There are many benefits of growing herbs for chickens. The right types of herbs can be a healthy and nutritious addition to their diets. It is best to incorporate some plants where they roam. Most herbs are quite low maintenance and grow easily either under full sun or partial shade.
A good way of growing herbs for chickens is to make a raised bed (between 4-6 inches in height) with a top made of hardware cloth. Plants will reach the top and the chickens will peck at them but they won’t be able to tear out the roots.
How to Use Herbs FOr Chickens
Fresh or dried herbs can be added into the nesting boxes, chicken feed or simply letting them pick what they feel like eating. You will soon realize they love munching on fresh herbs! Other times they may not like fresh herbs, but enjoy the dried and crushed versions. Cut herbs from your garden, dry them, then crush them and stored them in sealed jars. Another option is to brew tea and place them in their water bowls.
Healthy chickens may need herbs to boost their immune system and promote overall health. For this purpose it is best to let them eat at will, otherwise to give them herbs periodically. Some herbs are quite potent (ginger, black pepper, cayenne pepper, garlic, for example) and can cause adverse effects if given in large doses.
Mix herbs such as oregano, sage, dill, basil, marjoram and marigold (not a herb) for a health booster. Other herbs for chickens such as parsley, sage, lemon balm and marjoram can encourage them to lay eggs and provides vitamins.
A combination of lavender (see flowers that are beneficial for chickens) and mint in a tea with with witch hazel serves as a good fly repellent. You can also make a herbal coop spray to keep the coop clean since most herbs have antiseptic and antimicrobial components. Pick 2-3 herbs from this article and add 2-3 lemon or orange peels, 1 1/2 cups of vodka, and 1 1/2 cups of white vinegar. Place in a glass jar for 2-4 weeks, then strain and use on all surfaces.
Herbs placed in nesting boxes should be changed frequently (every other day) so they don’t mold or breed pathogens. This is specially true if you use fresh herbs.
What Herbs for Chickens are Beneficial
As a general rule of thumb herbs can be divided in five groups, although some herbs for chickens can provide multiple benefits.
- General Health: sage / pineapple sage, spearmint, tarragon, cilantro, comfrey
- Respiratory Health: thyme, dill, bee balm, basil
- Laying Stimulants: parsley, marjoram, nasturtium, fennel
- Natural Antibiotic: oregano, garlic
- Insect Repelling: lavender, mint, chamomile, lemon balm, rosemary
Read my article on What Plants and Herbs Produce Orange Chicken Egg Yolks.
Stay clear of honeysuckle, eucalyptus, tansy, pennyroyal, vetch, aloe vera, foxglove, henbane, and castor bean.
Farmers who prefer a natural approach to antibiotics can plant oregano. Studies show this herb is far more potent than pharmaceutical antibiotics. Feeding it to chicken can help combat avian flu, coccidiosis, e.coli and salmonella. Some herbs for chickens (like oregano) help strengthen their immune system. It can be added to the feed daily in both fresh or dried form. Laying chickens can benefit from having some oregano in their nesting box. Add some fresh leaves to deter pathogens and keep the area clean. Chickens like the smell which gives them a boost and stimulates egg laying.
Garlic serves as an immune booster for your chickens protecting against viruses and killing harmful bacteria. Its antibacterial support helps prevent illness and treats them as well. As an anti-fungal it can get rid of the fungi that affects the health of your chickens. If you notice that your chicken are ill you can add minced garlic to their water or feed, otherwise once a week is enough.
Mint can grow pretty wild so plant it directly on the soil only if you plan to have your chickens eat it at will. Otherwise it is best to plant this herb in a container. Mint naturally lowers chicken’s body temperatures during the summer (you can give them mint frozen in ice cubes). This is one of those herbs for chickens that is very useful in nesting boxes since it helps repel bugs and mice. It also calms laying hens and helps them product thicker and larger eggs.
This is one of those herbs for chickens that can act as a laying stimulant. Add it to their nesting boxes or include it in their daily feed. It will help them lay eggs and correct weak eggshell problems. Add it to the water to improve blood circulation or breathing issues since it is a decongestant. Marjoram is part of the mint family and is frequently used in Ayurvedic medicine to help with several human ailments.
As you can imagine, bee balm attracts bees to your garden. However, this is one of those herbs for chickens can help them improve their digestive track and respiration. Place petals on nesting boxes to calm laying hens. Bee balm is also an antibacterial and antiseptic agent that creates a healthier environment to lay or hatch.
Adding lemon balm to nesting boxes repels rodents and other annoying insects due to its strong smell. It will also calm down laying hens since it has stress relieving properties. This calming herb treats depression, anxiety, insomnia and more. It is also anti-inflammatory which means it helps relieve stomach discomforts.
Just like mint, thyme is a natural insect repellent that can be included in your chicken’s nesting box. Lemon thyme will give the coop a pleasant citrus smell. Steep thyme in white vinegar for several weeks then strain the liquid and place it in a spray bottle to spray the coop and feeding area; it will repel flies and other insects. It can also be fed fresh or dried to improve the health of chicken since it has antibiotic and antibacterial properties. Some herbs for chickens (like this one) help their respiratory health.
Parsley is extremely rich in nutrients! When added to to your chicken’s diet it will help them lay more. Additionally, it is a vitamin booster rich in vitamin K and magnesium which helps with blood vessel development. Beta-carotene and other antioxidants will help reduce diseases, keep bones healthy, help the nervous system and boost the immune system. Best to grow some plants and let them eat when they feel like.
This is one of those herbs for chickens that has wonderful medicinal properties. Like lavender it also has a calming effect. Relaxed chickens lay more eggs. It is best placed in the chicken coop since it is very good at fighting lice, mites and flees. Chamomile is also a natural antibiotic and an effective anti-inflammatory and anti-allergenic.
Cilantro is one of the best overall herbs for chickens since it supports their immune system and digestive track. Its antioxidants provide natural bone support. Cilantro contains vitamins such as A, B6, C and E, as well as minerals such as niacin, calcium, iron, phosphorus, magnesium and potassium.
This is one of those herbs for chickens that has a strong smell, which can help to repel insects. It can be fed in fresh or dry to aid digestion, support respiratory health and has anti-bacterial properties. Dill has lots of minerals including phosphorus, calcium and magnesium which helps chickens to produce healthy eggs.
Fennel is specially beneficial to hens since it is a laying stimulant that can enhance their reproductive health. Use shaved fennel bulb as a feed and add the foliage to the nesting box. Make sure to harvest quickly since the bulb can spoil and loose its flavor.
Sage is included in the list of herbs for chickens that is an antioxidant. You can include it in their feed to reduce the risk of salmonella in your flock. Sage also helps with general health issues since it has vitamins and is an anti-parasitic which fight diseases.
Rosemary has a strong scent which can help repel insects including mosquitos, ants, flies and other annoyances. Sprinkle clippings or place twigs around nesting boxes to keep your coop smelling fresh, as rosemary is a natural deodorizer. This herb for chickens also has medicinal benefits such as pain relief (can be applied externally) and antioxidants.
Not such a common herb, but comfrey has been regarded as a great medicinal plant by the ancient Greeks. They used it for respiratory issues, gastrointestinal problems, heal wounds and broken bones. You can make a herbal salve with beeswax, olive oil and comfrey leaves to treat scrapes, scratches or pulled chicken feathers. It can also help improve their digestion.