Feeding your chickens scratch grain? Listen in as Twain Lockhart, Nutrena’s Poultry Expert, explains what scratch is, and some tips on best practices for feeding to your chickens.
By Jennifer Murtoff, Home to Roost LLC
Sometimes your coop can get a little smelly, which can be a little embarrassing. What’s the scoop on coop odors, and how can you help your hens live their best lives by reducing odors in their home?
Causes of Coop Odors
Although chicken poop can be stinky, the most likely culprit for coop odors is the colorless gas ammonia. A combination of hydrogen and nitrogen, ammonia has a sharp, pungent smell, similar to vinegar.
Chickens that are exposed to this gas can develop permanent damage to lungs and eyes and will avoid the coop if levels are too high. Ammonia can cause damage at very low concentrations, which are below the level that the human nose can detect. So, if your coop smells like ammonia, clean it immediately!
Fixing a Stinky Coop
While cleaning is a quick solution, there are several longer-lasting measures you can take to eliminate odors and make your coop a more pleasant place for you and your birds.
A dry coop will lead to happy, healthy hens. Moisture in the coop not only can contribute to ammonia odors, but also lead to conditions that favor parasites and bacteria. To keep moisture low, use the following tips:
- Every few days check for and replace damp bedding.
- If you use the deep litter method, clean out the upper layers several times a year, keeping the lower layer, which contains helpful microbes that break down bedding and waste.
- Repair any leaks in the roof of your coop immediately.
- Turn the litter if your chickens don’t do so on their own.
- Add high-carbon materials that don’t pack easily (e.g., kiln-dried wood shavings), ground dolomitic limestone, or products containing zeolite.
- Provide good ventilation. An air-tight coop might sound like a good idea, but air circulation will help dry out litter and prevent odors.
Choose Feed Wisely
Your choice of feed can also reduce coop odors. Odor can be caused by waste protein from undigested feed. You can combat these smells by choosing feeds with the following plant extracts and essential oils:
- Saponins: Additives called saponins, which include yucca, reduce ammonia production in a chicken’s body. As a result, they can increase the bird’s nutrient absorption and reduce the amount of proteins your chickens excrete.
- Phytogens: Yucca is also a phytogen, one of a number of plant-based compounds that are increasingly being used in animal feeds. Other phytogens include essential oils, herbs, and spices. These compounds work with yucca to reduce waste protein by increasing digestibility, balancing gut microflora, and reducing gut inflammation, again contributing to better use of feed.
- Proteins: You can also choose feeds that are more easily digestible, such as processed feeds available in pellets or crumbles, rather than whole grains blends. Feeds that are lower in crude protein can also help reduce odors; however, remember that your laying hens need 16% crude protein to stay healthy.
Choose NatureWise to Help Combat Coop Odors!
Nutrena NatureWise feeds can be part of your efforts to combat coop odors. NatureWise uses all-natural ingredients: essential oils, spices, bitter substances, and saponins that
- support healthy enzyme production,
- promote crude protein and nutrient absorption, and
- aid in the control of ammonia odor.
Remember that if you make a change to a new feed, switch slowly from your current feed to ease the transition, and help your birds feel more comfortable with the change.
Wondering why your chickens are picking each other’s feathers? There are several things that can cause feather picking. Twain Lockhart, Nutrena’s Poultry Expert details the top reasons in the short video.
Looking to learn how to help your chickens through molt, an annual event, listen in as Nutrena Poultry Expert Twain Lockhart explains what molt is and how to help your hens through this lifecycle and back to laying eggs.
Let’s bust some myths on meat birds also called meat chickens. What are meat birds? How do you feed meat birds? In this video Twain Lockhart, Nutrena’s Poultry Expert will debunk the top 3 meat bird myths.
Jennifer Murtoff, Home to Roost LLC
You may have seen the words amino acids on labels of human dietary supplements that claim to build healthy muscle, lower blood sugar, or improve skin condition. What are amino acids, and why are they also important for your chickens?
What are Amino Acids?
You may remember from science class that amino acids are the building blocks of proteins. They consist of about 20 different organic compounds that combine in chains to form complex proteins. These proteins, in turn, perform essential roles in living things. They form the cells of our bodies, transport materials to and from cells, help us move, protect us from disease, and determine the activity of our genes. Proteins and amino acids are essential to life itself.
There are two kinds of amino acids:
- Nonessential amino acids are produced by the body and do not need to be part of the diet.
- Essential amino acids, however, cannot be made by the body and have to come from food. These amino acids include histidine, isoleucine, leucine, lysine, methionine, phenylalanine, threonine, tryptophan, and valine.
Of the essential amino acids, lysine and methionine play a vital role in feather growth. We’ll be looking at those in detail later.
Importance of Amino Acids During Molt
Chickens will generally begin to molt, or lose and regrow their feathers, in the fall. This is a natural process that begins after a chicken reaches the age of about 18 months. Old feathers drop out, new feathers grow in, and the whole process usually takes anywhere from 4 weeks to 4 months. Molting allows chickens to replenish worn-out feathers and ensure they have a warm, protective coat before the cold weather comes. During this time, egg laying will slow down or cease altogether.
Chicken feathers are about 85% protein, so chickens need extra protein in their diet during this time to support healthy feather regrowth. Because amino acids are the building blocks of proteins, it is important to ensure your birds receive the right amino acids in their feed.
Amino Acids in Feeds
Your birds need a high-quality diet with sufficient proteins (16% to 18%) and amino acids during molt. During the molt, you should eliminate scratch grains from their diet; this provides primarily calories with limited nutritional value.
The bulk of the necessary amino acids in feeds come from the protein in the feed; however, a quality feed will contain two additional essential amino acids.
- Lysine: The amino acid lysine is vital for overall growth, optimal digestion and use of feed, and balanced nutrition.
- Methionine: Methionine is necessary for the development of the digestive tract, overall growth, feather development, and immune system performance.
NOTE: It is possible to have too much lysine/methionine in poultry diets, which leads the birds to eat less. Choose a commercial feed that is balanced to meet your flock’s needs.
Healthy Skin Helps Feather Regrowth
The health of a chicken’s skin also affects feather regrowth. Feather Fixer provides a combination of increased protein and fat levels along with chelated trace minerals to keep the skin healthy.
As soon as your birds show signs of molting, switch them to a commercial feed like Naturewise® Feather Fixer, formulated specifically for feather regrowth, to ensure they receive the amino acids and other nutrients they need to support healthy feather regrowth and get them back to laying.
As you consider your feed choices, think about amino acids and the needs of your birds. Naturewise® Layer and Feather Fixer provide all the nutrients your chickens require to live their best lives with optimal health, whether or not they are molting!