Just when you thought throwing down some feed in the coop and providing fresh water was all it took to keep your hens content, you hear someone mention supplements and vitamins.
Of course, we all want to give our girls what is best but do they need vitamins?
Do Chickens Need Vitamins?
Yes, vitamins are essential for hens that are actively laying. They need that extra boost to help them produce a beautiful egg for you almost every day.
This article will discuss the importance of vitamins in backyard chickens, why their essential, and how to introduce them into your flock’s diet.
So let’s get started.
Why Do Chickens Need Vitamins?
Backyard chickens can be one of the easiest and most pleasurable animals to care for. Most of their dietary needs can be met through their diet, especially if you allow them to free-range.
Fats, proteins, carbohydrates, and minerals are all equally important to your flock’s health, but vitamins go a step ahead. Vitamins help your hen’s body absorb all of the essential nutrients from their diet, and they ensure a foundation for a well-tuned immune system and their growth and development.
Chickens cannot produce enough vitamins on their own, so the extra amounts need to come from their diet and other supplements.
What Vitamins Do Chickens Need and How Do They Help?
Each vitamin has a unique role in the body, and its functions group them. For example, fat-soluble vitamins (A, D, E, and K) and water-soluble vitamins (B-Complex + Vitamin C).
The fat-soluble vitamins can be stored in the liver for a long time, while water-soluble vitamins are used up by the body quickly and need to be replenished.
Here’s a look at the most critical vitamins your hens need to produce quality eggs: Keep reading for a further explanation of each one.
- Vitamin A
- Vitamin B1
- Vitamin B2
- Vitamin D
- Vitamin E
- Vitamin K
Vitamin A is crucial for the function and well-being of the mucus-producing glands in chickens. The eyelids, lining of the esophagus, and the nose all require a sufficient amount of vitamin A.
Vitamin B1, or thiamin, is a vitamin involved in the metabolic energy supply of hens, and it is crucial for the growth and development of young birds. B1 is also known as an anti-stress vitamin as it helps the body deal with stressful conditions.
Riboflavin, also known as vitamin B2, maintains the health of blood cells, energy, and metabolism.
Vitamin D is essential in helping a hen absorb nutrients like calcium. It also helps chickens lay stronger eggs with thicker shells, and vitamin D gives chickens a more robust skeletal system.
Vitamin E is essential for the normal development of birds in the embryonic stage, and it can also improve egg-laying. In addition, vitamin E gives chickens a greater tolerance to heat and strengthens their immune system against E. Coli and other pathogens.
Vitamin K is a fat-soluble vitamin best known for coagulation and blood clotting properties. It also plays a vital role in bone health.
Vitamin Deficiency in Chickens
A deficiency of vitamins in chickens can have some pretty severe repercussions. Below is a list of the different types of deficiencies and symptoms to watch for.
Vitamin A Deficiency
Chickens with a deficiency in vitamin A can get a crusty or cheesy material in their eyelids and nostrils, which may appear as a respiratory infection. This material can damage the throat as well.
Chickens without enough vitamin A can also die of organ failure and suffer a drop in egg production.
Vitamin B1 Deficiency
The deficiency of B1 can affect many parts of a hen’s body, including the heart, muscles, digestion, and nerves. In addition, when there is not a sufficient amount of B1, the endocrine system functions can be disturbed.
Vitamin B2 Deficiency
A deficiency in B2 can greatly affect chicks. There is an increase in egg mortality, weakness in leg muscles, curled toes, and clubbed feet. They can also have diarrhea and a decrease in egg production as they get older.
Vitamin D Deficiency
A deficiency in vitamin D can cause leg and beak deformities and rickets. It will also significantly affect egg production in addition to the hen having a calcium deficiency.
Vitamin E Deficiency
A vitamin E deficiency can cause problems with laying, weakness, and the inability to walk. It can also cause bowed legs and the inability to turn their heads.
Vitamin K Deficiency
A deficiency in Vitamin K can cause blood clotting issues, internal bleeding, and hemorrhaging. It can also cause later mortality during egg incubation.
When Are Vitamins Most Important?
Most vitamins are better if given as part of a regular diet to maintain health and growth. However, there will always remain special cases throughout your hen’s life when vitamins can help tremendously.
For Breeding Hens
If hens are being bred, extra vitamins are essential and can usually be found in special feeds.
Anytime a chicken feels under stress or has a stressful environment, extra vitamins can help. For example, chickens can feel stressed if they are show chickens or if new chickens are introduced to the flock.
Maturing Chicks and Pullets
Growing chicks and pullets especially will need extra vitamins. You can often find ways to deliver these vitamins through their water. In addition, vitamins will help them deal with the stressors of being moved around as they transfer to the big girl coop once they are of age.
During frigid weather, which occurs in some parts of the country, extra vitamins are necessary to help your girls produce excess body heat to keep warm.
If a chicken feels under the weather, its immune system will suffer. This, in turn, makes them much more vulnerable to getting a disease. Vitamin supplements can help birds fight off sickness.
How Do I Get Vitamins into My Chicken’s Diet?
The good thing about chickens is that they aren’t picky. They will usually eat just about anything you give them, whether it is commercially prepared feed, kitchen scraps, treats, or garden vegetables. Just make sure everything you add is in moderation.
Here are some easy ways to get those nutrients into your flock.
Those fluffy little egg producers make awesome garbage disposals (kind of like dogs!). And the general rule is that they can eat a lot too! Avoid stale or moldy food, but leftover fruits and vegetables can provide many vitamins.
Cooked meats or seafood and eggs (yes, eggs) can all be fed to chickens safely.
While scratch grains by themselves hold mostly fats and carbohydrates, you can jazz it up by introducing sunflower seeds, oats, and flaxseed.
Oats provide a ton of protein and vitamins, calcium, and zinc. In addition, sunflower seeds are abundant in vitamins B and E, while flaxseed has those precious omega 3s.
Greens From the Yard
In limited amounts, greens from your yard and gardens are a great source of vitamins. Chickens will eat grass, certain herbs, and weeds, such as dandelions, and they also like lavender, chickweed, oregano, nettles, parsley, and thyme.
Just make sure to keep any areas your girls are eating in free of pesticides.
Oyster Shells or Dry, Crushed Eggshells
Some chicken owners offer calcium freely. For example, oyster shells offer plenty of calcium for your hens and eggshells. It may sound strange, but you can offer your girls plenty of calcium by saving eggshells, letting them dry out, and crushing them.
Store-Bought Vitamin Supplements
Almost every feed or agricultural store will offer an array of supplements so you can add those needed vitamins into your flock’s diet.
Most of these can be added to their water or easily sprinkled in their feed.
Chickens need supplemental vitamins, especially if you want to keep your flock in tip-top shape. By making sure, you are giving them the correct vitamins, and with the right sources, your hens should produce beautiful eggs for you for most of their lives.
Most commercial feeds have the proper amounts of essential nutrients and vitamins your flock needs. However, if you’re not sure your flock is getting the right nutrients, your avian veterinarian will recommend the best feed.
- Do Chickens Need Sunlight?
- Can Chickens Eat Nightshade Plants?
- Do Chickens Need Oyster Shells and Grits?
- What Does It Mean When Baby Chicks and Chickens Sneeze?
- Do Free Range Chickens Need Feed?