Despite being an essential component of blood and other biological fluids, salt (sodium and chloride) is only needed in very small amounts.
All the salt a chicken requires is present in commercial chicken feed. However, chickens raised on pasture who eat mostly vegetables and grain might need a salt supplement.
Loose salt (not rock salt) should always be offered in a separate feeder for pastured chickens. Iodized salt is appropriate, but kelp or a trace mineral salt mix can give your chickens many other essential minerals in addition to salt.
Chicks lacking in salt develop slowly and have brittle bones.
A chronic salt deficiency causes the body to shut down completely, which ultimately leads to shock and death.
Hens lacking in salt experience a considerable decrease in egg production, lay smaller eggs, will lose weight, and might become cannibalistic.
Salt poisoning is more likely than a salt deficiency.
A large amount of salt can be hazardous for chickens because they require relatively little salt. A lethal dose of salt for a 5 lb chicken is only around 1.5 teaspoons of salt.
Poisoning can occur when a flock:
- has only salty water as a source of drinking water.
- eat rock salts being used to de-ice the ground.
- eat a salt supplement meant for other livestock.
- eat protein supplements that are heavily salted and mixed with regular salt-fortified chicken feed. (like fish meal, whey, and sunflower meal).
Chicks are more prone to salt toxicity than older chickens.
Water & Salt Poisoning
Even a typical amount of salt in chicken feed might be poisonous to chickens who do not always have access to water.
Make sure the chickens never run out of water during warm weather when they require more water than usual. Also, make sure to provide unfrozen drinking water during the winter.
Signs of Salt Poisoning
Sings of salt Poisoning included:
- Increased thirst
- Increased urination
- Loose droppings
- Weak muscles