There are all kinds of things that chickens can eat that you just wouldn’t expect. From dairy products to chicken eggs, chickens don’t seem too picky concerning where their next meal comes from!
But how about something really weird, something like kelp? Can chickens eat kelp?
Yes, chickens may eat kelp and it is highly nutritious for them with many benefits. Kelp is highly rich in B complex vitamins, folate and vitamin k along with an assortment of minerals. However, kelp should be washed and dried before feeding to chickens.
Talk about a surprise, huh? Believe it or not, kelp is actually a highly nutritious source of food for all sorts of livestock, chickens included, and compared to more terrestrial food shows extremely promising benefits regarding reproductive health and immunity.
Keep reading to get the full story on feeding kelp to chickens.
Nutritional Profile of Kelp
Often used in Asian cuisine, this hearty, algae-based seaweed is chock-full of nutrients, making it a popular choice for those looking to improve their health or the health of their livestock.
For starters, kelp is an excellent source of iodine, a nutrient that helps to support the thyroid gland.
It is also rich in antioxidants, minerals, and vitamins, including the B complex vitamins, folate and vitamin K.
Kelp is also rich in all kinds of minerals, including magnesium, iron, calcium, phosphorous and zinc. One thing to be aware of is that it also contains quite a bit of sodium.
|Total lipid (fat)
|Carbohydrate, by difference
|– Fiber, total dietary
|– Sugars, total including NLEA
|Vitamin A, RAE
|Vitamin A, IU
In addition, kelp contains alginate, a type of dietary fiber that has been shown to promote gut health.
With all of these health benefits, it’s no wonder that kelp is such a popular choice among health-conscious individuals.
Health Benefits of Kelp for Chickens
Now that we know what kelp is and what it contains, let’s take a look at some of the potential health benefits of feeding it to chickens.
As mentioned earlier, kelp is an excellent source of iodine. This mineral is essential for the proper function of the thyroid gland.
The thyroid gland produces hormones that are responsible for regulating the metabolism. Iodine deficiency can lead to goiter, a condition in which the thyroid gland enlarges.
In addition, kelp is rich in antioxidants. These nutrients scavenge harmful toxins and byproducts that can damage cells, leading to inflammation.
The antioxidants in kelp may help to protect cells from damage and improve overall health.
Of added benefit, the alginates in kelp have been shown to bind to harmful toxins and remove them from the body, making it an important part of a healthy chicken diet.
The vitamins in kelp, including the B complex vitamins, are essential for the proper function of metabolic processes, while vitamin K is needed for blood clotting and bone health.
The minerals in kelp, such as magnesium, iron, and calcium, are also essential, particularly circulatory, skeletal and reproductive health.
Research Suggests that Compounds in Kelp Can Boost Immunity and Egg Health
Perhaps most intriguing for chickens owners, kelp has been shown in studies to improve reproductive health in chickens.
One study found that feeding kelp to laying hens resulted in a significant increase in the number of eggs laid and a decrease in the number of abnormal eggs.
The study also found that the hatchability of eggs was improved when kelp was added to the diet.
Another study looked at the effects of kelp on the immune system of chickens and found that it significantly increased the number of white blood cells, indicating an improved immune response.
Can Chickens Eat Kelp Raw?
Yes, but you should not serve raw, fresh-from-the-sea kelp to your chickens. Raw kelp can contain bacteria and tons of salt residues that can make your chickens sick.
Can Chickens Eat Dried Kelp?
Yes, and this is the best way to serve it to them. You can find dried kelp feed and supplements at most well-equipped animal supply stores.
Can Chickens Eat Kelp Cooked?
Yes, but kelp usually isn’t too tasty or appealing when it has been cooked. If you want to try feeding your chickens cooked kelp, we suggest steaming or boiling it gently to make it more palatable.
Never Feed Kelp to Chickens that Has Been Prepared with Harmful Ingredients
Since we are talking about cooking, we must mention that you should never serve kelp to chickens that has been prepared with anything that they should not eat.
This includes salt, sugar, butter, oils, dressings or any other ingredient that could potentially harm your chickens.
At best, they can cause seriously upset stomachs and diarrhea. At worst, weight gain, fatty liver syndrome and even salt poisoning could occur.
Salt is a biggie to worry about in particular since kelp is naturally quite salty (it’s from the ocean!) and chickens are vulnerable to it.
How Often Can Chickens Have Kelp?
Kelp is definitely a super healthy supplement to your flock’s diet, but that does not mean that they should have it all the time.
In fact, we recommend only feeding kelp to your chickens a few times per week as part of a varied and well-balanced diet.
This will help to ensure that they get all the nutrients they need without overdoing it on any one thing.
Most avian care experts recommend that 90% of a chicken’s diet should consist of a good quality chicken feed, with the other 10% being made up of fresh vegetables, fruits, and other healthy snacks like kelp.
Stick to this ratio and your chickens will be healthy and happy!
Preparing Kelp for Your Flock
The very best way to give your chickens kelp is in the form of a specialty feed, usually flaked or granulated.
These are easy to find at your local animal feed store and can be fed as-is or mixed in with their regular chicken feed.
You can also find kelp supplements in powder form. These can be mixed with water to create a slurry or added directly to your chickens’ water.
Be sure to follow the directions on the package for proper dosage.
A final way to give your chickens kelp is in its whole, dried form. Just ensure that it has been properly treated first in order to remove harmful residues and bacteria.
Can Baby Chicks Have Kelp, Too?
We recommend waiting until baby chicks are at least 6 weeks old before introducing any new foods, including kelp.
At this age, their digestive systems should be able to handle small amounts of new foods without issue.
Kelp is healthy, for sure, but chicks should eat pretty much nothing but starter feed for the first several weeks of life.
As always, when introducing any new food to your youngest flock members do so slowly and in small quantities at first to avoid stomach upset.
Keep an eye on them after they are finished to make sure they aren’t showing any signs of crop impaction, watery stools or other problems.
Tom has lived and worked on farms and homesteads from the Carolinas to Kentucky and beyond. He is passionate about helping people prepare for tough times by embracing lifestyles of self-sufficiency.