What Your Granny Didn’t Know – Busting Chicken Myths

People often think that because I advocate a return to traditional ways and values that I blindly believe the old ways are always the best ways. This is definitely not true. And some of the ‘old ways’ aren’t even that old! Until the 1970’s they still put radium in things like ear drops and toothpaste. Before that it was in face creams and promoted as a healthy thing to put in your water. Radium!

That’s an extreme example of what is called the Appeal to Tradition Fallacy.

I’d like to bust some of the myths I’ve heard folks tell me before. When talking to local farmers especially it almost always starts with ‘my Granny always did it that way’ or ‘Grandad showed me this trick…’

(Disclaimer: I’m Southern and I love my own Granny so no offense meant by the following post. We’re the first to laugh at ourselves at the White homestead.)

Granny frequently comes up as a muttered rebuttal against information I give out or suggestions I make that are contrary to that dear, wise old woman.

‘Well, it worked for my Granny…’

Sure, it might have worked for her, but was it the best way? The safest way? The least toxic way? I know a lot of folks who don’t seem to care until something bad happens. Take my sister-in-law, for example. She thought my wife and I were cracked for concerning ourselves so much about organic food, GMO’s, and all that other crunchy granola California-people stuff. (Note: We also love Californians. Maybe.)

‘It wouldn’t be on the shelves if it wasn’t safe to eat, you nit-wits!’ (Note: We don’t love nits)

Then she almost killed herself cleaning her bathroom one day. After that we didn’t have to say a thing because she was telling us all about how toxic and dangerous your average household cleaners are to humans and pets.

Or I can tell you how our neighbor found out that the illness her precious purebreed poodle was suffering from was potentially caused by a well-known floor cleaner and she had joined a class action lawsuit against the company that produced it for not putting labels warning of the danger to pets and crawling children.

Before I really get my dander up and start jabbering about GRAS lists and the FDA, I’ll get to the neatly presented chicken myths I hear most often. On the left is things I’ve heard and then on the right (I made a little table for y’all) I bust the myth with modern fact and explain why Granny’s way isn’t the best for this particular case.


‘My grandpappy used to just dunk those chickens in turpentine or gasoline when they had mites and lice. That fixed ‘em right up!’

Yeah, I’ll bet it fixed the chicken right up. I’m sure it did also kill the mites or lice involved. Aside from being a literal walking fire hazard for a few minutes to an hour, dunking chickens in gas or turpentine is toxic to all involved. What you put on your skin gets absorbed so eggs wouldn’t be safe to eat for days. If you’re keen to use petroleum products, try Vasoline instead!

‘My grandma said that you have to have a rooster with the hens to get them to lay.’

Nope. Hens will lay all on their own. No rooster needed unless you want baby chicks. Even I used to think that roosters stimulated hens to lay more often, but I recently read that it is a myth. After doing some numbers on my own coops and compared rooster to rooster-free ones, I discovered it really is a myth. Which is a good thing for folks considering urban coops where roosters are usually forbidden.

‘Granny fed ‘em dog food. It always worked for her. We ate those eggs and we were fine! Don’t need no stuck up, city-folk… mumble-mumble…’

Dog food is not something chickens should eat on a regular basis as it is not formulated for a chicken’s nutritional needs and can make them ill after a while. I wouldn’t worry if the chickens get a few bites of your dog’s kibbles, but don’t actively feed it to your chickens. Aside from that, processed pet food is awful for just about anyone’s health. Would you really want to eat eggs from chickens who eat dog food? Most of it is made in China, where health standards are very low and a lot of profit is made by greased palms who look the other way. Anyone remember the scandal where melamine was found in dog food and baby formula?

‘We’ll just use the chicken poop straight from the chicken. Worked great for my PawPaw.’

I doubt it. I think PawPaw probably aged his chicken poop on a compost heap first before using it in the garden. Otherwise, it would burn all the plants up and he’d have a brown veggie patch.

‘We always used a light to keep chickens laying all year long. Never had any problems when I was growing up so we still do it now. The chickens are just fine.’

This one is kind of a personal bone with me. Again, I don’t believe that tradition is always right, but nature usually is (not all the time, but that’s Natural Fallacy and we can talk about later). This is sort of a reverse example of Granny’s wisdom because if Granny had been around 120 years ago she wouldn’t have even had lights. Whereas most Grannies were born in the 40’s or 50’s and post-post-industrialization. Using lights goes way against nature. With chickens I believe the hens involved will have a shorter life, but I don’t have hard evidence on that one yet. I do know that most factory farms run through a hen as hard as they can, don’t let them molt sometimes, and perhaps this is why using lights bothers me so much. Just like keeping bees awake 24/7 with lights so they can keep producing, it’s plain wrong. Humans should be the keepers and caretakers of animals. Forcing production is not caring for our animal brethren. Every farmer has to make a personal decision about this. I strongly recommend a lot of research if you choose to use lights with your hens.

‘My granny always bought the brown eggs from the store. Said they were healthier. So I reckon I should get a brown egg layer!’

Nope, sorry. No difference between brown and white or any other color eggs.

‘Eggs are bad for you. Everyone knows they’re full of cholesterol!’

Even our own wonderful USDA has finally twigged to the fact that food sources of cholesterol do not raise blood cholesterol levels. Like much of dear Granny’s wisdom, it’s 1950’s science for a 21st century world. Even most doctors are estimated to be 17 years behind on current science discoveries.



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