Backyard chickens are the unsung heroes of all pets.
At Zen Hen we work to make their jobs easier.
Why hens are egg-cellent buddies
As well as serving us the perfect food with their eggs, our hens enrich the garden with nitrogen, keep nasty bugs down, and always make us smile with their little velociraptor personalities.
Yet for all they do for us, aren’t they unsung heroes? Pet owners are used to spoiling our cats, dogs, rats, hamsters, rabbits, aviary birds…
But our chickens? These amazing pets actually provide us with food. It’s quite normal to feed them scraps or let them find their own food, while expecting them to deliver us bountiful and healthy eggs. Is it time to pay it forward to our backyard hens?
Prebiotic-Probiotics (Pre-Pros) are an easy, proven way to deliver health to the pet who makes healthy food for us in return.
In our New Zealand base, Zen Hen team members started acquiring backyard layer hens because we wanted to turn our table scraps into food! We wanted to better control the source of our food and know that our animals were happy and healthy. Through our experimentation, we were surprised to learn that raising your own hens doesn’t always result in a healthier egg. No matter how many nutritious table scraps you give your bird, if their diet is not balanced, neither are their eggs!
With actual evidence of our hens needing more care than we had ever expected, we went about creating a treat for backyard chickens that would enhance our flock’s productivity and health, and result in healthier eggs. And our first trials suggest that we are heading in the right direction.
Healthy microbiome, healthy hen.
The microbiome is a large community of healthy microorganisms that all animals have, helping them to digest food, make key nutrients, and ward off disease. Microorganisms, or microbes, consist of bacteria, fungi and viruses (though viruses are not really “alive” by scientific standards). In humans, there are ten times as many microbes in the body than there are human cells. That’s about 100 trillion microbes to ten trillion human cells in an adult human! But, don’t worry, not all microbes are harmful to their hosts. In fact, the majority of microbes positively impact the well-being of their hosts, or in scientific terms, are ‘non-pathogenic.’ We often fall into the trap of fearing microbes, but, the truth is, without our friendly microbial community, we would be worse off. And so would our chickens.
Some of the bacteria in your chickens’ guts helps them to digest food that otherwise they can’t use and turn into energy – so a healthy microbiome actually helps our hens grow and develop.
The microbiome is also key to a good immune system. Put simply, good bacteria grow in places that otherwise can be colonized by bad bacteria. For example, studies show that the probiotic Lactobacillus can block Salmonella bacteria from making itself at home in chickens’ guts and making them sick.
Zen Hen’s Approach
Given what we know how prebiotics and probiotics work, Zen Hen created a perfectly balanced backyard pre-pro chicken treat that optimizes the microbiome and delivers better eggs to you.
Created using organic prebiotics and probiotics, Zen Hen Probiotic Chicken Treats look like they can enhance egg health, egg production, and the positive fatty acid composition of yolks.
The biggest surprise of our trial so far…
In a beta test with 77 backyard chickens, the Zen Hen team tested a control treat versus our experimental treat.
We were sure that giving our hens better nutrition would support their wellness and ability to lay healthier eggs. But there was a bonus surprise in store, when our beta test moved into fall. The control group experienced the normal drop-off in laying which coincides with fall’s shorter daylight hours and hens starting to molt. Meanwhile, the hens who were eating Zen Hen treats daily delighted their owners by laying for longer than expected. In numbers: the hens being fed as normal began to lay less from day 14 of the 28 day study, and by day 28 only 29% of them were still laying.
In the Zen Hen group, more than three quarters of the chickens were still laying well into the darker days of fall, with only a 23% drop off in egg production.
While this exciting outcome needs to be further researched, it looks like our Zen Hen treats could actually mean your backyard hens’ laying season is longer.
We found that 100% of our experimental treat testers had at least a 20% increase in yolk color richness, and a higher deposition of vitamin precursors in the yolk at day 28, compared to day 0. More than half of the eggs that our treat-fed hens laid showed a greater than 40% increase in yolk richness after 28 days of feeding. This effect was primarily due to the prebiotics.
Within the richer yolks, we also recorded a greater Omega-3 and DHA content. More than 66% of our experimentally-fed birds had a >10% increase in DHA in their yolks after 28 days, while 50% of experimentally-fed eggs had an increase in Omega-3 fatty acids within their yolks.
We love happy hens
So, we know that better managing our hens’ diets means that this most productive of pets can better look after us! We think it’s time we paid it forward and gave our backyard chickens the nutrition they, and we, need.