Lately, it seems that everyone is talking about turmeric. It’s the new “it” spice. Of course, turmeric has been around practically since the beginning of time and is most commonly used to color and flavor curry and mustard, but it also has some wonderful health benefits for both humans and animals.
Turmeric is in the ginger family and the rhizome, aka dried root,is the usable part of the plant. It contains curcumin, which accounts for turmeric’s bright orange-yellow color. Curcumin has been credited with everything from preventing heart attacks to fighting cancer, but as with much herbal and holistic medicine, few actual scientific studies have been done.
A Natural Healer
One thing that seems to be agreed upon, however, is turmeric’s anti-inflammatory properties. Several years ago, when our aging German Shepherd was suffering hip problems common to the breed, our vet, knowing I leaned more towards natural treatments, recommended adding turmeric to her diet as an alternative to the cortisone or steroid shots he normally would give to dogs with joint pain. We started sprinkling some turmeric onto her food and it seemed to reduce the swelling, giving her some relief from the constant pain.
These same anti-inflammatory properties are beneficial to other animals, as well. Chickens and ducks can be prone to leg and foot injuries from hard landings off the roost, as well as bumblefoot, a staph infection that can lead to foot and leg swelling. Turmeric is also thought to aid in the treatment of baby chicks or chickens suffering wry neck, a condition that causes the bird to be unable to hold its head up, by providing Vitamins B and E.
Turmeric also aids in digestion and helps maintain healthy skin, eyes and brain functions. It’s a powerful antioxidant and antiviral, which helps boost the immune system. The National Institute of Health suggests that adding turmeric as a dietary supplement can increase resistance to avian necrotic enteritis.
Applied topically, turmeric is a natural antiseptic, offering antibacterial properties, which also speeds healing and helps repair damaged skin. Making a salve of turmeric and honey—another natural wound healer I always keep in my chicken first-aid kit—could be beneficial when applied to a chicken’s injuries from pecking, a predator attack, a cut or infection.
Despite its many benefits, take care in feeding turmeric to your farm’s poultry. In excessive amounts, it’s a blood thinner and can slow clotting. The recommended daily dosage is 1 teaspoon for every 10 pounds of the animal’s weight. (An average standard-sized, full-grown layer hen weighs approximately 4 to 7 pounds, so 1/3 to 1/2 teaspoon per hen would likely be a safe dose.)
Make a Turmeric Paste
Studies have shown that mixing turmeric with coconut oil and fresh cracked black pepper can help increase the absorption rate of the curcumin. Black pepper contains a compound called piperine, which increases nutrient absorption in general, and the coconut oil coats the turmeric, keeping it from being destroyed as quickly by stomach acids.
Make a paste by whisking the turmeric into some warmed coconut oil. Add in some pepper, and then let it cool. Feed the paste free-choice to your flock. If they aren’t keen on the paste, you can also mix some of it into a pan of warm oatmeal or scrambled eggs to feed as a treat. Alternatively, you can mix some turmeric right into their feed, in a ratio of 0.5 percent turmeric to feed.
The use of turmeric, as with other spices and herbs, has not been extensively studied relating to chickens or other animals, but all signs seem to point to the successful treatment of inflammation, as well as other various health benefits gained by incorporating this spice into your chicken keeping. As with all animal care, consult with your vet before administering any treatment—herbal or otherwise—if you have questions or concerns.
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