Omega 3 Fatty Acids and Chickens
Veterinarians who work with chickens know that the prevalence of cancer in the reproductive tract of a hen is high. Some studies found that about 45% of female chickens develop reproductive tract cancers, usually after a hen is 2 years of age. In the beginning, egg production may not be affected but as time goes on these can be a decline in eggs and worse, cancers can spread to involve other organs. Ultimately, they will take the life of the chicken.
The good news is there may be something you can do about it! In a study where flax seed was supplemented as 10% of the diet over 1 year period of time to hens ranging from 2-2.5 years of age, there was a significant reduction in the severity of ovarian cancer, however, the incidence of this disease remained the same. In a similar study with hens fed flax seed from 6 months until 4 years of age also as 10% of the diet, the severity and incidence of ovarian cancer significantly decreased.
How should you supplement this to your birds? Use either the oil or flax meal. Although you can use the seed, when the seed it ground into a meal more omega-3 fatty acids are released and thus more available for your chicken. There are studies that show there can be a decrease in egg laying with flax seed supplementation but if your goals are healthy hens over eggs then this is a small price to pay. In the studies mentioned above each chicken got 110 grams of food per day, 11 grams of which was flax seed meal. You can purchase ground flax seed at most stores that sell chicken feed.
And, there is one more thing that’s great about giving omega-3 fatty acids to your birds. The omega-3 content of the egg goes up as well! Which means that if you are eating their eggs, you can have the added benefit of high omega-3 fatty acids in your diet. Its great for their health and yours too!