This malabsorption then causes thick, sticky droppings that create other health hazards by increasing the moisture content of litter. Wet litter poses risks to respiratory health, foot pad health, and fosters an environment ripe for pathogen growth. This thickened digesta has also been shown cause necrotic enteritis, (aka: rot gut. See photos above.) a bacterial condition that destroys the chicken’s intestinal wall.2 Even in relatively small amounts, the effects of beta glucan can range from a mild reduction in egg laying to death.3
WINTER MYTH BUSTING Q&A WITH DR. BIGGS
Q: Does adding cinnamon or cayenne pepper to oatmeal or chicken feed contribute to the respiratory health, circulation, blood flow or mucous membrane health of a hen?
Dr. Biggs: No. There has been some research done on the concentrated oils of certain herbs to commercial poultry that live in different environments than the average backyard chicken. Feed additive companies take cinnamon, oregano, cayenne pepper, and several other herbs and remove the oils from them. Since those oils degrade pretty quickly when exposed to oxygen, the concentrated oils are then applied to feed in a specific way that keeps them from volatilizing. The result of commercial chickens eating this feed is a change in the microbial population of their digestive tract, which allows good bacteria to grow while killing bad bacteria. Feeding your chickens the same herbs or spices that you season your food with has no positive effect on your hens’ health. I am not aware of any study evaluating the impact of any herb and its direct effect on respiratory health, circulation, blood flow, mucus membranes, etc. Studies in this area pertaining to human anatomy and health do not apply to chickens.
Q: Does cayenne pepper help prevent frostbite in chickens by improving digestion and circulatory health?
Dr. Biggs: No.Providing your birds with a dry shelter that is free from wind and drafts is the best way to keep your chickens from getting frostbite.
Q: Does cinnamon improve the respiratory health of chickens?
Dr. Biggs: No. Management practices that include good biosecurity, a clean coop, a nutritionally complete diet, clean water, and limiting the amount of respirable dust that the birds breathe keeps a chicken’s respiratory system healthy.
Q: Does a warm breakfast help warm a chicken in cold weather
Dr. Biggs: No. A chicken has a body temperature about 10 degrees warmer than humans and a coat of feathers for insulation that offers approximately 22 times more insulation than skin and muscle for the same thickness because they trap air.4 In cold weather, keep hens healthy and comfortable by providing them with a dry living space out of the wind with access to a complete feed and clean drinking water.