If you keep chickens, you probably know that you shouldn’t give them onions, but what about garlic? After all, onions and garlic are closely related, so is garlic as dangerous as onions for chickens?
In fact, the opposite is true, and garlic can bring a range of powerful health benefits when fed to chickens – and in this post, we explain why as we answer the question, can chickens eat garlic?
Can Chickens Eat Garlic? The short answer
When it comes to giving garlic to chickens, let’s start with a short answer to the question.
Can chickens eat garlic? Yes, they can!
Many people know that onions shouldn’t be fed to chickens due to their thiosulphate content, which is poisonous to chickens – but although garlic is in the same family as onions, their thiosulphate content is minimal, so they’re perfectly safe for chickens.
But more than this, chickens should eat garlic and you should actively encourage them to do so since it’s known to have a wide range of health benefits for them.
So now let’s look in more detail at all the reasons why giving garlic to your flock is a great idea.
What are the benefits of feeding garlic to chickens?
While there are lots of foods you can use to supplement chickens’ feed as treats that add extra nutrition to their regular diet, garlic is a bit different.
Rather than being used as a “treat”, garlic is usually given to chickens as a kind of preventative medicine and something that can boost their health in all kinds of areas.
Furthermore, chickens won’t usually see pieces of raw garlic as a treat, and many will turn their beaks up at it – so it can be very much a case of working out how best to get chickens to “take their medicine”.
This is not some kind of folk remedy either, since garlic is one of the most studied plants there are, and its beneficial health effects are well documented scientifically.
We’ll talk about the different ways you can get chickens to eat it in just a moment, but before we do that, first, let’s think about the wide-ranging benefits of feeding chickens garlic that make it well worth the extra bit of effort.
1. Garlic boosts chickens’ immune systems and fights “bad” bacteria
Garlic is known to provide a natural boost to chickens’ immune systems and helps fight respiratory problems and infections while also being effective at killing “bad” bacteria such as salmonella, cholera and E coli.
Garlic can be given to boost chickens’ general health and well-being, even when they are not ill – but even if you don’t usually feed garlic to chickens, it can help them when they are suffering from more minor ailments such as colds as well as when they are recovering from illness.
2. Garlic helps chickens gain weight
Feeding garlic to chickens has been shown to boost their appetite, encouraging non-feeding chickens to start eating and helping underweight chickens to gain weight.
3. Garlic reduces bad cholesterol
Chickens that eat garlic tend to suffer less from problems related to elevated levels of bad cholesterol.
4. Garlic helps to balance gut bacteria
Although garlic kills bad bacteria, it is helpful to promote the growth of good bacteria in the gut, which, in turn, helps improve digestion and digestive health.
5. Garlic deters parasites
Garlic appears to be a strong deterrent against certain parasites such as red mites. This is thought to be because the garlic changes the taste of the chickens’ blood, making it more unappealing to red mites.
6. Garlic improves egg-laying productivity
7. Garlic improves the nutritional value of eggs and makes them taste better
Not only do chickens that eat garlic lay more eggs, but the eggs they produce are of better quality and have higher nutritional value.
In particular, the amount of cholesterol in the yolk is reduced while the quality of the egg whites is increased.
There is a “myth” that if chickens eat garlic, it makes their eggs taste garlicky, but this is only partly true.
For this to happen, garlic would have to account for around 3% of a chicken’s diet, but that’s a lot of garlic, and not many chickens are ever likely to consume this much.
However, people have reported that the eggs of chickens that eat garlic have a “cleaner” taste since the consumption of garlic appears to reduce the sulfur taste in eggs.
8. Garlic makes chicken coops smell less
One thing garlic doesn’t do…
Although many of garlic’s health benefits are supported by strong evidence, there is one thing some claim it can do that is on shakier ground when it comes to proof – and that’s the idea that garlic works as a dewormer.
No study has ever shown that eating garlic kills parasitic worms in chickens, but one study in mice did show that garlic led to a decrease in the worms present.
However, it is believed that this was due to the garlic boosting the mice’s overall immune system rather than the garlic specifically targeting the worms.
This means that while garlic may indeed help protect your flock from contracting worms in the first place, once the worms are inside the chickens, proper treatments are required to get rid of them.
How should you feed garlic to chickens?
Now we understand how much of a wonder food garlic can be for chickens, you’ll probably be wondering how you can feed it to them.
The most important thing to understand about garlic is that its superpowers come mostly from allicin, the compound that also gives garlic its distinctive pungent taste and smell.
The thing about allicin is that its potency is greatly diminished through cooking, so for your chickens to benefit fully from its effects, they need to eat raw garlic.
Furthermore, allicin loses its effectiveness only 24 hours after a garlic glove has been crushed or chopped, so the chickens need to consume it quite quickly after it has been fed to them.
The problem is, chickens that are unaccustomed to the taste of garlic are unlikely to simply start pecking at raw cloves of garlic that are handed to them, so you’ll need to come up with other solutions to make sure your birds are getting their fix.
Here are a couple of ideas you can try.
1. Cut it up and add it to their feed or treats
If you already have chickens but have only just heard about the miracles that garlic can work, the best option is to add some chopped-up garlic to their regular feed or mix it in with their other treats such as vegetables.
This way, you can start with just a little and slowly increase the dose so they gradually become more accustomed to the taste.
With this method, you may eventually be able to get them to peck at a clove of garlic by themselves – but if not, you can simply continue slipping it into their food.
2. Give them garlic water to drink
Another option is to give them garlic water to drink.
By crushing up garlic and adding it to their water, the chickens that drink it will receive the same benefits as if they were eating garlic because the allicin will be diffused in the water.
About one clove per four gallons of water is about right, but if they refuse to drink it, you can start with less and build up the dose.
Also, there should always be another water option for them to drink without garlic in it because some might refuse to drink the garlic water altogether, and you don’t want them to become dehydrated.
Also, remember to change the water and the garlic every 48 hours – and every 24 hours during the hottest summer months – to stop the garlic and water going bad.
3. Give it to them when they are young
Perhaps the best option of all, if you raise your own chicks, is to get them used to eating garlic from when they are young.
Either way, by introducing them to garlic early, they will be much more likely to accept garlic when they are fully grown, and you won’t have to go to such great lengths to get them to eat it.
What about garlic powder?
Although we’ve said that the best garlic is fresh raw garlic, even garlic powder in chickens’ feed has been shown to produce noticeable results, including increased egg production, weight gain, lower yolk cholesterol and higher egg white quality.
To achieve these kinds of results, you only need to add 1% of garlic powder to your chickens’ feed, and you can make garlic powder by finely slicing garlic and then roasting it at a low heat for two hours. You can then grind it up into a powder when it’s done.
It might not have quite the same magical properties as raw garlic – but it’s better than nothing!
Garlic in moderation is a potent health treatment for chickens
Although you shouldn’t overdo it – because too much garlic can upset your chickens’ digestive systems – adding a moderate amount to their feed can have a powerful effect on chickens, boosting their health in a wide range of ways.