This summer, I started experimenting a lot more with drying my own herbs, making teas, and using essential oils in my diffuser.
Sometimes, it can be tough to immediately notice the effects of consuming a particular herb, regardless of whether you’re using a diffuser, drinking tea, or partaking in herbal remedies in some other way. But I find that the time I spend drying and processing my herbs is time well spent – it’s relaxing and I really enjoy growing these plants too.
It made me wonder – would some of our other animals benefit from these powerful plants? In the past, we have used garlic on the farm for a variety of purposes. It’s a great natural dewormer plus it can help ward off a variety of other diseases, too.
Herbs offer a ton of health benefits to your flock of backyard chickens. In addition, they can save you money, keep your coop clean and free of flies, and accomplish many more tasks.
Here’s everything you need to know about feeding herbs to your chickens.
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Why Should You Feed Your Chicken Herbs?
You probably already use a wide variety of herbs in your cooking. But do you know why you do this> Sure, they make your food taste better – but they also help to improve your overall health.
Similarly, herbs can really help to boost the health of your chickens. Many have immune-improving qualities while others help keep lice and parasites at bay. All culinary herbs are safe to use around chickens, and there are many wild herbs and plants you can give to your bird, too.
If you can save money on medications, chicken food, and other supplies, that’s a win-win. Plus, many of these herbs help stimulate appetite and improve digestion. What’s not to love?
Gives Your Chicken Something to Do
If you have chickens that suffer from frequent infighting or pecking order squabbles, adding some herbs to the run or coop might be a good idea. By giving your chickens the opportunity to scratch around and forage for herb treats, you’ll entertain them and reduce the likelihood that your birds injure each other. A busy chicken is a happy chicken!
The 50 Best Herbs (and Herb-Like Plants) to Feed Your Chicken
- Anise: Anise helps to prevent disease and most parasites.
- Basil: Not just for your spaghetti sauce. It has antibacterial properties and can repel flies and mosquitoes – plus it improves the mucous membrane health of your birds for greater overall immunity.
- Bay Leaves: Bay leaves are good immune system boosters, plus they are great insect repellents, antioxidants, and antiseptics.
- Bee Balm: Bee balm, also known as bergamot, has antiseptic, calming, antibacterial, and respiratory benefits.
- Borage: Borage is high in calcium, plus it contains nutrients your chickens need like niacin and beta carotene. It is calming and can improve mucous membrane health and cardiovascular health, too.
- Calendula: If your chicken is suffering from any kind of injury, calendula can help to promote healing.
- Catnip: Catnip isn’t just for cats! It also works on chickens, possessing sedative properties. It can also repel insects.
- Cayenne: Cayenne is another great circulatory aid and antiseptic herb. It can also stimulate your chickens’ appetite and encourage digestion.
- Chamomile: Chamomile is just as relaxing for your chickens as it is for you! Plus, it can kill lice and mites, keep fleas away, serve as an antibiotic, and even act as an anti-inflammatory and detoxifying agent.
- Chervil: Chervil is another good healing agent and is thought to prevent illness and bruises. It’s incredibly high in vitamins in minerals and can help prevent inflammation and overall disease.
- Chickweed: This plant is a great natural pain reliever and is also high in vitamins and minerals.
- Chives: Chives smell great and can help keep pests out of the coop. Plus, they can encourage your chickens to eat and are a great source of dietary iron.
- Cilantro: Cilantro is high in vitamins A and K, meaning it can improve blood clotting and help build strong bones. It’s also a natural antioxidant and fungicide.
- Cinnamon: Cinnamon is great for your birds’ respiratory health.
- Clover: You can grow clover as a cover crop or simply allow your birds to forage on wild clover. It is high in protein, minerals, and vitamins.
- Comfrey: This little-known herb is an excellent pain reliever and anti-inflammatory agent. It can help heal wounds and encourage the growth of cartilage, muscle, and bone. It’s also high in protein and vitamin B-12.
- Dandelion: Dandelions aren’t just weeds – they also help to stimulate laying and are great for your birds’ overall health.
- Dill: Dill is a great relaxing herb, helping to stimulate the appetite and digestion and also serving as an all-purpose antioxidant.
- Echinacea: Echinacea is a great antibacterial agent and can help improve the overall immune system as well as respiratory health.
- Fennel: Fennel helps to repel insects and encourage lying.
- Garlic: My favorite herb of them all, garlic helps anti-oxidize, stimulate appetite, relieve stress, and prevent parasites.
- Ginger: Ginger is a great stress reliever and can also stimulate your birds’ appetite. It can also help with digestive health.
- Goldenseal: Goldenseal is an antibacterial and anti-inflammatory herb that is beneficial when to come to treating wounds and other injuries.
- Hyssop: Hyssop helps to heal wounds, detoxify, and improve circulation.
- Lavender: Lavender is the perfect calming herb, helping to relieve stress and improve blood circulation. Plus, it will keep insects out of your coop and help it smells absolutely fantastic.
- Lemon Balm: Lemon balm is another good stress relieving herb, possessing powerful antibacterial and calming properties as well as the ability to keep insects and rodents out of the coop.
- Lemon Verbena: Lemon verbena is a great antiviral herb that also has fly- and pest-repelling benefits.
- Lemon Grass: Not to be confused with the two lemony herbs above, lemon grass, also known as citronella, helps keep flies and mosquitoes at bay.
- Lovage: A lesser-known herb, lovage promotes mucous membrane and respiratory health. It has anti-inflammatory properties and is a good blood detoxifier.
- Marigold: If you’re looking for golden-orange egg yolks whose colors are beyond comparison, look no further than marigold. With marigold, your chickens will have healthy-looking egg yolks along with healthy feet and beaks. Marigold is also a great insect repellent and laying stimulant.
Marjoram: Marjoram is another good laying stimulant. Plus, it serves as a decongestant and can improve the circulatory system of your hens.
- Mint: Mint in any of its forms, from spearmint to peppermint, is beneficial – I’ll tell you about the individual benefits of both below, but in general, what you need to know is that mint can keep pests away and also improve egg production. It can also improve the respiratory and digestive health of your chickens. Not only that, but with mint, your eggs will be larger in quantity, larger in size, and have thicker shells.
- Mugwort: Mugwort can help repel lice, mites, and fleas.
- Nasturtium: Nasturtium is another good laying stimulant, plus it can act as a natural wormer and insect repellent. It also has antibiotic properties.
- Nettles: Contains lots of calcium and protein. Let your chickens nibble on this one wild – if you try to harvest it, you will likely sting yourself.
- Oregano: Who doesn’t love oregano? This herb is a great choice if you want to fight diseases like e-coli, blackhead, infectious bronchitis, coccidia, avian flu, and even salmonella in the flock. It helps strengthen the immune system and provides a variety of other health benefits as well.
- Parsley: Parsley is my all-time favorite herb to eat – I love its distinct flavor, especially on eggs and roasted chicken. It’s high in vitamins A, C, B, and K, as well as calcium and iron. It’s a good laying stimulate and testing helps improve blood vessel development.
- Peppermint: Peppermint is a great insect repellent and also helps to fight parasites.
- Pineapple Sage: Pineapple sage helps improve the nervous system of your chickens. It also smells fantastic!
- Plantain: Not the banana-like version of plantain, but instead the weed-looking one, plantain is a great wild herb to feed your chickens. It has powerful anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, antimicrobial, and antibacterial properties. It can also help fight and prevent infection.
- Purple Deadnettle: Purple deadnettle is completely edible but should be foraged for when it’s mature. Not related to stinging nettle, purple deadnettle has antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, and antifungal properties.
- Raspberry Leaf: Raspberry leaf helps promote a healthy reproductive system in your chickens.
- Rose: Rose, specifically rose petals, not only smell great but are high in vitamin C.
- Rosemary: Rosemary is another good pain reliever. It can help keep pests away and improve respiratory health
- Sage: Sage is believed to help combat salmonella. In addition, it is anti-parasite and a great promoter of overall health – especially when it comes to laying.
- Smartweed: The name of this herb truly says it all – it’s a great option to improve your chickens’ respiratory health. It also has antifungal, antibacterial, and antioxidant properties.
- Spearmint: Spearmint helps improve brain functioning and can also stimulate nerve function. It’s a good antiseptic and insect repellent, too.
- Tarragon: Tarragon is a great appetite stimulant for your flock.
- Thyme: Thyme promotes report health and has great anti-parasitic, antibacterial, and antioxidant properties.
- Wild violet: this plant is a great circulatory aid.
- Yarrow: Yarrow helps to clear the sinuses and respiratory systems of your chickens. Plus, it’s a great stress relieving herb and also has antibacterial properties.
Are There Any Herbs Chicken Should Avoid?
Most of the time, your chickens will do a good job of avoiding foods they know are bad for them. However, you should avoid feeding your chickens mullein, St. John’s Wort rhubarb, and buttercup, all of which can be toxic.
Other Ways to Incorporate Herbs
Many people grow gardens specifically for their chickens. This isn’t for me – we pasture chickens in chicken tractors and just don’t have the space to commit to a separate chicken garden. We do let them in there at the end of the gardening season, however.
That being said, allowing your chickens to forage in your herb garden is a great idea if you want them to snatch up unwanted insects and help keep your soil health. They’ll even till it for you. However, they won’t discriminate, mind you, and they’ll go after pretty much any plant growing there – no holds barred.
So if you aren’t ready to take the leap and unleash the power of the clucker on your garden, there are some other ways you can incorporate herbs, too. Here are some ideas.
- Brew up a chicken herbal tea and pour it in a feeding pan like this.
- Trim some herbs, bundle them, and hang them in the coop.
- Place some sprinkled herbs in the brooder box to keep things smelling fresh.
- Add some herbs to your chickens’ feed.
- Use an herbal spray to repel pests and rodents from the coop.
- Sprinkle herbs in the nest box to encourage and improve egg-laying. Certain herbs like lavender will also relax your chickens and make it easier for them to produce.
- Freeze cooling herbs like mint in ice cubes to help chickens beat the heat.
- Use disease- and parasite- busting herbs like oregano in the dust bath.
- Put immune-boosting herbs like garlic in the water.
- Plant or hang herbs in the chicken run to repel pests.
- Feed additional herbs during the molt to encourage feather regrowth.
Why You Should Start Using Herbs With Your Chickens
Think it will take too much time to add herbs to your chicken coop? Think again. Using herbs is a great way to improve the health of your chickens – your birds will have glossy feathers, healthy eggs, and long lifespans. Not only that, but most herbs can be started from seed for just pennies. Many are perennials, meaning they’ll come back year after year.
Herbs are notoriously easy to grow, too. Most don’t need much water and will do fine on their own. Start with easy herbs, like mint, parsley, oregano, or dill. You can even buy herb mixtures for your nesting boxes and coop, too!
You can grow plenty of edible weeds and herbs for your chickens with minimal expense and effort – all you’ll have to do is harvest them or let your chickens harvest them for you, and you will all reap the benefits.
Do you feed your chickens herbs? Let me know which ones – and how you do it! – in the comments below.
Want to learn more about raising chickens? Be sure to check out these articles!
- How to Butcher Chicken
- How to Keep Predators Away From Your Chicken
- The Best Egg-Laying Chicken Breeds
- The Ultimate Guide to the New Hampshire Chicken Breed
- How You Can Make Money Raising Chicken
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