Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Benefits of Cucumbers for Chickens

I've recently discovered that my chickens absolutely go crazy for cucumbers!  Over the past couple of weeks, I had some over-ripe cucumbers that were not so palatable for human consumption.  I opted to slice them in half lengthwise and feed them to the flock.  This was a quick and easy way to feed them cucumbers, and they pecked the heck out of them, right down to the skin.  They especially seem to like the seeds, but gobbled up the gelatinous and fleshy parts of the cukes as well.

Or of course, you could be eccentric and make them a parsley and cucumber seed salad.  Remember this? 


No?  Remember when I questioned my sanity over creating Chicken Salads?  I've since embraced it entirely. 

Knowing that chickens tend to only eat what they need, and crave (and of course, like the taste of), I was curious as to what was so healthy and special about cucumbers in regards to chicken health.  A google search yielded no results, so I simply googled,  "Health benefits of cucumbers," and found THIS site that listed 10 benefits of cucumbers for people.  

Among the listed benefits were the usual B vitamins, and cancer fighting antioxidants, as well as digestion improving, and hydrating qualities.  If cucumbers relay these health benefits to people, wouldn't chickens benefit from them as well?  

What really interested me though, was mention that cucumbers contain silica, which is known to promote joint health by strengthening connective tissues.  For some reason, this inspired me to search for  the effects of silica on chickens, and egg production.  I didn't find much information, but a couple of tidbits led me to believe that these chickens know what they are doing when they mow down on cucumbers.

THIS source had some good info on the importance of silica on collagen formation, and calcium absorption.  Hmmmm.... what are egg shells mostly comprised of?  That's right, Calcium!  Here's a quote from that article:

"Within bone, silica is the essential component making up the collagen matrix upon which calcium is deposited.  This relationship is so fundamental that it is truly impossible to form bone without both calcium and silica.  In fact, researchers are exploring the possibility that supplementation of silica, rather than calcium may be what is needed for maintaining strong bones."

Another article that I found suggested that Silica is actually a more vital and effective supplement than mineral calcium in the formation of strong bones.  Could it be that the silica in cucumbers contributes to strong eggshells?  Here's a quote that suggests that it does:

"Chickens totally deprived of calcium and silica, produced soft-shelled eggs.  When "mica" was added to their diets, the hens' ability to lay calcium rich, hard-shelled eggs was restored.  Mica contains no calcium; but, it does contain potassium and silica, both of which can be biologically transmutated into calcium."

Interesting!

What do you think?  I think I'll keep feeding cucumber to my fortunate flock.  If nothing else, they love it as a treat- but I'm thinking they just have an innate idea of what they need to consume to be healthy!

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