Catnip may drive your cat crazy, but it’s a sedative for chickens. Lavender, bee balm, and chamomile are relaxing for people, and hens too. If you keep chickens, or want to add some to your garden, then you will want to read about the health benefits of culinary herbs for chicken-keeping. If herbs for hens can help prevent mites and stimulate laying, then it’s worth adding these herbs to your chicken garden (or perhaps adding some chickens to your herb garden)!
There are a load of benefits to having chickens in the garden, including keeping soil healthy and gobbling up unwanted insects. If you have ever wanted a practical guide to gardening with and gardening for chickens, then you will love expert chicken-keeper Lisa Steele’s book, Gardening with Chickens: Plans and Plants for You and Your Hens. This book is filled to the brim with the answers to all your questions about how to create harmony in the garden with chickens. There are creative garden plans to help you design a “Garden for Orange Yolks” and a “Nesting Box Herb Garden.” Her love of chickens in the garden pours through on every page, which are so well written that you gobble them up like hens gobble up herbs.
Today, Lisa has joined us to share her guide to 43 herbs for hens and the health benefits of them.
Health Benefits of Culinary Herbs for Hens
From Gardening with Chickens by Lisa Steele
I grow a wide assortment of herbs to use in cooking and also in conjunction with raising our chickens. Overall, I find herbs boost my chickens’ immune systems and keep them healthy naturally. I put fresh herbs in the nesting boxes to calm setting hens, repel insects and rodents and add an aromatic scent to the chicken coop. I brew herbal tea for our chicks and put fresh herbs in their brooder to give them a good start in life.
In short, all of the culinary herbs are perfectly safe to use around the chickens. Toss a variety of herbs into your coop and nesting boxes any time you trim your herb plants. Offer them fresh from the garden or dry some and add them to your chickens’ feed. If you’re looking for herbs for a more specific use, read on to see 41 different healthy herbs for hens and their specific benefits.
COMMON HERBS AND THEIR BENEFITS
- Basil – antibacterial, improves mucous membrane health, repels flies and mosquitoes
- Bay Leaves – antiseptic, antioxidant, immune system booster, insect repellent
- Bee Balm (bergamot/monarda)- antiseptic, antibacterial, calming, respiratory health aid
- Borage – high in calcium, beta carotenes and niacin, soothing, supports cardiovascular health, antioxidant, aids in mucus membrane health, insect repellent
- Calendula – heals wounds
- Catnip – sedative, insect repellent
- Cayenne pepper – aids circulation, appetite stimulant, antiseptic, improves digestion
- Chamomile – kills mites and lice, repels fleas, antiseptic, anti-inflammatory, antibiotic, calming and relaxing, detoxifier
- Chervil – heals bruises, thought to prevent illness, high in vitamins and minerals, aids in mucus membrane health, antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, overall health tonic
- Chives – aids digestion, stimulates appetite, good source of iron
- Cilantro – antioxidant, fungicide, builds strong bones, high in Vitamin A for vision and Vitamin K for blood clotting
- Cinnamon – promotes healthy breathing
- Comfrey – pain reliever, anti-inflammatory, heals wounds, high in protein and Vitamin B-12, promotes muscle, cartilage, and bone growth
- Dandelion – general health tonic, laying stimulant
- Dill – antioxidant, relaxant, aids in respiratory health, stimulates the appetite, aids in digestion
- Echinacea – antibacterial, aids in respiratory health, strengthens the immune system
- Fennel – laying stimulant, insect repellent
- Garlic – laying stimulant, anti-fungal, benefits circulatory and respiratory system, relieves diarrhea
- Ginger – stress reliever, appetite stimulant, antioxidant
- Goldenseal – antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, useful for treating wounds
- Hyssop – improves circulation, heals wounds, detoxifier
- Lavender – stress reliever, increases blood circulation, highly aromatic, insect repellent
- Lemon Balm – stress reliever, antibacterial, highly aromatic, rodent and insect repellent, calming
- Lemon Verbena – aromatic, fly repellent, antiviral
- Lemon Grass (citronella) – fly repellent
- Lovage – aids respiratory and mucous membrane health, blood detoxifier, anti-inflammatory
- Marigold – produces vibrant egg yolks, feet and beaks, insect repellent, antioxidant, laying stimulant
- Marjoram – laying stimulant, anti-inflammatory, decongestant, improves blood circulation, detoxifier
- Mint (all kinds including spearmint, peppermint, orange mint etc.) – insect and rodent repellent, antioxidant, aids in respiratory health, digestive aid, results in larger eggs, thicker eggshells and increased egg production.
- Nasturtium – laying stimulant, antiseptic, antibiotic, insect repellent, wormer
- Oregano – combats coccidia, salmonella, infectious bronchitis, avian flu, blackhead and e-coli, strengthens immune system
- Parsley – high in vitamins A, B,C calcium and iron, aids in blood vessel development, laying stimulant
- Peppermint – anti-parasitic, insect repellent,
- Pineapple Sage – aids nervous system, highly aromatic, antiseptic
- Plantain – Antibacterial, antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory, and antioxidant, prevents infection
- Raspberry Leaf – antioxidant, relaxant, supports healthy reproductive system
- Rose Petals – highly aromatic, high in Vitamin C, antioxidant
- Rosemary – pain reliever, aids in respiratory health, insect repellent
- Sage – antioxidant, anti-parasitic, general health promoter, laying stimulant, thought to combat Salmonella
- Spearmint – antiseptic, insect repellent, stimulates nerve, brain and blood functions
- Tarragon – antioxidant, appetite stimulant
- Thyme – aids in respiratory health, antibacterial, antioxidant, anti-parasitic, laying stimulant
- Yarrow – antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, clears sinus and respiratory systems, stress reliever
Note: While not much research has been done on the benefits of herbs to poultry specifically, the overall benefits of herbs are widely known and studied, and benefits generally apply to both humans and animals. I will continue to add herbs to my chickens’ diet and environment, since I’ve had such wonderful results with my flock’s health over the years incorporating these herbs.
For more information on feeding your flock, check out this list of 55 common foods from the kitchen that are healthy for hens
Reprinted with permission from Gardening with Chickens: Plans and Plants for You and Your Hens by Lisa Steele © 2016. Published by Voyageur Press. Photography courtesy of Voyageur Press.
About the Author
Lisa Steele is an enthusiastic chicken keeper extraordinaire and the darling of the backyard chicken community. A 5th generation chicken keeper, Maine Master Gardener, aspiring herbalist and coop to kitchen cook in addition to being a top-selling author and the creative mind behind the Better Homes & Gardens award-winning blog Fresh Eggs Daily®, Lisa engages fans worldwide on her Facebook page of the same name with her easy, fun and accessible approach to raising backyard flocks naturally. She inspires both the newcomer and the seasoned chicken keeper alike to grab a pair of kitchen shears and head out to the herb garden on their way to the chicken coop.
Lisa is also the author of Fresh Eggs Daily: Raising Happy, Healthy Chickens…Naturally (St. Lynn’s Press, 2013) and Duck Eggs Daily: Raising Happy, Healthy Ducks…Naturally (St. Lynn’s Press, 2015). Her writing can also been found in such publications as Chickens, Backyard Poultry, Molly Green and Hobby Farm magazines as well as at HGTVGardens.com and BHG.com. She has appeared on numerous national radio and television programs and most recently is hosting her own television show called Fresh Eggs Daily with Lisa Steele.
Thank you for adding your guest post on adding herbs to my chickens’ diet. I have always grown a variety of herbs but never thought to give them to my ‘girls’. They will be getting a treat now.
Aw! That’s nice to hear! Lucky girls.
Great! I will use the herb you sent my chicken’s. Thank you very much.
I have had chickens for years and welcomed them in the garden as they did pick bugs, were very delicate with their scratching never hurt anything. But the older ones died off, new group is here and they are terrible in the garden. They scratch seedlings, they make dirt baths, they eat almost everything growing….I was actually a bit shocked. This is a very small garden with three plots and they have tons of acreage and grass and weeds to roam but the garden is their run to and kill like a bunch of bad kids. They all get treats so this new generation is stressful as I love the garden but if things cant grow its not a great thing either. I just do not understand how one set of birds can be so gentle and their off spring can be so violent in a garden….very frustrating really. Used to be a joy watching them be so careful. Helping me dig. Loving that worm I would toss. Now they will take out a full grown Brussels sprout plant. And Jalapeno peppers plants. On and on. The joys of birds but I love them still.
I just started giving my girls herbs, particularly marigolds. They love them and I’m disappointed that I didn’t know this earlier in the growing season. I’m not drying my stock especially for them. I see lemon verbena on the list but wanted to confirm that all the herbs above are suitable for chickens to eat.
sorry…edit, I am now drying to herbs especially for them.