Health Issues Superfood

Superfood For Chickens: Wheatgrass

As a kid I spent time on a Mennonite farm every summer throughout elementary school and into my teens. Two members of the family juiced up greens in their blender in a concoction I affectionately referred to as ‘grass clippings’. It turns out they were ahead of their time by several decades. Since the 1990s smoothies and juices have gained popularity and have hit their stride with folks recognizing the nutritional benefits of not only fruits and veggies, but also seeds like flax, berries, mushrooms, spirulina, pomegranates, and spices such as cinnamon, turmeric and cayenne.

Wheatgrass is a staple of juices. I’ve often seen it grown in flats on the counters of health food stores or cafes that juice it on site. It’s also been promoted as supplement for cats. My own cat occasionally munches on grass so when I was given a container of wheatgrass from the local food recovery program I brought it home thinking he might enjoy it. Unfortunately Wily turned up his nose so I offered it to my flock who happily ate it.

Wheatgrass is the first leaves of the wheat plant, Triticum aestivum, which grows in temperate regions throughout Europe and North America. It can be purchased freeze dried, fresh, as tablets, juice or powder. It’s also available as a cream, gel, massage lotion, and liquid herbal supplement.

Nutritional Benefits For Chickens:

  • Vitamin A: is required for normal growth; reproduction and maintenance of epithelial cells (skin and the linings of the digestivereproductive, and respiratory tracts); vision; immune system function and cellular communication.
  • Vitamin B6: is required for proper metabolizing of amino acids
  • Vitamin C: protects and maintains healthy skin, blood vessels, bones and cartilage. Chickens can make vitamin C so don’t need it in their feed, but it is a useful supplement for stressed birds.
  • Vitamin E: is an antioxidant and important for normal neurological functions; maintains healthy skin and eyes; strengthens the immune system.
  • Vitamin K: plays an important role in blood clotting mechanisms and bone health; preventative against coccidiosis.
  • Calcium: is required for making strong eggshells, as well as supporting various systems in the body (circulatory, nervous, cardiac, skeletal and digestive).
  • Iron: is an essential trace mineral for all living organisms, and plays important roles in oxygen transport and DNA synthesis.
  • Selenium: plays a critical role in semen quality, hatchability and egg production. Laying hens require a balanced diet including daily selenium.
  • Magnesium: is an essential mineral that is required for bone formation, carbohydrate metabolism, and for activation of several enzymes. 

Growing Wheatgrass

Wheatgrass doesn’t require a green thumb and can be easily grown for a small flock, especially those that are penned and have scratched down whatever natural foliage might have been in their enclosure. There are loads of online sites recommending various ways to grow it: in soil vs soil-less products like coir or vermiculite; sprouting in mason jars, flats or bags, etc. It’s ready to harvest in 7- 10 days using scissors to cut just above the roots. The good news is the plant will regrow so you’ll have a continuing supply of fodder for your flock for several harvests before starting a new crop.

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