Are you looking at your flock during molting season and wondering what you could do to help them out? Check out these 14 chicken supplements and learn how they can help your hens!
You’ve always given them a reliable chicken feed and plenty of water, but you feel helpless when the molting season comes around, and they are listless.
There is a way you can help not only during the molting season but also during other difficult seasons.
Supplementing their feed with different free choice, protein boosters, natural and specially packaged treats for chickens can help them thrive during the difficult seasons.
However, the diet/treat ratio still applies to supplements. They should only account for 10% of the total diet each day.
14 Best Chicken Supplements
Free Choice Supplements
A free choice supplement is more about how you deliver them to the chicken than what they do for them. You do not add these supplements to the flock’s feed; instead, you provide the supplement by itself in a container. That way if the chicken wants to eat it, they have “free choice” to partake.
There are a variety of ways to present the free choice such as a smaller feeder, containers nailed to the wall or tree stumps hollowed out in the run. Use your imagination for fun feeders for your flock.
Grit is especially helpful during and after the fall molting process but can be offered all year long if your chickens do not free-range. This rocky substance is necessary for digesting their food by grinding food down. Most free-range chickens gather grit naturally. When winter comes, or they have a grassy or sandy run your flock will need the addition of grit to their diet.
Oyster shell/Calcium can be added after the molting season. The addition of this supplement helps young hens and laying hens rev up their calcium intake for stronger eggshells and nutritional needs due to the stress of molting.
Natural herbs are chock full of health benefits with each type aiding differently. Herbs can help with inflammation, parasites, laying stimulant among many others. Find out specific uses in How to Use Herbs for Backyard Chickens.
Protein Booster Supplements
The molting season brings on the massive job of making new feathers which are 85% protein. An average hen has around 8500 feathers that they lose and have to replace. That’s a lot of feathers!
You may find your ladies frantically digging for bugs during this time. Adding protein boosters to their diet reduces the expending of energy foraging and places it on regrowing feathers.
Winter is also another season that adding protein may be necessary.
Mealworms contain twelve of the sixteen elements of living tissue and aid in tissue growth-aka feathers. A small amount goes a long way, and you could have them eating out of your hands, literally when you serve them these protein boosters.
Only one tablespoon per chicken 2-3 times per week is needed to help them through molting season.
Black Soldier Fly Larvae are 37% protein and contain a large amount of phosphorus as well. Adding these supplements to your hen’s diet not only helps with feather growth but in my flock increased their energy level and shell hardness.
Grubs are a little more expensive upfront, but provide your flock with 50 times more calcium than mealworms, so they’re more beneficial in the long run.
You can read all about my flock’s experience with them in Review: Tasty Grubs, The Healthy Treat Your Hens Will Love. They even offer FREE shipping.
Natural Chicken Supplements
Vinegar can be used during the winter months or rainy season when respiratory infection can run amok in your flock. Add one tablespoon of vinegar per gallon of water every other day as a preventative. The type of vinegar is essential. You will want to use the kind that has the mother in it, such as Bragg Organic Apple Cider Vinegar. Vinegar also aids in digestion and the reduction of internal parasites.
Garlic also helps with respiratory infection, parasites and is an immune booster for your feathered ladies. Add fresh cloves or garlic powder to the flock’s feed. You can also crush up a clove and place it in a gallon of water. Garlic needs only to be administered once weekly to affect the health of your flock.
Sprouted Grains are a nutrient power pack in a little package. Your flock will devour these little goodies when they don’t have a chance to forage outside. Rich in Vitamin B, C, folate, and fiber, it helps build your hen’s immune system.
Molasses added to feed has a high content of iron and minerals. It is used many times in conjunction with a probiotic powder to help with it adhering to the feed. Use a one-quarter cup of molasses per gallon and feed and mix well.
Specially Packaged Chicken Supplements
There are a few supplements that are best purchased as made specifically for chickens. These blends or specific seeds have been proven to help and not hinder increase health and viability. Always administer according to the package directions.
Probiotics increase the immune system and aid in digestive health in chickens. This product comes in powder form, which can add to drinking water. It also can be combined with molasses to mix with feed.
Electrolytes are lost when a chicken is under stress, like heat, overcrowding, predators, and so on. Replenishment of electrolytes helps restore your chicken’s balance. Place the powder in water, and be sure to check directions for the amount to be added.
Flaxseed is known for Omega-3s, which are helpful for the heart. The addition of this supplement passes to the egg, according to a study by the NCBI. Excessive feeding of flaxseed can be harmful, and whole flaxseeds instead of flaxseed meal help prevent the chance for flaxseed meal that may be rancid.
Kelp is brimming with nutrients, including Vitamin K, which aids in bone health. It also has high levels of folate and calcium, which helps in eggshell development and feather growth and shine. Add pieces of kelp directly to feed or add into homemade treats.
Sunflower Seeds support cardiovascular health, helps with inflammation, and increases the natural production of oil needed to preen feathers. The type of sunflower seed does make a difference for digestion. The seeds without the shell are best, but if you purchase sunflower seeds with the shell, you will need to soak them overnight in water to soften and aid in the digestion.
Phew! That’s quite the list!
Which chicken supplements are favored by your flock? Tell us in the comment section below.