Chickens are omnivorous animals which means that they can eat both plants and animals. It's in their nature to forage and when allowed to free range, they will naturally come across varieties of wild growing herbs. But it doesn't need to stop there.
What Herbs Can Chickens Eat?
A number of common herbs can be grown for chickens to help bolster their overall health. There are also many herbs that can be administered medicinally for specific health issues. For example, specific herbs can also be used to treat chooks for infestations of worms, lice and mites. We've discussed each of these in more detail below.
‘Spring Chicken’ Tonic Herbs
These herbs can be given fresh from the garden or grown along the fence of the chook pen for the chickens to peck at through the fence. You can also make a tonic tea from them. Use 1 cup of chopped greens to 2 cups of boiling water cover and steep for 20 minutes. This can be given as the water or mixed with some mash while still warm.
- Dandelion Taraxacum officinale - besides being a delicious green for chickens dandelions are full of minerals . They stimulate digestion are diuretic and blood purifying and can help discourage parasites
- Plantain Plantago major – an abundant nutritious weed, good for the respiratory tract.
- Chickweed Stellaria media – a common weed that grows during the cooler months of the year here in SE Qld. This is a favourite tonic green for chickens.
- Comfrey Symphytum x uplandicum is rich in protein and is a very nutritious tonic food. It has high levels of potassium and calcium and is a good source of amino acids. If chickens are fed comfrey daily before their grain, they will have good health and produce eggs with golden yolks.
- Gotu Kola Centella asiatica – a general tonic, it is also great remedy for skin problems including fowl pox
- Parsley Petroselinum crispum – high in vitamins A, B,C calcium and iron, aids in blood vessel development, laying stimulant
- Purslane Portulacca oleracea is high in omega 3
Herbs For Egg Laying Chickens
Both of these herbs can be wilted or dried and added to their food. Or quite simply toss them into the pen and let the chickens decide when to eat them.
- Comfrey Symphytum x uplandicum – a high protein feed, it is also high in vitamins and minerals that the deep roots take up from the soil and deliver to the leaves. Chooks seem to like it better when it is wilted. It is an effective laying stimulant combined with nettle.
- Nettle Urtica dioica – an excellent herb for poultry with a great profile of vitamins and minerals. It is also a great preventive against worms. Nettles are also best given when wilted and combined with comfrey as a laying stimulant.
Herbs For The Nesting Box
These herbs can be picked fresh and tucked into the nesting boxes. They will keep your chickens stress free and calm, making them more likely to lay. Change the fresh herbs every few days. Dried herbs can also be used.
- Lavender Lavandula spp.– aromatic stress relief, also as an insect repellant.
- Catnip Nepeta cataria – a safe sedative herb, great to chill out chooks. It is also an insect repellant.
- Chamomile Matricaria recutita – calming and relaxing, also helps to repel insects.
- Lemon Balm Melissa officinalis – calming stress reliever, antibacterial and aromatic. It also has insect repellant properties.
Herbs For A Chicken's General Health
- Garlic Allium sativum – laying stimulant, anti-fungal, benefits circulatory and respiratory system, relieves diarrhoea
- Oregano Origanum vulgare - combats coccidia, salmonella, infectious bronchitis, avian flu, blackhead and e-coli, strengthens immune system
- Sage Salvia officinalis – antioxidant health promoter, said to combat salmonella.
- Thyme Thymus vulgaris – a good respiratory herb, antibacterial properties and a vermifuge (expels worms)
- Rosemary Rosemarinus officinalis – aids in pain relief, respiratory health and insect repellant.
- Nasturtium Trapaeolum majus – natural antibiotic, antiseptic, vermifuge (expels worms) and appetiser it also repels insects.
- Calendula Calendula officinalis – adds colour to the eggs as well as being an anti-inflammatory herb. An ointment can be used to heal wounds or skin problems.
- Mint Mentha spp – a cooling herb great for the summer months. Can be added to ice cubes and used to cool down the water.
Herbs For Parasitic Worms, Body Lice And Mites
Parasitic worms, body lice and mites are the most common problem of chickens.
Herbs can be grown near the chook shed, so the chickens can brush past them or nibble on them. They can also be picked from the garden and strewn around the chook pen and in their dust bath to help keep the lice and mites away. Dried they can be added to their food.
Artemisia’s are an effective vermifuge (expels worms) when used internally. Give access to these plants so they can self medicate. They are also good for repelling lice and mites. There are many different species of Artemisia and they are all beneficial.
Other herb that are insect repelling are:
- Garlic (Allium sativum) – for expelling worms a cold extract can be made by putting several cloves of crushed garlic into half a cup of water overnight. It can be given to chickens individually by eyedropper or the extract can be put into the chooks drinking water for a week.
Worms can be prevented with the aid of a few potent herbs such as nettle. The nettles should be boiled and the liquid added to mash when cold.
Garlic is the best organic treatment for worms. A cold extract can be made by putting several cloves of crushed garlic into half a cup of water overnight. It can be given to chickens individually by eyedropper or the extract can be put into the chooks drinking water for a week.
Herbs can also be used on a regular basis to treat worms.
Once a month leaves such as horseradish, garlic, wormwood, tansy, elder, santolina, rue, hyssop and goats rue can be mixed with onions, grated carrots, mustard and pumpkin seeds and then added to feed at a rate of about 20%.
This is just a few of the herbs that you can give to your chickens; there are many salad herbs that are quite safe to feed to your chooks.