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Let’s talk herbs and chickens. We as humans love to use herbs to spice up our culinary exploits, and fresh from the garden herbs are a staple for any urban homestead. One way to use those fresh or dried herbs is to benefit your backyard flock. Wait a second… you mean chickens can benefit from herbs also besides when you roast them?! The short answer is YES! Chickens, like humans, will not only enjoy the added variety to their diet but they can benefit from herbs in multiple ways! Happy chickens lay more eggs, so why not keep those girls happy?
Using herbs in addition to your already good husbandry and diet can support good immune health, promote good digestion, aid in pest control, and more. They should not be used to replace any of these things, but rather augment what you already do. Planting these herbs around your garden and coop can help to deter many rodents and pests. You can add your own or a pre-made herb mix into dust baths or in nesting boxes, place as hanging satchels in your coop with reusable tea bags, hang as dried bundles, mix into their feed, use as ingredients in treats, and more.
Growing herbs is a great way to create part of a perennial component to your garden. Once established herbs can return year after year to provide you and your flock with a tantalizing culinary adventure. Many herbs aren’t temperamental and will be resilient with less water and care than other vegetables in your garden. In the winter I’ll even dig through the snow to pick the herbs that didn’t make it to the drying rack to add to soups for the family or add to our chicken treats. If you don’t have the space to grow your own herbs, consider adding them as components to your flower beds or purchase organic dried herbs from your local grocer.
Different herbs offer different benefits for you and your chickens. Depending on the benefit you desire will determine the herb you want to use. Although I’m not aware of any herbs personally that are not safe for my chickens, I encourage you to do additional research before adding herbs off this list to support your ladies. Below are suggested herbs to include in your urban garden to promote chickens diet as well as your own. Each herb is linked to the “Hometown Seeds” where we purchase most of our heirloom seeds. They are staples for cooking or around the home too, so enjoy!
Lavender– Lavender is one of my favorite herbs that we grow on our urban homestead. Besides adding a splash of color and beautiful aroma, the health benefits of this perennial herb are hands down unmatched. We use lavender essential oil or dried lavender in tea, soaps, bath salt, potpourri, cleaning solution, and more. For both humans and chickens, lavender is calming, can improve sleep, help with skin blemishes, beneficial for your circulatory and respiratory system, helps combat fungus growth, and is a natural bug repellant. You can place dried lavender in nesting boxes, sprinkle tor hang throughout your coop, or add it to a dust bath to provide these benefits.
Chamomile- Chamomile is another flowering herb that is easy to grow in an urban garden. We use chamomile essential oil or dried chamomile in teas, potpourri, soaps, and more. Health benefits of chamomile include helps to lower blood sugar, reduces inflammation, cancer treatment, and prevention, helps with sleep and relaxation, treats cold symptoms, and helps with mild skin conditions. For your flock, it can be used to fight lice, mites, and fleas. It can be used as an antiseptic, natural antibiotic, and also has calming properties. Add this to nesting boxes, in treats, sprinkle in dust baths or hang in your coop or give as a fresh treat when growing in the summer.
Mint- Mint is an easy to grow and highly invasive perennial herb, but it has so many uses around your homestead. We use peppermint essential oil or dried mint in teas, soaps, drinks, and more. When we feel a headache coming on a quick dab to the temples always helps or a cut of mint tea. Mint is rich in nutrients and can be used to relieve headaches, improve brain function, improves cold symptoms, relieve indigestion, improve IBS, and decrease pain. It is a natural bug and rodent repellant, increases egg production and quality too! I have mint planted around my chicken coop to help ward off rodents. With your chickens you can use mint in and around the coop especially in the summer months to deter pests and add a layer of freshness between cleanings. Sprinkle dried mint into feed or add fresh sprigs to water for a refreshing splash of taste and help your chickens cool off.
Oregano- Oregano is another perennial herb that is resilient and can work well as a ground cover in your garden or flower beds. We use consumable oregano essential oil often with our fresh grown to augment cooking or marinades. This powerful herb is very rich in antioxidants, packed with vitamins E and K, calcium has antioxidants and has potent antibacterial properties. It can help to reduce viral infections, decrease inflammation, and is a staple in all Italian dishes. Studies have shown that the regular use of oregano can deter pathogens in your chickens. With your flock use either dried oregano or fresh from your garden to augment treats or sprinkled with your scratch grains.
Garlic- Garlic is a powerhouse in your garden and around your homestead. Not only is it delicious added to many garden to table dishes, it is highly nutritious, has few calories, and even contains some medicinal properties. Garlic is known to combat sickness, reduce blood pressure, improve cholesterol levels, relieve diarrhea, and is a natural antibiotic. Chickens will benefit from eating garlic as a laying stimulant. When planted in your garden or around your coop it can also act as a bug and pest deterrent. You can add some whole or crushed cloves in your chickens water (be sure to replace every few days), offer a dish of crushed garlic with their daily diet, or add garlic powder to your homemade chicken treats or sprinkle with their grains.
Thyme- Thyme is a great perennial herb that is resilient and can work well as a ground cover in your garden or flower beds. We use consumable thyme essential oil added to our fresh grown to add to our cooking, canning, soups, and marinades. Thyme is packed with vitamin C and is a good source of vitamin A. It is a great source of copper, fiber, iron, and manganese. Thyme can aid in oral health and has anti-inflammatory, and antibiotic properties as well. Last but not least it can aid in respiratory health and deter pests. Add dried thyme or freshly picked into your nesting boxes, dust bath, hang around the coop or add to homemade treats.
Parsley– Parsley is a favorite of our flock, without fail when they are let out of the coop to head to the yard to peck around, they try to snag some parsley from my herb garden as they walk by. Parsley contains vitamins A, B, C, E, and K as well as calcium, iron, magnesium, selenium, and zinc. It aids in vessel development and also stimulates egg-laying. We use fresh parsley and consumable parsley essential oil around our home mostly for soups and aiding in many of our garden to table dishes. With your hens you can add a fresh bunch of parsley or with their feed, or make an interesting pecking game by hanging a bunch in the air with a suit feeder. Use dried parsley when you make savory chicken treats as well
Sage– This beautiful bushy perennial herb adds to the savory in so many garden to table recipes. Sage contains many antioxidants, supports oral health, reduces blood sugar levels, helps with inflammation, protects against bacterial and viral infections, and supports your digestion. We use consumable sage essential oil in addition to our fresh or dried sage for many of our garden to table recipes. It’s rich in antioxidants and vitamins and is known to combat salmonella, coccidiosis and support intestinal health as well as ward off other diseases. I feed fresh sage leaves free-choice to my hens, as well as add dried sage to their feed or treats.
Lemon balm- Lemon balm is a perennial herb that likes cooler weather. We use lemon balm leaves in water for a refreshing splash. Dried lemon balm leaves can be used in soaps, teas to flavor many garden to table recipes as well as for your chickens. This is yet another herb with antibacterial properties, works as a rodent repellent, relieves stress, and promotes calm. Place in nesting boxes or add to water in the summer for a cool treat.
Calendula- Calendula, also known as pot marigolds, add a fun splash of color to your garden and are high in vitamins and minerals. If you grow this in your garden you can use it in soaps and teas as well as potpourri. This flowering herb can help with inflammation, thrush, or yeast overgrowth. It is traditionally grown to support healthy digestion, immune system functions, and healthy skin. Chickens love to peck at both the flowers and leaves. Mix dried calendula flowers into treats, sprinkle in dust baths, make into treats, or place into a hanging suit holder.