Astaxanthin is an antioxidant component from the algae H. pluvialis. It typically provides the red pigmentation in salmon, crabs, and shrimp who feed on this algae in the wild. And it's widely regarded as one of nature's most powerful anti-oxidants with well-documented benefits including:
Protection against oxidation 550 times greater than vitamin E and 6,000 times greater than vitamin C
Preservation of cognitive function
Improvement of skin conditions and overall appearance
Fighting lipid oxidation (giving eggs a longer shelf-life!)
Combating chronic inflammation
Greater exercise endurance
Supporting retinal and vision health
With supplementation, your birds digest most of the algae and benefit greatly from having it in their feed. Dollar for dollar, astaxanthin transferred in the yolks is more efficient than pill supplementation, and 1 tablespoon of Algae produces more yolk astaxanthin than five sockeye salmon filets. It also comes in a more bioavailable (absorbable) form due to the fat and Vitamin E found in eggs. All this being said, it doesn't change yolk taste. Rather it gives yolks a unique rich, red hue:
The fats and Vitamin E in the egg yolks also maintain the stability of astaxanthin when it's cooked:
Is it safe for your birds?
Astaxanthin supplementation has been used in aquaculture without issues for several decades until poultry experimentation. A company in Malaysia, OnZen Eggs, has offered eggs from Astaxanthin-supplemented hens on conventional feed since 2018 without reporting poultry health problems. Furthermore, a study done on astaxanthin transfer from algae to hen shows the increase in nutrition from supplementation without reporting adverse effects: https://lib.dr.iastate.edu/fshn_ag_pubs/13/. So we used this research to calculate the efficiency of feeding it to hens versus pill supplementation.
Anecdotally, we feed our hens an organic soy-free diet and monitor their health closely. Astaxanthin Algae supplementation seemed to give them more vibrant colors and improve their energy. We did not record egg production but speculate it increases as hen health improves. The only strange thing we noticed was redder stool, likely due to us adding more algae than necessary to get some data.
How do you serve it?
Organic Astaxanthin Algae doesn't come in meaningful servings at an affordable price. Due to storage requirements, suppliers typically only handle bulk orders. We've figured out a reasonable amount for your birds and split it into servings.
We've found 1TBSP best serves 6 hens per week. If you have more hens, you don't necessarily need to add more servings though. Each hen will eat less on average, but astaxanthin transfers better when consumed in smaller quantities. If you've got fewer hens, feel free to serve in teaspoons. Or let your hens consume a bit extra without harm.
The algae is heat, light, and oxygen sensitive. So we recommend adding it to feed at least once a week. We also recommend keeping your feed in the shade to help keep it stable. We package it into serving size baggies then vacuum seal them and refrigerate. When unsealed, store the baggies in an airtight container in the back of your fridge. Stored this way we do not expect significant degradation for several months.
FREE Samples We currently have 5 samples (1 TBSP each) we'd like to give out to the community to get some feedback. All we ask is you cover the cost of shipping (which should be less than $4 when using USPS first class mail). To request a sample, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you'd like to go ahead and put money down for a larger order, please preorder from our website: https://astafeed.myshopify.com/pages/astafeed-supplement. We'll go ahead and start fulfilling if we can get 10 pre-orders by mid-February (to avoid holding on to money too long). Currently we can cover shipping for 8 servings at a price of $20. How much you use is completely discretionary though so feel free to spread this out if you like! We hope to lower prices once we've got consistent orders coming...
Great question! We source the Algae from a company based out of California. They've taken the extra steps to provide us with data verifying the purity, astaxanthin concentration, and organic certification of the algae.
One neat thing about feeding the organic algae is the idea behind co-nutritional factors. In the same vein you benefit more from coffee than caffeine pills, there hasn't been much research concluding Astaxanthin is as effective stand-alone. Many supplements add a carrier oil since it's a fat-soluble compound but Astaxanthin in nature typically benefits from Vitamin E as well - no telling what else in algae it depends on.
The reality is humans have only ever gotten Astaxanthin from animal products (primarily aquatic). It's the time tested way to benefit from the compound, and, in all cases, the animals were consuming the whole algae.
So let your flock try some - samples are still available!
Do you happen to know what algae Astaxanthin is found in? Is it a deep ocean algae, or fresh water? I keep ducks, and I wonder if they would naturally be eating it in the wild, since they are waterfowl. It'd be really cool if they did!
The astaxanthin algae Haematococcus Pluvialis is a freshwater algae. While ducks may be getting some directly, they tend to get it indirectly through some of the crustaceans they eat in the wild (like small shrimp). Our ducks feed on crawfish occasionally which are known to consume high quantities of this algae (responsible for their red color).
I think that's really cool! I think supplementing something they'd normally find in nature is a great idea, especially for ducks that do not have access to natural ponds (we can't let our ducks in our pond because the bobcat always eats them when they go near the pond. And I'm sure there's many homesteaders who don't have the land to host a pond).
It seems like supplementing something like this would also be really handy in the winter months when there's a lot less out there for the chickens and ducks to forage and get their own nutrients for.
Have you noticed whether your birds prefer the feed that is supplemented with Astaxanthin over their normal feed?
You're spot on - it gives birds a fantastic carotenoid boost when things are less green outside.
We haven't run any tests to determine bird preference. We see almost all of the algae is gone from the trough when they're out of feed, and they don't seem to throw it elsewhere in the run like they do some of the other feed (although it'd be hard to spot).
Samples are still available! The 1 tbsp dosage is completely discretionary as even 1 tsp will noticeably affect egg color and nutrient density.
Astaxanthin is becoming increasingly common in cosmetics due to its ability to make skin look fantastic. The only issue is, unless certified organic, it may be synthetically produced. The benefit of having whole algae in your food chain is the quality of astaxanthin is guaranteed.