Garlic, also known as Allium sativum, is a member of the of the amaryllis family (Amaryllidaceae). Garlic is highly famed for its pharmacological substances. The plant has been proven to have healing properties thus farmers are seeking to transfer its medicinal use to live stock, in particular chicken. Farmers from countries such as Indonesia have been adding garlic to chicken feed for decades, if not centuries. The result being increased poultry production; eggs produced are larger and of better quality. Therefore, chickens can eat garlic provided it is within the specified limits.

Garlic Nutrients

The rejection of synthetic antibiotics in poultry feed by most countries has led to the widespread use of garlic as an alternative. Therefore, chickens can eat garlic in order to acquire the necessary properties that would otherwise be provided by synthetic antibiotics. Garlic is regarded as the king of medicinal plants due to its numerous benefits to both animal and human health. It contains compounds with proven antibacterial, antiviral, antiparasitic, antifungal properties and has antihypertensive, hypoglycemic, antithrombotic, antihyperlipidemic, and anti-inflammatory as well as antioxidant agents. Garlic is a rich source of essential nutrients and phytochemicals that can be incorporated in animal feed to promote growth and improve the health of poultry. Despite its numerous benefits, chickens can eat garlic only in limited amounts. Garlic should be approximately 3% to 8% of the overall feed. An overdose can be detrimental to productivity.

Garlic as a growth inducing agent

Farmers are increasingly seeking natural means of enhancing productivity which has resulted in the use of herbs such as garlic. Therefore, chickens can eat mushrooms as it stimulates the appetite and helps promote growth. Garlic contains bioactive compounds such as alliin, dailylsulphide and alicin that have a growth promoting effect in poultry. It has been proven that chickens with a dietary plan that consists of garlic record the highest physiological measurements in terms of body weight, weight gains, feed intake, carcass weight and internal organs. Garlic succeeds in stimulating growth and feed conversion ratio by increasing height of villus of small intestine, hence activating the absorption process. It has been found that long-term inclusion of garlic in broiler diet causes significant improvement in their feed conversion ratio. Furthermore, garlic aids in the enhancement of the digestive system and so optimises the absorption of nutrients. It is also commonly used to reduce fat abundance in chickens.  Fat accumulation is known to drastically reduce the movement of broiler chicken. To control accumulation of fat, chickens can eat garlic; the result is suppressed fat accumulation thus a healthier productive flock. It is however of the utmost importance for farmers to be cautious when adding garlic to chicken feed as high dosages can be detrimental to livestock.

Garlic feed for layer production

Garlic plays a crucial role in the improvement of egg production in hens. Eggs produced by chicken that are fed garlic tend to be larger than those from chickens with a regular diet. This directly translates to higher profit margins as bigger eggs generally cost more. Garlic contains allicin which plays an important role in reducing levels of serum cholesterol and triglyceride in chickens. For this reason, chickens can eat garlic in order to produce eggs with a lower level of cholesterol. With the current world craze of healthier food options, eggs with low cholesterol levels are invaluable thus command slightly higher prices. Chickens can eat garlic of approximately 8% of their overall feed without affecting egg weight, egg mass, feed consumption and feed efficiency in the laying hens. However, note that any amount that exceeds the suggest percentage is considered as an overdose. Over application of garlic in chicken feed can have a negative impact on productivity and possibly the health of chicken.

Garlic as an immune system boosting agent

Antibiotics are currently being used to protect chicken from infectious diseases and boost their immune system. Farmers and consumers alike are however not satisfied with this practice. As a result some farmers have opted to substitute antibiotics with garlic. Garlic can effectively be used as a replacement due to its antibiotic properties, hence chickens can eat garlic. Garlic is high in sulphur which is toxic to the parasites that plague chickens as well as other animals. Garlic extracts have an immunomodulatory effect and lessens the age-related deterioration of the immune response.  In addition, garlic is regarded as a plant that contains antibiotic, anticancer, antioxidant, immunomodulatory, anti-inflammatory, and cardiovascular- protecting effects. These properties have a stimulating effect on the immune system.  It has been proven that providing chickens with garlic extract enhances antibody production against Newcastle disease and infectious bursal disease among others. As such, chicken can eat garlic in order to boost their immune system thus making them resistant to some common infections.

Garlic as an antioxidant

Oxidation is quite common in poultry. This often leads to health deterioration, in turn affecting quality of the meat. As a counter active measure, synthetic antioxidants are commonly being used to improve meat quality. These are however being rejected by consumers in most countries due to their supposed carcinogenic potential as demonstrated by toxicologists. Garlic can therefore be used as an antioxidant. Garlic consists of allicin, ajoene and flavonoid compounds making it a superior source of antioxidant. The antioxidative impact of garlic in meat becomes more authoritative in enhancing quality and improving the storage stability of meat. As such, chickens can eat garlic to prevent the oxidative deterioration.

Agricultural research has proven that garlic is essential in improving the health of poultry as well as productivity. It is highly recommended to add garlic extracts to chicken feed instead of using antibiotics which can be harmful to both human and animal health. Garlic acts a natural feed additive, providing chickens with immune boosting agents thereby allowing them some form of resistance to diseases. In addition, the application of garlic to poultry feed is important in increasing productivity. Chickens that eat garlic tend to weigh and produce more than those deprived of garlic. Farmers should however keep in mind that garlic can be detrimental to productivity if used in excess and so the suggested limited should be strictly followed. None the less, chickens can eat garlic in order to access immune boosting agents that would otherwise be provided by antibiotics.