Great greens

Suzie Bald­win rec­om­mends some favourites from the gar­den which are great for your chick­ens’ health

Your Chickens - - Contents -

Plants for your hens

Chick­ens re­ally ben­e­fit from hav­ing a daily por­tion of greens as they con­tain vi­ta­mins and min­er­als, equiv­a­lent to our five a day. Raw is best. It is also ad­van­ta­geous to hang your greens, which en­ables your girls to peck small pieces off as they would do nat­u­rally. You don’t need to rush off to the su­per­mar­ket to give your girls a treat; at the mo­ment our hedgerows and gar­dens are full of plants (mostly what we call weeds!) that have amaz­ing health ben­e­fits. Most can be dried and stored to be used in the win­ter months. Re­mem­ber, as with all things in life, small amounts oc­ca­sion­ally are much more ben­e­fi­cial than a huge amount in one go then noth­ing for months! Be­low are just a few of the many herbs I use to keep my girls in good health. Pre­ven­tion is al­ways bet­ter than cure… or so my nan al­ways said.

Be aware that if you are col­lect­ing out­side of your gar­den you need to be sure they haven’t been sprayed with chem­i­cals. This is more likely in ur­ban and road­side ar­eas than in wood­land and less­tended ar­eas.

PLANTAIN

This is an amaz­ing weed, although my hus­band hates it in his lawn! It is con­sid­ered more nu­tri­tious than clover! It is an an­thelminitic which means it can kill in­testi­nal worms. My girls have ac­cess to these dur­ing the warm months and self-med­i­cate them­selves. I dry it and store it in air-tight con­tain­ers for the win­ter when I use it weekly. It is thought plantain eases the cough re­flex and sup­presses the pro­duc­tion of mu­cus, so great to use in a tonic if your girls ever have a res­pi­ra­tory prob­lem.

YEL­LOW DOCK/ CURLY DOCK

I love this weed. The leaves are rich in iron and con­tain a bio­chem­i­cal that en­hances the up­take of iron. It grows pro­fusely dur­ing red mite sea­son! I hang this in bunches so the girls can peck away. It is par­tic­u­larly use­ful if you have a red mite in­fes­ta­tion as it is used to ad­dress anaemia prob­lems. It can be dried and stored eas­ily. Dock leaves have been used as a liver cleaner, which is where all the con­tam­i­nants from the en­vi­ron­ment set­tle, so oc­ca­sion­ally hang­ing a bunch up for your girls will help give them a de­tox. Don’t use it in large amounts reg­u­larly.

DANDELION

The botan­i­cal name for this plant is Tarax­acum of­fic­i­nale

mean­ing ‘of­fi­cial rem­edy for dis­or­ders’. They are packed with vi­ta­mins A and B and are a great source of cal­cium, iron, potas­sium, fi­bre and pro­tein. Dan­de­lions have blood pu­ri­fy­ing prop­er­ties and in­crease the flow of urine.They con­tain vast amounts of potas­sium that re­stores the min­eral balance in the kid­neys as tox­ins are flushed out. The flow­ers are safe for the girls to eat and can en­hance the colours of their yolks. It can be dried eas­ily and stored ready to use in the win­ter.

NET­TLES

I love net­tles. They grow so well and are great for chick­ens and us. Chick­ens can ben­e­fit from dried net­tles dur­ing lay­ing sea­son as they give them a nat­u­ral cal­cium boost. I hang bunches to dry then use them through the win­ter as well. Fresh net­tles also freeze well and will be ap­pre­ci­ated by your girls in the win­ter months. Their leaves con­tain a balance of vi­ta­mins, pro­tein and min­er­als and are a great source of iron. Try adding fresh net­tle leaves to your girls’ ap­ple cider vine­gar and strain af­ter a few weeks. This would work well with dock leaves as well. If hang­ing fresh net­tles for your girls, dip them in hot wa­ter for a few min­utes to take the sting out. Re­mem­ber to wear gloves when har­vest­ing them as they do hurt when they sting. They are best col­lected dur­ing the spring be­fore flow­er­ing.

ROSEHIPS

These have an im­pres­sive amount vi­ta­min C which is great for boost­ing the girls’ im­mune sys­tem. Vi­ta­min C stim­u­lates the white blood cells and the gen­eral health of the res­pi­ra­tory sys­tem. Rosehips are col­lected late sum­mer and au­tumn. Once the flow­ers have died it is re­placed by the fruit that has a red/or­ange colour. I chop the rosehips up and add them to my girls’ af­ter­noon scratch feed. I save lots and dry them out to use through­out the win­ter months. The rose petals can also be given to your girls and con­tain Vi­ta­mins A,C, D and E and some B vi­ta­mins. They are a very mild seda­tive and anti-de­pres­sant so good to use if in­tro­duc­ing new girls. Suzie Bald­win owns Hol­ly­wa­ter Hens in Hamp­shire and is a fre­quent me­dia pun­dit on chick­ens. http://hol­ly­wa­ter­hens.co.uk

ABOVE LEFT: Net­tles TOP RIGHT AND LEFT MID­DLE: Dan­de­lions MID­DLE RIGHT: Dock , one of my favourites ABOVE RIGHT: Plantain is a nat­u­ral worker and grows in abun­dance

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