Tag Archives: supplements

  • Pasture Grasses and Grazing

    Written By Dr. Kris Hiney

    This month we will review research concerning pastures and foraging behaviors in horses. Most horsemen would agree that horses grazing at pasture represent the most natural way to feed a horse.  Certainly it represents the most economical and the least labor intensive method of feeding.  However, many owners have questions related to what or how much a horse’s is consuming when its primary source of feed is pasture grass.

    This ambiguity of how much grass a horse may consume makes selecting additional concentrates or supplements more of a challenge.  In addition, many horses clearly volunteer to consume pasture grass well over their nutritional needs making regulation of body condition score very difficult.   The range of dry matter intake of horses on pasture has been reported to be as wide as 1.5 to 3.1% of their body weight in a 24 hour period. Usually young horses and lactating mares will be on the upper range of intake which would make sense due to their nutritional demands.   Mature horses are reported to typically consume 2-2.5% of their body weight in dry matter.  However, it does appear that many of our equine friends have failed to adhere to book values when given the opportunity.  A recent study looking at weight gain in pastured ponies found that on average the ponies consumed 3.8% of their body weight in dry matter, with ranges of 2.9 to 4.9%.  Others have also reported horses consuming as much as 5% of their body weight in dry matter! It is rather easy to see why horses can quite easily gain weight on pasture.

    But what about horses which are only turned out for part of the day in an attempt to control feed intake? Is this an effective technique or do they simply manage to eat faster in their allotted grazing time?  In a study which attempted to determine how much a horse can consume in an 8 hour period, horses were individually assigned to small paddocks, allowed to graze for four hours, then switched to a new paddock for an additional 4 hours. The small paddocks were then harvested to determine how much the horses consumed in the given time period. In this experiment horses were able to consume 1.3% of their body weight within an 8 hour period.  In addition, their consumption rate was twice as high in the initial four hours the horses were allowed access to grazing. Therefore the horses were able to consume almost 1% of their body weight in just four hours!  Thus even limited grazing can easily result in weight gain.  From this data the authors concluded that for these particular grazing horses, only 9 hours of grazing was necessary to meet their energy needs.


    While we know that good quality pasture can easily meet a horse’s maintenance requirements, does it provide additional benefits to the horse?  In a study designed to look at the effectiveness of pasture turnout in maintaining fitness, horses which has been ridden 1-2 hours per week, 5 days per week for 12 weeks were then stalled, continued to be ridden or were turned out in a large pasture.  After a 14 week period, all horses participated in a standard exercise test.  This proved that the horses allowed free access to wander through a relatively large pasture maintained their fitness compared even to the horses ridden 5 days per week.  Thus pasture turnout seems to be a reasonable solution during down time when the horse is not ridden for maintaining fitness. The pastured horses in this study traveled on average 10 km a day compared to 5 km per day in the horses which were ridden.  This study again lends support to the value of pasture turnout.

    So what if we want the fitness benefit of pasture turnout without the obesity inducing over consumption?   Often the traditional answer has been to employ a grazing muzzle. In a study looking at intake rates in ponies wearing muzzles compared to their non-muzzled counterparts, muzzling resulted in an 83% decrease in overall intake. However, in just three hours, the non-muzzled ponies were able to consume 0.8% of their body weight in dry matter.  This is quite similar to the observations in the previous studies.  In addition, the same team of researchers found that the ponies “grew wise” to their limited access to grass and learned to increase their consumption rates during their restricted period.  Therefore limited time on pasture may not be as effective for foxy ponies once they learn what you are up to!  So what is our take home message?  Allowing horse’s time to graze is very beneficial, not only for their mental health, but also for their physical health.  However, in order to control intake and thus body condition score in our enthusiastic eaters, we made need to employ additional measures such as limited turnout or grazing muzzles.

  • 10 Tips for Healthier Chickens

    Written By Kathy Shea Mormino, The Chicken Chick®

    All backyard chicken-keepers have an interest in keeping their pet chickens healthy and happy and making minor adjustments to various aspects of their care can have a significant impact on their health and longevity. There are a number of small steps that can be taken to promote the health of backyard chickens.

    1. Provide the correct feed: http://www.the-chicken-chick.com/2012/11/feeding-chickens-at-different-ages.html
    As basic as it sounds, chickens must be fed properly to perform optimally and to be healthy. Even though our great grandparents may have fed their flocks cracked corn or scratch, advances in science and the work of poultry nutritionists reveals that backyard chickens require much more nutritionally to live long, healthy lives, while producing maximally nutritious eggs. Chickens at different stages of development require different feed formulations. While the feed manufacturer's recommendations for their products should always be followed, generally speaking, day old chicks through eight weeks old should be provided with starter feed. Adolescent chickens up to 18 weeks of age should be fed a grower or a flock-raiser type ration and laying hens http://www.the-chicken-chick.com/2012/01/how-hen-makes-egg-egg-oddities.html
    should be fed layer ration no earlier than 18 weeks of age or the the appearance of their first egg. Layer feed contains calcium that laying hens need for eggshell production but can be detrimental to younger birds.

    While layer feed contains added calcium, an additional source of calcium, such as oyster shells or crushed eggshells, should be made available in a separate dish, http://www.the-chicken-chick.com/2011/05/my-pvc-chicken-feeder-diy-instructions.html
    apart from the feed.

    2. Limit Treats: http://www.the-chicken-chick.com/2012/08/chicken-treats-guide-dont-love-your.html
    The ingredients in commercially prepared chicken feed are carefully calculated by poultry nutritionists to ensure that a chicken’s daily vitamin, mineral and protein requirements are met. Supplemental foods (treats/snacks) http://www.the-chicken-chick.com/2012/08/chicken-treats-guide-dont-love-your.html
    replace a portion of those essential dietary elements to some degree. Excessive treats, even healthy ones, can cause any of the following: obesity, malformed eggs, http://www.the-chicken-chick.com/2012/01/how-hen-makes-egg-egg-oddities.html
    habitual laying of multiple-yolked eggs, vent prolapse, http://www.the-chicken-chick.com/2012/04/prolapse-vent-causes-treatment-graphic.html
    protein deficiencies, feather-picking, http://www.the-chicken-chick.com/2013/03/chicken-feather-loss-cannibalism-causes.html
    fatty liver syndrome, egg binding, http://www.the-chicken-chick.com/2012/07/chicken-egg-binding-causes-symptoms.html
    reduced egg production, http://www.the-chicken-chick.com/2012/12/decrease-in-egg-production-causes.html
    increased risk of heat stroke http://www.the-chicken-chick.com/2012/04/beat-heat-how-to-help-chickens-survive.html
    and heart problems. No more than ten percent of a flock's daily dietary intake should consist of treats.

    Common sense should be the guide in treat selection. http://www.the-chicken-chick.com/2012/08/chicken-treats-guide-dont-love-your.html
    The types of foods we require to maximize our own health are the foods we should consider when spoiling our chickens: high protein, whole grains, low salt, low sugar, fruits and vegetables. Dairy products are an exception to this general rule because birds are not equipped with the enzymes necessary to properly digest milk sugars. Some yogurt on occasion is fine and does contain beneficial bacterial cultures, but too much dairy can cause digestive upset and diarrhea. Opt for probiotics specially formulated for poultry http://www.the-chicken-chick.com/2013/02/probiotics-natural-choice-for-healthy.html
    in lieu of yogurt for good gut health. http://www.the-chicken-chick.com/2012/02/whats-scoop-on-chicken-poop-digestive.html

    Healthy Treats for Chickens
    Scrambled Eggs- it may seem ironic to feed chickens eggs, but eggs are an outstanding source of protein, vitamin A, vitamin E and beta carotene.2  Chickens will not develop a raw, egg-eating habit http://www.the-chicken-chick.com/2012/10/egg-eating-chickens-how-to-break-habit.html
    as a result of eating scrambled eggs.  During a molt, http://www.the-chicken-chick.com/2011/12/molting-what-is-it-and-how-to-manage-it.html
    eggs are one of the best sources of protein to feed a chicken.

    Pumpkins are packed with antioxidants, vitamins A, C and E, minerals including copper, calcium, potassium and phosphorus, dietary fiber and protein in the seeds. Pumpkin seeds contain 30 grams of protein per 100 grams of seeds.1  When  pumpkins are in season, I make my flock "Peeps' Pumpkin Pie," http://www.the-chicken-chick.com/2012/10/chickens-pumpkin-seeds-and-worm
    for a nutritionally power-packed treat. Unsupported claims propose feeding pumpkin seeds to chickens as a “natural dewormer," however, there is no scientific evidence anywhere to suggest that pumpkin seeds are capable of deworming or reducing worm loads in chickens. As such, I do not rely on pumpkin seeds as a preventative measure or as a treatment option in my flock. I give my chickens pumpkins and pumpkin seeds simply because they're nutritious and they enjoy them.

     

    Meal worms are a good source of protein, reportedly containing 49% http://www.exoticnutrition.com/limein.html
    to 51%. http://www.happyhentreats.com/Products.html
    They can be purchased live or dried and can also be farmed very easily at home. During a molt, http://www.the-chicken-chick.com/2011/12/molting-what-is-it-and-how-to-manage-it.html
    meal worms are an especially smart snack choice.

    Homemade Flock Block Substitute- http://www.the-chicken-chick.com/2012/10/flock-block-substitute-recipe-healthy.html
    Flock Block is a commercially available treat for chickens that is intended to entertain them and fulfill their natural pecking instincts.They can be purchased at feed stores for approximately $13. I have purchased the product once or twice, but have always thought I could make a similar treat myself. I made my own treat block recently and am much happier knowing that my homemade Flock Block Substitute http://www.the-chicken-chick.com/2012/10/flock-block-substitute-recipe-healthy.html
    is a healthy, fresh, nutritious treat for my flock. The recipe includes Omega Ultra Egg, which increases Omega-3 levels in eggs, improves laying rates and chickens' health and lends naturally occurring amino acids to the recipe, which serve as important building blocks of the protein in feathers and eggs.

    A note about scratch. Scratch is affectionately referred to as ‘chicken crack’ for a reason; chickens love it, can’t get enough of it and it’s not the best choice for them. Scratch typically consists of cracked corn and a mixture of grains, which tends to lack an appreciable amount of protein, vitamins and minerals. Scratch should be thought of as chicken candy and only given in small amounts occasionally. *Scratch should not be mixed into the flock’s feed.*

     

    3. Clean Water: http://www.the-chicken-chick.com/2012/07/the-advantages-of-poultry-nipples.html
    Provide clean, fresh water to chickens at all times. Again, this sounds like common sense, but most backyard chickens drink from waterers harboring fecal matter, bacteria and other organisms that can make them sick. The solution to dirty water is employing poultry nipple waterers. "Nobody who is raising chickens professionally has used cups, bell drinkers or troughs in the past 25 years. ... Nipples have been used successfully on literally billions of chickens. The professional farmers across North America have made nipple drinkers the standard for all chickens. ... The disease reduction is so striking that there is no doubt which [system] is better." http://www.the-chicken-chick.com/2012/07/the-advantages-of-poultry-nipples.html

    4. Apple Cider Vinegar in drinking water:
    Adding apple cider vinegar http://www.the-chicken-chick.com/2012/07/make-raw-apple-cider-vinegar-acv-with.html
    with the mother to the drinking water of chickens can improve their gut health by changing the pH of the water, making it inhospitable to many organisms. "Acidifying water alters the gut’s bacteria, slowing the growth of nasty bacteria, and giving a boost to good bacteria. Acid also helps control coccidiosis and Clostridium bacteria, which can cause a fatal disease called necrotic enteritis." http://www.the-chicken-chick.com/2012/07/make-raw-apple-cider-vinegar-acv-with.html
    One to two tablespoons per gallon of water is the suggested amount of vinegar.

    5. Clean Living Quarters
    A cleaner coop is a healthier coop. Chickens have sensitive respiratory systems which are easily irritated by mold and ammonia from accumulated droppings. Clean coops are less likely to house external parasites such as mites and poultry lice. http://www.the-chicken-chick.com/2012/08/poultry-lice-and-mites-identification.html
    For five ways to keep a cleaner coop with less effort, click here. http://www.the-chicken-chick.com/2012/10/5-tips-for-cleaner-coop-with-less-effort.html

    6. Dry Bedding:
    A wet environment created by accumulated droppings or spilled water, provides a breeding ground for coccidia and other harmful organisms to flourish. Coccidiosis http://www.the-chicken-chick.com/2012/12/coccidiosis-what-backyard-chicken.html
    is an intestinal disease that can rapidly kill chickens if it goes undetected or untreated. Three ways to ensure the driest environment possible are:
    by employing a droppings board http://www.the-chicken-chick.com/2012/04/droppings-boards-because-poop-happens.html
    and removing droppings from it daily
    by using sand as coop litter/bedding http://www.the-chicken-chick.com/2012/09/chicken-coop-bedding-sand-litter.html
    and as ground cover in the run
    by keeping waterfowl and chickens in different yards (Less moisture results in fewer opportunities for organisms to grow that can make chickens sick.)
    Many diseases and illnesses are easily kept at bay by keeping living conditions dry.

    7. Observe Droppings:
    The first sign of a potential health problem often will be found in a chicken's droppings. Knowing which droppings are normal and which are abnormal http://www.the-chicken-chick.com/2012/02/whats-scoop-on-chicken-poop-digestive.html
    is an extremely useful tool in assessing  chickens' health. Installing a droppings board underneath the roost provides a regular opportunity to observe abnormalities unobscured by shavings or other bedding material. Keeping a well-stocked first aid kit http://www.the-chicken-chick.com/2012/01/chicken-sick-bay-first-aid-kit-be.html
    handy to treat some of the more common illness and disease early is highly recommended.

    8. Break up Broody Hens: http://www.the-chicken-chick.com/2012/05/broody-breaker-when-hens-mood-to-hatch.html
    A broody hen is one that is inspired to sit on a collection of eggs until she hatches chicks. Whether she is sitting on a clutch of fertile eggs or an empty nest, she will sit and wait for chicks to hatch indefinitely. In the 21 days normally required to hatch eggs, a broody leaves her nest briefly once or twice daily to eat, drink and relieve herself, neglecting her own health for the good of her anticipated chicks. Her comb will lose color, feathers lose sheen and she will lose a noticeable amount of weight. She can tolerate this drastic change in 21 day stints, but protracted periods of broodiness are unhealthy for her. She becomes vulnerable to external parasites, malnourished and emaciated.  Broody hens that will not be permitted to hatch chicks, either due to the unavailability of fertile eggs or the preference of the chicken-keeper, she should be broken/broken-up http://www.the-chicken-chick.com/2012/05/broody-breaker-when-hens-mood-to-hatch.html
    as soon as possible to return them to their regular routines.

    9. No Supplemental Light for Youngsters: http://www.the-chicken-chick.com/2011/09/supplemental-light-in-coop-why-how.html
    Providing supplemental lighting when natural daylight hours decrease to 13 hours or less is a safe and common practice undertaken to keep hens producing eggs in the autumn and winter months. However, adolescent chickens should not be exposed to supplemental lighting as it can cause them to reach sexual maturity too soon, resulting in egg-laying before their bodies are properly equipped. Egg-binding http://www.the-chicken-chick.com/2012/07/chicken-egg-binding-causes-symptoms.html
    and prolapsed uterus http://www.the-chicken-chick.com/2012/04/prolapse-vent-causes-treatment-graphic.html
    are two of the possible consequences of premature egg-laying.

    10. Provide Dust Bathing Areas:
    A dust bath http://www.the-chicken-chick.com/2013/01/chicken-dust-baths-ultimate-spa.html
    is the chicken equivalent of a daily shower. Chickens dig shallow spots in dirt, sand, or even flower pots to work into their skin and feathers to aid in skin and feather maintenance and parasite control. A dust bath can be as simple as a dry patch of dirt in the backyard or a shallow bucket filled with sand. No additives or supplements are necessary to accomplish the objective. According to Gail Damerow http://www.utc.edu/Academic/TennesseeWriters/authors/damerow.gail.html
    in The Chicken Encyclopedia, :    http://bit.ly/10iY4Pt
    adding diatomaceous earth (DE) wood ashes or lime-and-sulfur garden powder to their dust bath is hazardous to their respiratory health http://shagbarkbantams.com/de.htm

    and should be avoided unless they are "seriously infested" with parasites. Even in that case, she writes, "the benefit may outweigh the danger of TEMPORARILY adding such materials" (p. 93, emphasis added).

    For an extensive list of healthy treats for chickens, visit my blog here. http://www.the-chicken-chick.com/2012/08/chicken-treats-guide-dont-love-your.html

    The treat trail. They will follow me anywhere for treats!
    JOIN ME ON FACEBOOK! http://www.facebook.com/Egg.Carton.Labels.by.ADozenGirlz

    Further reading:
    1 http://www.nutrition-and-you.com/pumpkin.html
    2 http://www.motherearthnews.com/eggs.aspx#ixzz2AcKccLNq
    http://www.poultryhelp.com/toxicplants.html

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