When I think of the flowers of my childhood the first ones that come to mind are daisies (plucking the petals, chanting ‘she loves me, she loves me not’), buttercups that we held against our chins to see if the pollen would leave a yellow ring and the ubiquitous dandelion. The latter have been relegated to the category of pesky weeds, most likely because of the North American obsession with pristine lawns and dandelions’ penchant for popping up to ruin homeowners’ hard work. I grew up in Toronto and it was common to see Italian immigrant families picking dandelions at the side of the road for use as salad greens and to be fermented into wine.
Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale) is a well-known medicinal perennial that is native to temperate areas of Europe, North and South America and Asia. It’s roots, leaves and flowers are a good source of various nutrients, vitamins (A, K, C and B-complex), minerals (calcium, magnesium, potassium, zinc and iron), fibre, lecithin and choline. The roots have been used in traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) and by Indigenous people to support digestion and liver function by stimulating bile production, removing toxins, re-establishing hydration and electrolyte balance, while the leaves are used as a diuretic and digestive stimulant.
Dandelion’s many benefits include being an immune system booster, digestive stimulant, prebiotic, anti-inflammatory and blocks cancerous growths.
The entire plant is edible – flower, leaves, and roots – and taste like a spicier version of arugula. If you plan to harvest your own greens, make sure they have not been treated with chemicals of any kind.
Uses For Chickens
Vitamins and Minerals: they contain high rates of vitamins A, B, C, and D, as well as iron, potassium and zinc. Dandelions are nutritionally more dense than kale or spinach.
Antiparasitic: when leaves are used as forage food and ground cover they deter internal parasites.
Growth Enhancer: chickens fed the leaves were reported to improve growth and productive performance of poultry.
Enhanced Yolk Colour: the flowers contain carotenoids which contribute to darker egg yolks.
Prebiotic: inulin, a soluble fibre, supports bacteria in the digestive tract.
Egg Shell Quality: calcium is required for the production of egg shells and increased shell hardness
Most of us have some dandelions on our properties or nearby where we live. Just take a sharp knife and dig them out, root and all, and offer them to your chickens. If your flock free ranges don’t use chemical products to remove the dandelions, just let your birds forage for them.
Credits: Mahmoud Alagawany (Zagazig University); S. Qureshi et al (Cambridge University Press); Poultry DVM