Grit Blogs > The Daily Commute

Keep Your Chickens Healthy with Hops

By Hank Will, Editor-in-Chief

Tags: chickens, feed, hops, farms,

Hops flowers are full of good bitter stuff.Brewmasters have known about the preservative qualities of hops flowers for centuries and beer drinkers have learned to love the sometimes less than subtle bitter flavors. Now, scientists report that the antimicrobial bitter acids contained in hop flowers might prevent pathogenic bacteria from taking hold in your chickens’ stomachs.

According to a recent ARS report, adding the bitter acid lupulone to the chickens’ drinking water appears to be a viable alternative to lo-level antibiotic doping of their feed. In one study, lupulone therapy was specifically associated with controlling Clostridium

populations in the chickens’ intestinal tracts.

Why is this important? It turns out that chicken guts is one of the primary sources for meat contamination by pathogenic organisms … especially when mechanized evisceration methods are employed. Even if you raise chickens for eggs, or carefully dress your own, I suspect that you can keep your flock a bit healthier by adding some fresh or dried hops to their diet. Why not plant a vine or two this year and give it a try?

Check out the USDA’s ARS website for more information on the antimicrobial characteristics of hops.

Photo courtesy ARS.

Hank Will raises hair sheep, heritage cattle and many varieties of open-pollinated corn with his wife, Karen, on their rural Osage County, Kansas farm. His home life is a perfect complement to his professional life as editor in chief at GRIT and Capper's Farmer magazines. Connect with him on .