Molasses, specifically blackstrap molasses. can be used as an important addition to your chickens' diet. Although too much molasses will cause diarrhea, a small amount can be beneficial to your hens' health. As with most things, moderation is the key.
Too much molasses can cause diarrhea, which can actually be a good thing if you suspect poisoning or an intestinal issue, but in moderation, molasses delivers quite the nutritional punch AND chickens love it.
Blackstrap molasses is is the extremely thick, dark liquid left after the third boiling of cane sugar. The sugar is extracted, leaving the residual molasses which is extremely high in calcium, magnesium and iron, as well as potassium. It aids in building muscles and heart health. Molasses is used as a binder and energy source in many types of livestock feed due to its palatability. So-called 'sweet feeds' for cattle, horses, goats and pigs all contain molasses.
There is a bit of molasses in Thomas Labs Brewer's Yeast & Garlic Powder, a natural pest control product that I mix into our daily layer feed.
Nutri-Drench is an all natural molasses-based, vitamin-rich supplement that helps ailing or weak hens, corrects vitamin deficiencies and boosts immune systems. I consider it a must for any chicken first aid kit since chickens love the taste of it, so even an ailing hen will be tempted to eat a bit of food with Nutri-Drench mixed in.
It's a good idea to keep a bottle of blackstrap molasses on hand. Just in case. In an emergency, it can also be used as a 'laxative flush'. Chickens can contract botulism, a fatal disease caused by eating moldy feed or from mildewed bedding, and die within hours if not treated and the toxins expelled. That is a very real fear of mine since we keep ducks with our chickens and the ducks get the feed wet very quickly. Poultry can also contract intestinal diseases.
A laxative flush can speed recovery in both those cases, as well as in a case of accidental poisoning, by absorbing the toxins and flushing them out of the body. Mixing 1 pint of molasses into a 5-gallon waterer and allowing the stricken hens access for 8 hours is recommended. (Source: The Chicken Encyclopedia by Gail Damerow/Storey Publishing 2012)
Ironically, molasses also helps replace vitamins and minerals lost after a bout of diarrhea. A bit drizzled on a recovering hen's feed will encourage her to eat as well as replenish her deleted energy stores.
Periodically, it can be beneficial to administer a ' cleansing mash' to your flock. It will help cleanse their digestive tracts and intestines, as well as reintroduce good bacteria to their guts.
1 Jar unsweetened apple sauce (8-10 oz.) or several cored apples pureed in a food processor
1 egg yolk
1 teaspoon blackstrap molasses
1/4 Cup plain yogurt
Feed free choice to grown hens.
*Note: Molasses should never be given to baby chicks, only older and laying hens
If you don't already own a copy of The Chicken Encyclopedia by Gail Damerow, pick up a copy soon! More than a reference book, it has health tips, trivia, beautiful photos and drawings. It is our go-to reference for all things chicken.