Flaxseed, also known as linseed, has gained popularity as a food additive because it is rich in alpha linolenic acid, a plant-based omega-3 fatty acid. Because a large portion of the nutritional value of the food chickens eat are transferred to the eggs they lay, flaxseed may seem like an attractive supplement to both commercial ranchers and backyard chicken owners. However, caution must be practiced when adding flaxseed to chicken feed.
Omega-3 Fatty Acid
Omega-3 fatty acids decrease risk of arrhythmias (abnormal heartbeats), which can lead to sudden death, as well as decrease triglyceride levels, slow growth rate of atherosclerotic plaque and lower blood pressure, according to the American Heart Association. Omega-3 fatty acids are an important part of a heart-healthy diet, but outside of eating fish twice a week, it may be difficult to consume the American Heart Associations recommended amount.
Flaxseed is the seed of the flax plant that is grown in the northern United States and southern Canada. These small seeds have either a yellow or brown seed coat that is easily damaged. Flaxseed is high in fiber and becomes extremely sticky when wet. It also contains cyanide, which is released in acidic, moist conditions. However, flaxseed is normally processed with a high-temperature treatment that destroys the enzyme necessary for the release of cyanide, rendering it harmless.
Feed or Supplement
Egg-laying chickens require 17 to 19 percent protein in their feed to stay healthy during high egg production. Although flaxseed has sufficient protein, according to F. H Katzer of the University of California, substituting more the 3 percent of the feed with flaxseed has been met with negative results such as a lack of appropriate weight gain. Therefore, flaxseed is better to be used as a supplement instead of a major food source.
Humans consuming omega-3 fatty acid-rich eggs receive more nutritional benefits from feeding chickens flaxseed than the chickens themselves receive. To increase the omega-3 fatty acids in your hens' eggs, supplement up to 10 percent of the feed with flaxseed. You must add flaxseed daily for at least three weeks before seeing results.
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