Growing Garlic For Backyard Chickens
The Health Benefits of Garlic for Backyard Chickens
I often get asked what can chickens eat? Garlic has some really amazing health benefits for chickens (and humans!). Find out how to feed it to your backyard chickens and how easy growing garlic can be.
Garlic helps to boost the immune systems, increase respiratory health and reduce the smell of the manure. Garlic taken internally is also a natural wormer and is thought to be a home remedy for lice, mites, fleas and ticks on chickens. I guess garlic-tainted blood isn’t tasty to those biting parasites! Garlic juice can also be used to spray on chickens infested with mites or lice to help get rid of them.
Feeding Garlic to Backyard Chickens
Garlic can be added to your chickens’ diet in a couple of different ways.
In the water
Add a few whole cloves to your chickens’ waterer (mash them up a bit before dropping them in), and replacing them every few days.
In the feed
Add garlic powder to their daily feed (2% ratio garlic powder/feed).
Offer fresh garlic, crushed or minced, in a small dish free-choice.
Note: Small chicks should also be offered garlic early in a similar manner so they develop a taste for it.
Garlic should be planted in the fall. Try to find organic bulbs at the grocery store or farmer’s market, so you know they haven’t been treated with any pesticides or chemicals. Choose a location in full sun which drains well in which to plant your garlic. Break each bulb into individual cloves (leave the papery covering on them) and plant the largest cloves, tip side up, about 4-6 inches apart and 2 inches deep.
Mulch your garlic with about 4 inches of chopped straw, leaves or hay. The mulch will keep the soil temperature more constant through the winter, which will retain moisture, keep weeds down and help the roots remain in place. And that’s it. Basically you can forget about it until spring. No watering, no attention needed.
Come spring, when the shoots start to poke through the mulch, carefully rake the mulch away. Remove any ‘scapes,’ which are the thin curly stems, but leave the shoots. The scapes drain energy needed to grow the new bulb, but are delicious sautéed in olive oil with a bit of salt and pepper.
Harvesting and Storing Garlic
Garlic is ready to harvest in late spring/early summer when the shoots turn yellowish-brown and fall over. Dig up the bulbs and wipe off any dirt. Then braid them or tie them into bunches and leave them in an airy, shady spot for two weeks. Once the outside wrappers are dry and papery, and the roots dried, you can then cut the tops and roots off and store your garlic in a pantry, or just remove the roots and leave the bulbs braided hanging in the pantry. Be sure to save the largest cloves to replant the following fall.
Although garlic is in the onion family and does contain a toxin which can cause anemia if fed to excess, I believe the health benefits far outweigh any minimal risk of feeding a limited amount of garlic to your chickens. It would have to be fed at extremely high levels to do any harm.
So think about growing garlic for your family and flock! And before you ask, no, I don’t find that the garlic taints the taste of our eggs in the least bit!