Herbs have long been admired for their medicinal and therapeutic values. I have grown herbs for many years, using them mostly for culinary purposes. Now I find myself growing them also for my chickens. The benefits of herbs can be preventative or restorative. With so many varieties and uses, one never stops learning about herbs!
There are numerous herbs from which chickens can benefit. These are some of the herbs I have grown in my garden here in southcentral Alaska:
Rosemary is one of my favorite herbs–so invigorating! It’s a staple in my garden, with at least one pot on my front porch and another indoors. A good source of vitamin A, vitamin C, iron, calcium, and vitamin B6, rosemary is a rich source of antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds. Rosemary is a member of the mint family Lamiaceae, along with many other herbs, such as oregano, thyme, basil, and lavender. Rosemary contains substances that are useful for stimulating the immune system, increasing circulation, and improving digestion. It’s also a natural insecticide and can assist with chicken respiratory health. I have had success growing it indoors where it often blooms–a special treat in the dead of winter! Place cuttings in water and watch new roots grow!
Oregano (whose name means “mountain joy”) has numerous health qualities, and it’s one of the herbs I can overwinter in my garden here in Alaska. Oregano is an important culinary and medicinal herb that has been used in medicine and cooking for thousands of years. It contains fiber, iron, manganese, vitamin E, iron, calcium, and omega fatty acids. Oregano is an effective antibacterial agent and a potent anti-inflammatory. It also has antiviral, anti-parasitic, antioxidant, and anti-fungal properties. I use it in the nest boxes and the coop.
Oregano oil is being used by conscientious farmers as a natural antibiotic. Studies have shown it to be more effective than pharmaceutical antibiotics. As the USDA cracks down on the overuse of synthetic antibiotics, look for more farmers and backyard chicken keepers turning to oregano oil.
Thyme comes in many varieties and I find the fragrance both calming and stimulating. Thyme is believed to have disease preventing and health promoting properties. It’s packed with minerals and vitamins that are essential for optimum health. Its leaves are one of the richest sources of potassium, iron, calcium, manganese, magnesium, and selenium. The herb is also a rich source of B-complex vitamins, beta carotene, vitamin A, vitamin K, vitamin E, vitamin C, and folic acid. I dry the leaves and use them throughout the winter.
Parsley is more than just a pretty garnish. Parsley is rich in vitamins, promotes circulatory system development, and is a strong laying stimulant. Rich in many vital vitamins including vitamin C, B 12, K, and A, parsley is a super immune system booster, keeps bones healthy, helps heal the nervous system, and is an anti-inflammatory agent. I enjoy using both flat and curly parsley.
Borage (also known as bee plant) is adorned with blue star-like flowers, and has a cucumber flavor. Borage is a rich source of Vitamin A and carotenes, and is high in vitamin C and iron. I find it overwinters well in Anchorage.
Sage is an antioxidant and helps control parasites. It dries nicely; I have a cluster hanging from my kitchen window from last year and it’s still going strong! Aside from cooking with it, I use sage in the nesting boxes and add it to their feed (both fresh and dried).
Lavender is more than just an attractive herb. Long admired for its aromatic and healing properties, it’s a great stress reliever for hens who might be a bit high strung. It also helps to increase blood circulation, is a natural insecticide, and of course smells divine! Medicinally, lavender is classified as a relaxant, sensory stimulant, and nerve tonic. I add it to the nest boxes for a bit of hen aromatherapy.
Mint comes in many varieties and grows like weeds around my house. I love spending time around it. Merely brushing up against mint releases its fresh aroma. Mint has been used as a digestive aid, for relieving cramps, nausea, and vomiting. In the coop and nesting boxes mint helps repel flies and other pests. I also use it in teas and sprinkle in the run.
DID YOU KNOW:
Rose hips contain as much as 20 times more vitamin C than oranges.
Rose petals and rose hips help purify the blood, and have antiseptic and antibacterial values. My girls will gobble up rose petals before they hit the ground! I have fragrant Rugosa roses which produce soft and thick rose hips, ideal for nibbling. Rose hips are particularly high in vitamin C, one of the richest and most concentrated plant sources available. I’ve always thought of Rose hips as a natural vitamin C pill. Rose hips are also a good source of bioflavanoids, pectin, Vitamin E, selenium, manganese, and the B-complex vitamins. Rose hips also contain trace amounts of magnesium, potassium, sulfur and silicon. Rose hips can be dried for winter use or made in to a tea. My girls find rose hips to be quite the treat!
Antioxidant–helps protect cells against the effects of free radicals and improve the ability to fight infection.
Antiseptic–substances that prevent the growth of disease-causing microorganisms.
Sources & more information on herbs for chicken health: