Herbs for Chickens: Cultivating an Herb Garden for Chickens

Have you ever considered an herb garden for your chickens? I have had gardens for my chickens. And boy, do they love foraging in them! Since they love gardens, this also means if you have a veggie garden, ensure it is covered to keep your chickens out!

Chickens, often beloved for their quirky personalities and fresh eggs, deserve a nurturing environment. A vital component of this is their diet, and what better way to enrich it than with herbs?

This guide focuses on integrating herbs into your chickens’ diet and environment, discussing the benefits, risks, and how to create an herb garden specifically for your poultry.

Chickens on and in front of a blue bench in the front yard of a green house

Safe Herbs for Chickens

Herbs are not only flavorful but also pack a punch of health benefits. Let’s explore some safe options for your chickens:

      1. Oregano: This herb is a natural antibiotic, helping prevent infections and boost the immune system. It’s especially effective against salmonella and E. coli (not a cure, but helpful).
      2. Thyme: Thyme is rich in essential oils that are great for respiratory health. It can help alleviate respiratory problems and act as an expectorant.
      3. Lavender: Lavender is known for its soothing properties, which can reduce stress in chickens. Its aroma is also a natural insect repellent, keeping the coop pest-free.
      4. Mint: Mint varieties, like peppermint and spearmint, are excellent for cooling the coop in summer. They also repel rodents and insects, including fleas and ants.
      5. Parsley: A nutritional powerhouse, parsley is high in vitamins A, B, C, E, and K. It also supports blood vessel development, which is particularly beneficial for laying hens.
      6. Basil: Known for its potent anti-inflammatory properties, basil can help boost the immune system. It’s also believed to repel flies and mosquitoes.
      7. Dill: Dill is great for respiratory health and can be calming. It’s also known to have antibacterial properties.
      8. Sage: Sage is beneficial for overall health and particularly good for older chickens. It’s known for its antioxidant properties and can support the nervous system.
      9. Rosemary: This herb is excellent for respiratory health and is a natural insect repellent. It can aid in stress reduction and improve blood circulation.
      10. Marjoram: Like oregano, marjoram is good for respiratory health and encourages egg production. It’s rich in vitamins A and C, calcium, and antioxidants.
      11. Calendula: Calendula petals can be used in nesting boxes to repel pests and encourage laying. They are also beneficial when eaten, as they can help to deepen the color of egg yolks.
      12. Fennel: Fennel is great for the digestive system and can be particularly helpful for hens that are laying eggs. It’s also thought to improve bone strength and eggshell quality.
      13. Tarragon: Known for its general health benefits, tarragon can stimulate appetite and improve overall vitality in chickens.
      14. Cilantro: Cilantro can help detoxify the body and is rich in vitamins A, C, and K. It’s also believed to have antimicrobial properties.
      15. Lemon Balm: This herb is excellent for calming and relaxing chickens. It can also help repel insects and improve the smell of your coop.
Fresh herbs on the wooden background

When introducing new herbs to your chickens, it’s always a good idea to do so gradually and in moderation. Adding herbs one at a time allows you to observe how your chickens react to the new additions to their diet and environment.

Also, remember that while herbs can provide health benefits, they should complement a well-balanced diet and not replace it.

Also, introducing the herbs one by one during the fall and winter will give you an idea of which ones you may want to plant in the spring. And who doesn’t need a little extra immunity boost during the winter months, anyway?!

Herbs and Plants to Avoid

Just as some herbs and plants are beneficial, others can be harmful to your flock:

      1. Onion & Garlic: In moderation, these can be okay, but in large amounts, they can cause hemolytic anemia, affecting red blood cells.
      2. Foxglove: This plant contains digitalis, a compound that can be fatal even in small amounts.
      3. Nightshade plants: Leaves and stems of tomatoes, potatoes, and eggplants contain solanine, which is toxic to chickens.
      4. Avocado Leaves: The leaves (and other parts of the avocado plant, including the pit) contain persin. Persin is a fungicidal toxin that can be harmful to chickens.
      5. Rhubarb: Rhubarb leaves contain oxalic acid, which can be toxic to chickens in large quantities. It can lead to soft-shelled eggs and may affect calcium absorption.
      6. Azalea: All parts of the azalea plant are toxic to chickens. Ingesting even a few leaves can cause oral irritation, vomiting, diarrhea, and weakness in chickens.
      7. Castor Bean: This plant contains ricin, a highly toxic protein. Even a tiny amount can be lethal to chickens.
      8. Yew: All parts of the yew plant are highly toxic and can lead to sudden death in chickens without much prior warning.
      9. Oleander: Every part of the oleander plant is toxic to chickens and can cause serious health issues, including heart problems and potentially death.
      10. Tobacco: Leaves from the tobacco plant contain nicotine, which is toxic to chickens. It can affect their nervous system and is particularly harmful if ingested.
      11. Bracken Fern: This plant contains a carcinogen that can cause thiamine (vitamin B1) deficiency, leading to weight loss and muscle weakness in chickens.
      12. Daffodil, Iris, and Tulip Bulbs: The bulbs of these plants can be toxic if dug up and eaten by chickens.
      13. Potato Sprouts and Green Potatoes: Potatoes sprouts and green potatoes contain solanine, a poison that affects the nervous system. While the flesh of ripe, cooked potatoes is generally safe, you should avoid giving your chickens raw green potatoes and sprouts.
Nightshade vegetables

Be mindful of the plants and herbs accessible to your chickens, especially if they have free range in your garden or yard. Chickens are naturally curious and may peck at plants that are harmful to them. Ensuring their foraging area is free from these toxic plants will help keep them healthy and safe.

Planning an Herb Garden for Chickens

Creating a dedicated herb garden requires thoughtful planning:

  • Sunlight: Most herbs thrive in full sunlight, so choose a bright spot.
  • Protection: Ensure you protect your garden from predators and the chickens, who might over-forage if given unrestricted access.
  • Variety: Include a range of herbs to provide a spectrum of benefits. Consider adding marigolds or calendula for their insect-repelling properties and additional color.
Herb Garden

Planting Your Herb Garden

Follow these steps for a thriving herb garden:

      1. Soil Preparation: Amend the soil with organic matter. Good drainage is essential to prevent root rot.
      2. Planting: Follow specific spacing guidelines for each herb. Some, like mint, may need containment to prevent over-spreading.
      3. Watering: Water deeply but infrequently to encourage strong root growth.

Caring for Your Herb Garden

Consistent care will ensure your herbs remain healthy:

  • Mulching: Use organic mulch to retain moisture and suppress weeds.
  • Fertilizing: Use organic fertilizers to nourish the plants without exposing your chickens to chemicals. Of course, chicken poo is an excellent fertilizer, and you should have plenty of it! On a side note, age or compost your flock’s droppings before adding them to your gardens.
  • Companion Planting: Plant herbs that complement each other, like basil with oregano, to enhance growth and flavor.

Chickens in the Garden

Conclusion

An herb garden offers a dual benefit: it’s a source of nutrition and joy for your chickens and an engaging hobby for you. By understanding which herbs are beneficial, which to avoid, and how to effectively plan, plant, and maintain an herb garden, you can significantly elevate the quality of life for your feathered friends.

Remember, a happy chicken is a healthy chicken, and with the right herbs, you’re on the path to achieving just that! Growing a garden is not essential for your chickens rather it’s a fun enrichment.

Thank you all so much for reading! If you have a garden for your chickens, please let me know. Please share and comment. Your thoughts mean so much to me and Chickens and More!

Chris Lesley Bio Picture
Chris Lesley has been Raising Chickens for over 20 years and is a fourth generation chicken keeper. She can remember being a young child when her grandad first taught her how to hold and care for chickens. She also holds a certificate in Animal Behavior and Welfare and is interested in backyard chicken health and care.

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