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Chicken Superfoods - Which Ones Work?

Chicken Superfoods - Which Ones Work?

Myth busting: Are chicken superfoods real?

Superfoods aren't just for people. A quick tour of chicken blogs reveal a range of chicken "superfoods" too, from pumpkin seeds and molasses, to homemade chicken feed. These foods are often touted as cure-alls, for everything from worms to deadly coccidiosis.

But are chicken superfoods real? Do they work? And are they worth the extra time and money?

Here is a summary of our findings on 8 of the most common "chicken superfood" claims.

Do pumpkin seeds deworm chickens?

There are some studies that show pumpkin seeds to kill worms. But these aren't necessarily chicken-specific worms and most of the studies are done in a petrie dish, which is totally different to a chicken's gut!

The few studies that tested actual pumpkin seeds, or pumpkin seed meal, in actual animals seemed to suggest that while pumpkin seed may have some preventative effect and reduce worm loads, it is not as effective as a proper chicken dewormer.


Pumpkin seeds are a great chicken treat and may help prevent worms, but a proper dewormer is needed to treat worms in chickens. We recommend deworming chooks twice a year.

Is Apple Cider Vinegar really a cure-all?

Apple Cider Vinegar (ACV) is said to kill worms and parasites, as well as curing all sorts of chicken diseases. Some websites even say that ACV oozes out of a chicken's skin to kill mites.

Some claims about ACV are obviously bogus - for example chickens can't sweat, so there is no chance ACV will ooze out of the skin.

But still more of the proclaimed benefits of ACV are actually true. While ACV won't cure chicken diseases, it does seem to stop them spreading. Adding ACV to your flock's water can prevent the spread of a range of illnesses, including E. coli, salmonella and coccidiosis.

ACV also seems to have a positive effect on chicken digestive function.


For the price, ACV is one of the most effective chicken supplements that you can buy. It might not do everything, but there is enough evidence to suggest that using ACV with your flock is likely to improve their health.

Should you feed chickens molasses?

Molasses is often recommended for chickens because of its nutrient content. It is also recommended as a natural laxative for chickens, to "flush out toxins". 

These claims are absolutely true. Molasses does contain high levels of some essential nutrients. 

And molasses also has a laxative effect on chickens: They will drink more water and have loose droppings. But wet, dirty coops are a key cause of diseases and parasites within the flock. And they are not something you want to clean up regularly, either!

As for "flushing out toxins", the body already does this through natural processes. The laxative effect of molasses is unlikely to have any benefit unless your chickens have actually eaten something toxic. And even then, you would probably be better off seeing a vet than trying to flush out the toxin with molasses.


There are better nutrient supplements for chickens available, without the laxative effect. 

Is homemade chicken feed better?

Many blogs claim that homemade chicken feed is better for your chickens' health, as well as cheaper. But in reality, making your own chicken feed can be downright dangerous for your chickens' health. 

Chickens need optimum nutrition for health and productivity. That is why commercial chicken feed is so carefully balanced. 

Unless it is carefully balanced for optimum nutrition, homemade feed decreases productivity and leads to deficiencies. Some feed recipes can also have a negative effect on a chicken's gut, leading to illness and even death!


Homemade chicken feed can be downright dangerous for chickens unless carefully balanced.

Can you feed chickens egg shells for calcium?

Egg shells are often recommended for chickens as a source of calcium. And it's true, egg shells are rich in calcium.

However, just egg shells will not provide enough calcium for a laying hen. Not only is some calcium lost in the process of digesting the egg shell, but chickens also need larger particle calcium such as that found in shell grit.


Chickens must be provided with a proper shell grit. Feed your chooks egg shells if you like, but only as an addition to shell grit.

Egg shells should always come from your own flock, as they can carry disease. They should be crushed and fed in a separate dish to other foods or supplements.

Does cracked corn warm chickens up?

There are lots of claims about cracked corn. Some sources recommend it as an essential part of a chicken's diet. Other sources say it warms chickens up, so should be fed in winter but is dangerous in summer. What is the truth?

To start with, cracked corn absolutely is not a balanced diet for chickens. It is fine as a treat, in small amounts, but should never be used as the only food.

With regard to body temperature, some studies do suggest that cracked corn can increase metabolic heat when it is in large pieces. But there is nothing to suggest this is detrimental, even in summer.


Cracked corn is fine as a treat, but not as the main part of a chickens diet. Any effect on body temperature is the same as with any whole grain. Any "warmth benefit" in winter is negligible and there is no risk of overheating.

Are insects the best chicken treat?

Insects are a natural part of a chickens diet and a healthy treat. But insects can also carry parasites and diseases, some of which can be transmitted to chickens. So are they worth the risk?

Commercially raised insects like Dried Mealworms and Dried Black Soldier Fly Larvae are disease- and parasite-free. They are safe for your chickens and contain all of the nutritional benefits of insects, including essential amino acids.

When it comes to live insects, things are a little more complicated. Slugs, snails and earthworms are particularly likely to carry parasites and diseases. But is it worth denying your flock the benefits of free-ranging? We don't think so!


Insects are a healthy treat for chickens, and chooks love them! If you are worried about disease, feed your chickens Dried Mealworms!

Does scratch grain really improve digestion?

Scratch grain is an oft-recommended feed for chickens. As well as being cheap and looking appealing, it is said to improve chicken digestion.

While scratch grain absolutely is not a healthy feed for chickens, it is a healthy treat when fed in small amounts. And studies do suggest that feeding your chickens small amounts of whole grains each day will improve digestive function over time.


Scratch grain should never be used as the sole feed for chickens. But as a treat, it is healthy. And the regular feeding of small amounts of whole grains, like those found in scratch mix, does seem to improve chicken digestive function.

A note on responsible chicken keeping

While some superfoods do seem to do what is claimed, a home remedy is never a replacement for proper medical treatment and the best possible diet for chickens is a complete layer pellet or mash. 

While giving your chickens treats and "superfoods" with additional benefits is great, never underestimate the importance of a good vet and a good diet in keeping your chickens healthy, happy and productive!

Happy Chicken Keeping

Rachael at Dine a Chook Australia