herbal medicine and animals self medicating

Discussion in 'Feeding & Watering Your Flock' started by annagoodspeed, May 20, 2017.

  1. annagoodspeed

    annagoodspeed Out Of The Brooder

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    Just read this article about animals being observed eating medicinal plants when under parasite loads. Absolutely fascinating! It makes the argument for as much diversity as possible to be made to animals so they can choose medicinal when needed.

    https://www.nytimes.com/2017/05/18/magazine/the-self-medicating-animal.html?_r=0


    “There’s a learning process that needs to take place in order for them to develop a preference for foods that contain those medicines,” Villalba says. Tellingly, the sheep chose the medicated food only when they required it. When Villalba dewormed the infected animals, even those that had previously medicated themselves successfully avoided the bitter-tasting fare. They sensed that they didn’t need to self-treat. Villalba has also found that lambs and ewes learn about medicinal foods faster when they’re together (rather than alone), as if primed for a transfer of medicinal knowledge. This could explain how, once acquired, medicinal understanding is maintained in groups of animals.

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    Credit Illustration by Kelsey Dake
    The abiding question — the greatest puzzle of all, really — is how animals first learn which plants are medicinal. Villalba has observed that lambs infected with parasites are more likely to try new plants when grazing in an open pasture compared to uninfected lambs. They lose some of what scientists call food “neophobia,” the fear of new flavors, and their greater willingness to explore the surrounding foodscape may increase the odds of a medicinal discovery.
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  2. centrarchid

    centrarchid Chicken Obsessed

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    That is part of the reason I allow / promote a diverse assemblage of plants in my pasture. Even the yard does not have the well manicured look. I do not think the chickens pass information down via culture.
     
  3. annagoodspeed

    annagoodspeed Out Of The Brooder

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    Yes, I am wondering a lot about that transmission aspect.
    That part about lambs trying more plants is intriguing, but I would think one would need a steady setup of home raised broody hens, who were raised by the previous broody, who could pass any accumulated knowledge about that specific yard to that season's chicks.

    For me this brings up the larger idea of choice feeding, not having everything mixed together where they are getting the same thing all the time including medicinals, like garlic or oregano, things that affect the feed taste so much they eat less, and that they don't need all the time.

    I like the idea of choice feeding until I imagine a bowl full of protein, say mealworms, and then the idea of them making rational choices goes out the window...
     
  4. centrarchid

    centrarchid Chicken Obsessed

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    I do the multiple generation broody thing and most years have several broody hens with broods in parallel for much of the growing season. Also play around with meal worms a bit.

    If you provide free-choice access to meal worms, then you will find they will develop interest in other food items even when meal worms present. Problem is they eat a lot of meal worms ($$$) before they are compelled to go after other items.

    My feeding stations often have only one type of item in each. BOSS, shell corn, oats, or milo. Also have some complete feed out. The do have inclinations that vary as a function of what forage has to offer.
     
  5. annagoodspeed

    annagoodspeed Out Of The Brooder

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    I am growing chicken habitat/orchard areas in the yard where I can introduce more medicinals to the existing native meadow herbs (lots of yarrow at least!) I find that the seed garlic produces grows pretty readily and can spread itself around, just gathering seeds and strewing them as they ripen from the garden herbs like oregano, also allheal, aka prunella vulgaris, a common meadow herb with antiviral properties, would be easy.
    I am not seeing anything besides cucurbit seeds and garlic cited as antiparasitic, does anyone know of others?

    Centrachid, I looked to see if there were existing threads exploring the choice feeding ideas you mentioned and didn't see one...? I am really interested in setting this up, personally I like the some of the 'paleo' ideas in diet in general, and was caught by something Resolution mentioned in an old thread about the downside of feeding legumes with their estrogenic properties to primitive breeds. Do you have a thread I missed that I can revive about this subject?
     
  6. centrarchid

    centrarchid Chicken Obsessed

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    Threads I have initiated that are pertanent have titles that are hard to search. One deals with a "front porch flock" and another with "investing more in American Dominiques". Since change it has become difficult to find even my own threads. Forget pictures.

    Other threads deal with winter care where birds free-range over snow. My birds fly a lot so that is taken advantage of. Somewhere I have detailed observations of chicken foraging activity over a 24 hour period. My pet games literally allowed me to walk within harem for extended periods. That allowed very close observations of what was actually being consumed. Greens figured much higher proportion than most people realize, even during winter.
     
  7. annagoodspeed

    annagoodspeed Out Of The Brooder

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    Thanks, I will look them up!
    Regarding the greens, did you notice preferences for specific species? It is interesting to see the protein levels for various kinds, nettles at 25% dried weight for example.
    I have a loft where I can toss 'weeds' to dry and use during the winter. I am thinking I should maybe separate these into piles by species so that they can pick and choose. Lots of dandelions so far! Last winter I was adding dried nettles to their fermented feed and they seemed fine with that. I am a big fan of them, very mild flavor, definitely prolific and easy to harvest if properly clothed haha.
     
  8. centrarchid

    centrarchid Chicken Obsessed

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    Observation. Free-range hen with access to more than 30 species of herbaceous plants delays bulk of feeding till after 1500. Targets growing tips and consumes only a little of each plant. Forbs, particularly legumes consumed most.
     
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  9. annagoodspeed

    annagoodspeed Out Of The Brooder

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    Ugh! Hate it when I have a long composed reply vanish.

    I have seen the chicks eating yarrow two different times. I would think would be too strong for them. It is a good medicinal for bacterias and wound healing.
    Nice to think of such a diverse assortment you have, over thirty species,for them to choose from.
    I am loving the permaculture approach....observe nature and imitate.
     
  10. Kyanite

    Kyanite Loving Life! Premium Member

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    This thread is absolutely fascinating! And right up my alley. I notice my hens going after nettle when it's young. In early spring, they were after earthworms like crazy, but now seem to be more interested in greens.
     

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