Saturday, April 02, 2016

Happy hens in spring - sprouts & herbs

Our hens are absolutely crazy for any shoots of greens they can find at this time of year!  And we are happy to let them nibble around the garden as they like since our salad greens are protected under plastic in the grow tunnel, and new seedlings are not yet planted out.  We have also been supplementing the hens winter feed with sprouted greens, such as alfalfa and red clover sprouts, left over stalks of pea shoots after we harvest the tops for our smoothies, and their favourite - wheatgrass.  We pull out the whole mat of wheatgrass after it's been growing for about 10 days, and lay the mat in the hen yard.  Sometimes we sprinkle buckwheat groats among the wheatgrass blades, and the hens just love to graze and find these treats.

Herbs for hens have been another learning opportunity.  Since we already grow, harvest and use so many medicinal herbs for our own family, we thought we would find useful herbs to provide health benefits for the hens.  We have been tying bundles of herbs (lavender, sage, lemon balm) to hang around the coop as a way to help repel fleas and mites, as well as chopping up herbs like lemon balm, mint and parsley into their nest box - this boosts their health, gives them something to nibble at, and keeps them happily laying.  It also helps keep the eggs clean (we try to clean the nest box daily, taking out old straw/bran and adding new material, plus new chopped herbs).  Herbs can be fresh or dried. 

Other great herbs to add to hens food to boost their health include:
~ garden herbs like: chopped up garlic (bulbs and greens); oregano, yarrow.
~ wild herbs like: nettles,  comfrey leaf, dandelion leaves, and chickweed. 
~ sprouted greens like: alfalfa, buckwheat greens, sunflower shoots, pea shoots.
~ edible medicinal flower petals like: calendula, marigold and rose.

Most of these greens are readily available - easily to grow in your garden, or wild harvest locally.  To prepare a longer term herbal feed mix, harvest the herbs and dry them fully.  Then blend and crush them, store in a glass mason jar, and add a few Tbsp to your hens feed.  We sometimes mix in live cultured yogurt as well, when adding the herbs to the dry feed, as this is also beneficial for hens health and well-being.

A great source for Canadian organic non-GMO sprouting seeds is Mumms, based in Saskatchewan.

 Here the hens are happily eating their mat of sprouted wheatgrass.

This eggs was laid in a nest box lined with bran and lemon balm.  We also like to add mint leaves, rose petals, and marigold or calendula to the nest box.

Here are trays of pea shoots and buckwheat greens ready to feed to the hens as a treat.  We enjoy these sprouts too of course!

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