Happy hens = healthy eggs!
Food for your chickens, pest repellents and playtime
Here is some great information about how to keep your chickens healthy and happy. Catherine Collins, our resident gardening and chook expert, has shared her knowledge with us.
Food for your chickens
A breakfast for champion egg layers
A healthy morning feed could include
- organic pellets
- wheat (sprouted)
- flaxseed, quinoa, or sunflower seeds
- comfrey or nettle crushed up
- a pinch of seaweed per bird, during the laying season.
The seaweed, comfrey and/or nettle make for a mineral rich feed, giving you nutritious eggs. Seaweed also helps the thyroid gland stay healthy, which is needed for healthy egg production.
Chickens need lots of protein
The best form of protein for chooks is in worms, slaters and snails.
- Let the chickens into your compost area to scratch around and find worms
- Plant agapanthus, wallflowers or rengarenga lilies in the chicken run to attract snails. Or- you could plant them anywhere, collect the snails, and deliver to the chickens if you really love them!
- Make a slater farm. Leave logs on the ground inside their run and turn them over every few days for a feed. Slaters gather underneath logs or stones at the edge of flower or vege gardens, you can scrape them into a dish and deliver them to the chickens. This may be a job for the kids...
- Hang bunches of comfrey, silverbeet and spinach in the run for them to peck at.
- Extra protein is good at moulting time to help them cope with new feather development.
- Add tofu or quinoa grain to a feed to boost their protein.
Garden weeds are great for the chickens daily dose of greens.
Some weeds you might find in your garden: chickweed, fat hen (or lambs quarter) seed, nasturtium, tradescantia, cleavers, plantain, shepherds purse, dandelion, fennel, thistle heads. It is the green feeds that give eggs their dark yellow colour.
- Chicken Greens: Seeds to grow greens for your chickens!
Using smelly plants for bedding is a great pest repellent.
- Wormwood, Bracken, Tansy and Catnip in the chickens bedding can help to repel lice and mites.
- Mix Lavender and Vietnamese mint in with their hay bedding.
Neem oil is great for killing young insects, including lice, but it’s not effective on mature insects.
The trick with neem oil is to spray little and often during the breeding cycle of the pest you want to kill off, breaking the breeding cycle. Spray the hen house once a month when you clean out and replace all the bedding.
- Diatomaceous earth is a product of the sea. The particles are fine and sharp and will kill any lice on the bird. Put some into their dust bath and let nature take its course.
- Lime: sprinkled in the run and dust bath will sweeten the soil and help to repel pests.
Internal pest repellents
- Wormwood powder is a powerful pest repellent. Include a pinch per bird in their feed once a week to help prevent worms and internal parasites. You can also dust the chicken with the powder.
- Garlic and vinegar are also internal pest repellents and can be included in their drinking water once a month on alternate fortnights. Don’t use too much garlic though- it dosen’t taste good in the eggs! One clove crushed into the water for four birds is Catherine’s reccomendation.
Chickens can get bored!
Find ways to entertain them in the coop, especially if they don’t get much time to free range.
- Stabbing corncobs on a stick and planting them upright in the coop gives them a nice feed and something to entertain themselves.
- When you are working in the garden they can scratch around with you. They don’t usually stray as they like your company (here’s hoping!).
Want to treat your chickens?
Commonsense Organics sells most of the herbs needed by chickens in dried form in-store, we can also order in organic chicken feed. Pop in and check out our collection of goodies for your happy hens.