Sustainable Organic Gardening

Charcoal and chickens

Charcoal For Chickens

It’s not the first thing that springs to mind when I hear the words ‘charcoal’ and ‘chicken’ together, but charcoal as a chicken feed supplement can provide real health benefits for your chooks.

Because animals’ water and feed can be exposed to contaminants – from rodents, flies or birds, for example – many poultry farmers are following an age-old practice of adding charcoal to drinking water or feed. In Europe, commercial activated charcoals have been specifically designed as an additive for cattle and poultry feed. The charcoal is able to absorb toxins from the food or water, improving hygiene and chook health. Better hygiene can also help prevent infections such as Salmonella in meat and eggs.

Wild animals will often visit sites where there have recently been fires and have been observed eating charcoal. Research suggests that they consume it for its medicinal, toxin-binding properties. While it has no nutritional value itself, charcoal contributes to keeping an animal’s digestive system healthy. It is a laxative and can help move the impurities it absorbs out of the body. If worms or worm eggs are present, it can to some degree help move them out of the body as well. Poultry feed containing 1-1.5% charcoal has resulted in increased laying rate, a longer laying period and increased egg weight. Charcoal in the diet will also reduce the odour of chook manure.

Free Range Chooks

So why not produce your own charcoal for the chooks? Charcoal produced from slow-burned (untreated) timber can be added to your flock’s food or just left where the chooks can scratch and peck at it as they please. Wood ash makes a good addition to their favourite dust-bathing spots as it has a very nice texture; the chooks will eat it too.

So, shovel out ashes and charcoal from your wood-fired oven or burn some logs or larger branches in an outdoor fireplace. Slow burning is essential to charcoal making: you can damp down a fire that is burning too quickly with some water. Once it’s all cooled down, crush it up a bit and throw a handful in with the poultry feed or where the chickens will scratch. Your feathered friends will thank you for it!

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