Health Issues Superfood

Superfood For Chickens: Rose Hips

When I was in elementary school I remember learning about how early European explorers suffering from vitamin C deficiency developed scurvy and relied on First Nations people to provide natural remedies.

When folks don’t get enough dietary vitamin C (ascorbic acid) they develop a number of symptoms such as fatigue; weakness; severe joint or leg pain; swollen or bleeding gums and loss of teeth; red or blue spots on the skin; and bruise easily.

I also remember being told, jokingly, to eat my fruits and veggies so I, too, wouldn’t get scurvy. Historically when people didn’t have access to vitamin C from cultivated foods they foraged for them in the environment and one of the best sources of vitamin C in those circumstances is rose hips, the fruit produced by the wild rose plant, Rosa canina L. (Not to be confused with cultivated varieties.)

If you’ve ever seen wild roses after the petals have fallen you’ll recall each flower develops a round reddish fleshy fruit during late summer and fall. That bulb is actually filled with seeds which can be eaten raw, dried before use or processed to extract its essential oil.

Rose hips have been used in traditional medicines for more than 2,000 years, due to the high amounts of bioactive compounds contained within the fruits: flavonoids; carotenoids; Omega 3 and 6 fatty acids; vitamins A, B, C and E; calcium, iron, manganese, magnesium, potassium, sulfur, silicon, zinc, selenium and phosphorous. Hips are used in the manufacture of teas, wine, fruit leather, jellies and jams.

Rose hips are a great, inexpensive source of vitamin C.

Vitamin C is a water-soluble antioxidant compound, which protects cells against damage and improves immune system function. It’s essential for the metabolism of amino acids and minerals, and the synthesis and production of hormones involved in resistance to stress.  In people, rose hips are used to treat arthritis, gout, sciatica, and kidney and lower urinary tract issues.

Chickens can make vitamin C so don’t always need it in their feed, but it is a useful supplement for stressed birds, including heat stress. Vitamin C also protects and maintains healthy skin, blood vessels, bones and cartilage.

Uses For Chickens

  • Immune System Booster: Rose hips have high amounts of vitamin C, essential for healthy functioning of important enzymes in the body, which improve feed efficiency, and the uptake of vitamins and minerals.
  • Egg Quality: Layers fed ground rose hips were shown to have increased egg production, thicker eggshells and darker egg yolks.
  • Antioxidant: Carotenoids such as lycopene are antioxidants, which fight harmful free radicals that damage cells.
  • Egg Yolk Colour: Carotenoids also deepen egg yolk colour.
  • Lowers Cholesterol: decreases fats associated with heart disease.
  • Respiratory Health: used to support respiratory conditions.
  • Natural Food Additive: As of 2003, Rosa canina (Dog Rose) was approved by the European Parliament as a natural livestock feed additive.
  • Weight Gain: Studies have demonstrated that broilers given ground rose hips had increased weight gain compared to control groups. The birds that fared the best were fed ten or twenty grams of rose hip per kilogram of feed daily (maximum of .5 ounce: 35 ounces of feed).

Rosehips can be offered to chickens fresh, dried or ground. Wild roses are easily grown in North America or you can purchase rose hips at grocery or health food stores or order online. FYI: Vitamin C in hips does decrease somewhat when they are dried.

Credits: Alintera Journal Of Agriculture Sciences; European Poultry Science; Poultry DVM. Featured Photo: Bonnie Ott (Cardinal eating a rose hip)

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