~ November 28, 2015 ~




Pumpkins (Cucurbita Family)



Pumpkins hold high nutritional value for our poultry. Although there is a lot of focus on using the pumpkins seeds for the (variable) worming action, the nutritional value of pumpkins should even be more emphasized. It is not only a natural food for poultry, the leaves and vines are edible as well.

The pumpkin meat is cooling and moistening (95% water), and holds medicinal value although less active than the seed. Along with cucurbitan, the seeds are sweet, moist and nutritive. Pumpkin meat contains fiber and protein, with the following vitamins and minerals for poultry.

  • Carotenes - Pumpkins contains high amounts of carotenoids and antioxidant beta carotene, a precursor to Vitamin A. Carotene has been found to boost the immune system function.

  • Vitamin C - Although chickens manufacture their own Vitamin C, this can be helpful during times of high stress when vitamin C can be inhibited in absorption. Extreme heat in the summer can cause internal stress, for example, and pumpkin may be a welcome food additon during the summer.

  • Potassium - This is an important nutrient for egg production and for building healthy shell thickness. It can help boost any general weakness in your poultry.

  • Minerals Iron, Vitamin B6, Magnesium - Although pumpkins hold low sources of these vitamins and minerals, it is good to note they are there!



Growing

When choosing a pumpkin variety, look for one that touts a large amount of seeds. Any type will do, but it's the seeds that hold much of the magic for the purpose of worming. When growing pumpkins, there are a few important points to keep in mind: temperature, space and pollination. Pumpkins adore warm soil and germinate best above seventy degrees. If your growing season is a short one, it might be a good idea to start your seedlings indoors a few weeks before your area's last frost date and transplant outdoors after ALL danger of frost is past. If direct sowing, plant seeds one to two inches deep into fertile soil at ten feet apart or more depending on variety. Don't fuss too much about the position of the seed in the soil... they know which way is up. The seed packets will give specific instructions for the variety you choose. They need full sunlight, meaning at least 6 hours a day.

In general, pumpkins are planted on a mound of dirt with up to 5 seeds per hill and again, this will vary depending on variety. Water gently at first, taking care to not wash the soil away from the seed, and they will sprout in seven to fourteen days. It's a good idea to dig a moat around each hill to retain water. Also, try to water at ground level as opposed to a spray from above. The sandier your soil, the more water the pumpkins will need.

When the plants begin to flower, pay attention to the bees and other pollinators. Pumpkin plants have male and female flowers. The female flowers having a bump behind the blossom. This is a baby pumpkin. They need the pollen from the male flowers for it to develop. If it seems you don't have many bees, it may be helpful to use a small paintbrush to transfer pollen, insuring a good crop.

Days to ripening may vary by as much as a month, so be sure to check the seed packet. A pumpkin is ready to be harvested when it sounds hollow when thumped. The skin will be hard or tough. Push on it with a fingernail and if it leaves a dent but does not puncture, this is a good sign. Another good indicator will be its stem, which will begin to get hard. When cutting the pumpkin from the vine, leaving more stem will help the pumpkin last longer. Of course be sure to save some seeds for next year.

Source:
Fall Season Herbal Wormer & Alterative Backyard Poultry Magazine October/November 2009. Author Susan Burek

Vitamin effects on the immune system: vitamins A and D take centre stage

The Chicken Health Handbook, Author Gail Damerow.





Moonlight Mile Herb Farm 2015 Susan Burek