficial alternative to antibiotics.
Wards off Viruses
Research shows that garlic protects against viruses like Cholera, Salmonellosis, and Colibacillosis.
Helps Underweight Chickens Gain Weight
Garlic stimulates the appetite of underfeeding chickens. Besides, it aids digestion and bolsters healthy growth by helping the chickens obtain the optimum amount of nutrition from the feed.
Improves Egg Production
There is some evidence that garlic helps hens produce higher quality and bigger eggs with lower bad cholesterol.
Rebalances the System
Garlic targets pathogens and ‘bad bacteria’ rather than the ‘useful’ bacteria and thus helps chicken regain and maintain their health.
A Rich Sources of Minerals and Vitamins
Garlic is packed with minerals and vitamins. Besides, it gives your chicken a balanced mix of phosphorus and calcium.
Garlic is also a rich source of Vitamin C, pyridoxine (Vitamin B6), manganese, and selenium. It’s also loaded with significant amounts of copper, iron, potassium, and calcium. All these minerals and vitamins help keep your birds healthy.
Wards Off Red Mite
Allicin, an element that’s in garlic, changes the taste of chickens’ blood and makes it taste off to the mites that live on it. Garlic, therefore, makes for a fantastic natural red mite deterrent.
Promotes Respiratory Health
Garlic improves respiratory health, especially when you breathe in garlic-infused steam. You can promote a hen’s respiratory health by placing is it in a plastic-covered cage and then placing a bowl emitting garlic-infused steam under the plastic cover but outside the cage. The steam will work as an expectorant, and the anti-inflammatory ingredients in garlic will work directly in the lungs.
In addition to the internal applications, garlic can also be used to treat minor abrasions in chicken. Here are some of the ways you can use garlic to take care of your chickens’ health issues:
- You can prevent the invasion of parasites like leg mite and Northern Fowl mite by rubbing garlic into your chickens’ legs.
- Garlic is an effective antiseptic. So you can apply it on your chickens’ skin whenever they have wounds or minor abrasions.
Is There an Optimal Quantity of Garlic that You Should Feed Your Chickens?
There are various recommendations out there, but here are the research-backed recommendations.
- In food, you should give your chicken one clove of finely chopped or crushed garlic twice per week.
- In water, you should add one fresh clove of garlic for every liter of water.
- For every liter of oil, you should add a half garlic clove.
Powder vs. Fresh Garlic, which One Works Best?
There is always a vigorous powder vs. fresh garlic debate going on in human wellness and chicken forums. Some of the ‘experts’ claim that fresh garlic is better than processed garlic. Well, ideally, you should use fresh garlic. However, studies show that powder garlic delivers fantastic results, too. Feeding your chicken poultry feed that comprises of 1% garlic increases the size, quantity, and quality of eggs produced.
What’s the Ideal Way of Feeding Your Chicken Garlic?
Adding crushed garlic to your chicken’s water is the most effective way of ensuring all your chickens get a good dose of garlic. Add one clove per liter. When garlic cloves are crushed, they release allicin, a powerful antioxidant.
Allicin works in collaboration with other compounds or on its own to boost chickens’ immunity. It thus helps them fend off pathogens. However, the benefits of crushed garlic diminish after, after 24 hours. So be sure to add a fresh batch after 48 hours, at most.
If your chickens are healthy, you should give this dose twice a week. Conversely, if your chickens and chicks are weak, or need an immunity boost, give them the garlic water until the symptoms disappear. If your chickens or chicks refuse to drink the garlic water, start with a smaller quantity of garlic and then build the amount up slowly.
Is Garlic Effective In Killing Worms?
Research in mice reveals the number of worms in the mice’s gut reduced a week after they consumed garlic. The garlic, however, didn’t have much of an effect after that. The researchers concluded that the garlic likely didn’t kill worms directly. Instead, it boosted the immunity of the mice, and thus they were able to battle the inflammation caused by the worms.
If your chickens are excreting feces that contain worms, they likely have already been colonized, and so you may need more than garlic to get them back to good health. So give them a bird wormer and only add garlic to boost their immunity.
How Does Garlic Affect Eggs?
There is a common belief that chickens that feed on a garlic-rich diet produce eggs with a ‘garlic smell and taste.’ It’s true that if hens eat huge quantities of garlic, the taste of their eggs will change. But that’s only if their feed has a 3% garlic content (30grams/kilo). That’s a lot, and it’s almost inconceivable that anyone can feed that much garlic to chickens.
A study conducted at Clemson University, however, did reveal that most testers preferred the flavor of eggs that came from garlic-fed chickens. They found that the eggs tasted milder, which is likely because garlic reduces sulfur content.
The Clemson University study also revealed that a garlic-rich diet reduces the pungent chicken poop smell. It makes your chicken house smell less like a coop full of manure and more like a pizzeria, thanks to the diminished ammonia smell.
Research also shows that giving hens poultry feed that has a 1% garlic composition does the following:
- Increases egg production
- Increases the weight of eggs
- Reduces egg yolks’ cholesterol content
- Improves the quality of the ‘white part’ of the egg
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