Common Herbs with Uncommon Benefits – for Your Chickens (and Yourself!)

Common culinary herbs have wonderful health benefits for both you and your chickens.

By Lisa Steele

Culinary herbs are easy to grow and have amazing health benefits for you and your chickens.

I grow a wide assortment of herbs to use in cooking and also in conjunction with raising our chickens and ducks to keep them healthy naturally, without the use of antibiotics or medications. Herbs and edible flowers look pretty, smell nice, and are easy to grow.

They can help keep bugs and rodents out of your coop, aid in poultry overall health and well-being, providing essential vitamins and minerals, and also work to support the respiratory, digestive and circulatory systems. 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 ducklings to give them a good start in life and also for our laying hens. I put fresh herbs in my brooders for the newly hatched little ones also because the essential oils benefit their growth.

All of the culinary herbs, which are pretty much what I stick with, are perfectly safe to use around the chickens, so there’s no worry about any being toxic or harmful to them.

(CAUTION: I would add a note of caution when using essential oils because they are extremely concentrated and can actually be harmful if you don’t use them correctly).

Stick with fresh herbs as much as possible, used dried when you don’t have fresh, and toss a variety of herbs into your coop and nesting boxes any time you trim your herb plants.

Here is a quick reference of some of the more common herbs and their specific benefits for us and for our chickens.

Alfalfa 

Benefits: High in protein, contributes to orange egg yolks.

How to Use: Add to daily feed.

Basil 

Benefits: Antibacterial, antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, aids mucus membrane, circulatory and respiratory health, supports orange egg yolks, repels flies and mosquitoes, stress reliever, supports digestion, immune system health aid, source of protein, Vitamin K and iron.

How to Use: Offer fresh or dry leaves and mix into daily feed.

Bay Leaves

Bay Leaves

Benefits: Antiseptic, antioxidant, immune system booster, insect repellent.

How to Use: Add fresh or dried leaves to nesting boxes.

Bee Balm (bergamot/monarda) 

Benefits: Antiseptic, antibacterial, aids in respiratory health, calming.

How to Use: Add fresh flowers to nesting areas.

Borage 

Benefits: High in calcium, betacarotenes and niacin, soothing, supports cardiovascular health, antioxidant, mucus membrane health, helps keep bugs out of the garden.

How to Use: Dry and add to nesting areas.

Calendula/Marigold 

Benefits: Heals wounds, repels insects. See Marigold

Catmint 

Benefits: Insect repellent.

How to Use: Scatter fresh flowers and leaves in nesting boxes.

Catnip

Benefits: Calming sedative, insect repellent.

How to Use: Add fresh or dried to nesting areas.

Cayenne pepper

Benefits: Aids circulation, blood flow and metabolism, appetite stimulant, antiseptic, digestive enhancement, natural wormer, increases egg production.

How to Use: Add to daily feed during the cold months.

Chamomile

Benefits: kills mites and lice, repels fleas, antiseptic, anti-inflammatory, antibiotic, calming, relaxant, detoxifier.

How to Use: Scatter flower heads in nesting and dust bath areas.

Chervil

Benefits:  Heals bruises, thought to prevent illness, high in vitamins and minerals, aids in mucus membrane health, antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, overall health tonic.

How to Use: Dry and add to daily feed.

Chickweed

Benefits: Anti-inflammatory, natural pain reliever, soothes mucus membranes, aids in digestive health, purifies and cleanses blood, high in B vitamins and Omega-6.

How to Use: Offer fresh and free-choice.

Chives

Chives

Benefits: Aids digestion, stimulates appetite, good source of iron.

How to Use: Let chickens nibble on chives as they free range.

Cilantro

Benefits: Antioxidant, anti-fungal, builds strong bones, high in Vitamin A for vision
and Vitamin K for blood clotting.

How to Use: Dry and add to daily feed or feed fresh.

Cinnamon

Benefits: Promotes healthy breathing and respiratory health.

How to Use: Sprinkle over warm oatmeal in the winter or mix into dry feed.

Comfrey

Benefits:  Pain reliever, anti-inflammatory, helps to heal wounds, promotes muscle, cartilage, and bone growth.

Now to Use: Note: err on the side of caution — to be used topically, not internally.

Cornflower

Benefits: Soothing, anti-inflammatory, aids immune system health.

How to Use: Add fresh or dried flowers to nesting boxes or mix dried flowers into feed.

Dandelion

Benefits: General health tonic, diuretic which improves kidney and liver health, laying stimulant, high in calcium for strong eggshells, antioxidant,  anti-inflammatory which helps to relieve pain, aids in digestion,  contributes to orange egg yolks.

How to Use: Offer the leaves and flowers fresh or dried and mixed into feed.

Dill

Benefits: Antioxidant, antibacterial, relaxant/calming, respiratory health, stimulates the appetite, aids in digestion, promotes feather growth, stress reliever, controls diarrhea.

How to Use: Dry and mix into daily feed or offer fresh.

Echinacea

Echinacea

Benefits: Antibacterial, aids in respiratory health and strengthens the immune system.

How to Use: Hang bouquets in the coop, scatter petals in the nesting area.

Fennel

Benefits: Laying stimulant, boosts reproductive health, insect repellent, relaxant.

How to Use: Feed seeds and/or foliage free choice.

Garlic

Benefits: Overall health boost, laying stimulant, anti-fungal, benefits circulatory and respiratory system, relieves diarrhea, believed to combat internal parasites.

How to Use: Add powdered to daily feed or crush a clove or two into the water several times a week.

Ginger

Benefits: Stress reducer (don’t laugh, chickens have stress in their lives too at times!), appetite stimulant, anti-oxidant.

How to Use: Save kitchen trimmings for the chickens.

Goldenseal

Benefits: Antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, useful for treating wounds and eye infections.

How to Use: Steep the flowers and leaves, then administer to eye or apply to injury.

Hyssop

Benefits: Improves circulation, heals wounds, detoxifier.

How to Use: Dry and add to daily feed.

Lavender

Benefits: Antibacterial, calming stress reliever, increases blood circulation, highly aromatic, insect repellent, laying stimulant.

How to Use: Add fresh or dried buds to nesting and dust bath areas, plant lavender around coop and run area. Hang fresh stems in bouquets in the coop.

Lemon Balm

Benefits: Stress reliever, antibacterial, highly aromatic, rodent and insect repellent, calming.

How to Use: Use leaves fresh or dried in nesting areas.

Lemon Verbena

Benefits: Aromatic, fly repellent, antiviral properties.

How to Use: Plant around coop and run area.

Lemon Grass (citronella)

Benefits: Fly repellent, aromatic.

How to Use: Plant around coop and run area.

Dried Lovage with fresh leaves on wood

Lovage

Benefits: Aids respiratory and mucus membrane health, blood detoxifier, anti-inflammatory.

How to Use: Dry plants and add to daily feed.

Marigold

Benefits: Supports vibrant orange egg yolks, feet and beaks/bills, insect repellent, antioxidant, antibacterial, laying stimulant, controls diarrhea.

How to Use: Add dried blossoms to daily feed or feed flowers fresh. Plant around coop and run area to help keep bugs away.

Marjoram

Benefits: Laying stimulant, anti-inflammatory, decongestant, improves blood circulation, detoxifier.

How to Use: Add dried to daily feed or offer fresh free-choice, sprinkle fresh or dried in nesting area.

Mint (all kinds)

Benefits: Insect and rodent repellent, antioxidant, aids in respiratory health, digestive aid, lowers stress levels, aids in feather growth. Feeding results in larger eggs, thicker eggshells and increased egg production.

How to Use: Add dried to daily feed, scatter fresh or dried into nesting areas. Plant around coop and run area to help repel flies and rodents.

Nasturtium

Nasturtium

Benefits: Laying stimulant, antiseptic, anti-fungal, antibiotic, insecticide, wormer, aids in respiratory health.

How to Use: Feed leaves, seeds and flowers fresh or dry and add to daily feed to act as a natural wormer.

 

 

Oregano

Benefits: Natural antibiotic, antimicrobial, antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, research suggests it helps to combat coccidia, salmonella, infectious bronchitis, avian flu, blackhead and e-coli, strengthens immune system, aids in respiratory health and digestion.

How to Use: Dry leaves and add to daily feed or offer fresh.

Parsley

Benefits: high in vitamins A, B, C, calcium and iron, aids in bone development, aids in blood vessel development and improves circulation, laying stimulant, antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, aids in digestive health.

How to Use: Dry the leaves and add to the daily feed or offer fresh.

Peppermint

Benefits: Anti-parasitic insect repellent, antibacterial, anti-fungal, antiviral, digestive aid, laying stimulant. See Mint.

Pineapple Sage

Benefits: Aids nervous system, calming, highly aromatic, antiseptic.

How to Use: Scatter fresh flowers and leaves in nesting area.

Plantain

Benefits: Antibacterial, antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory, and antioxidant. Prevents infection. Thought to be a natural wormer.

How to Use: Feed leaves fresh.

Purslane

Benefits: Antioxidant, great source of Omega-3s, high in vitamins A, B and C, as well as calcium, iron, magnesium and potassium.

How to Use: Feed leaves fresh.

Raspberry Leaf

Benefits: Antioxidant, relaxant, supports healthy reproductive system.

How to Use: Dry leaves and add to daily feed. (fruit is great to feed also as a chicken snack!)

Rose Petals

Benefits: Highly aromatic, high in Vitamin C, antibacterial, antioxidant, aids respiratory system, mild sedative.

How to Use: Offer fresh or scatter petals in nesting area, fresh or dried.

Rosemary

Benefits: calming and relaxing, anti-inflammatory and pain reliever, aids in respiratory and liver health, insect repellent, heals wounds, aids blood circulation and digestion.

How to Use: Add to nesting and dust bath area, plants around coop and run area.

Sage

Benefits: antioxidant, anti-parasitic, antibacterial, general health promoter, immune system booster, thought to combat Salmonella, laying stimulant.

How to Use: Dry and add to daily feed.

Spearmint

Benefits: Antiseptic, insect repellent, stimulates nerve, brain and blood functions. See Mint.

Tarragon

Benefits: Antioxidant, appetite stimulant.

How to Use: Dry leaves and add to daily feed, scatter leaves, fresh or dried, in nesting areas and around coop.

Thyme

Thyme

Benefits: Aids in respiratory, digestive and immune system health, antibacterial, antioxidant, anti-parasitic, laying stimulant, insect repellent. Plant around coop and run area.

How to Use: Use fresh or dried in the nesting and dust bath areas, add to daily feed.

 

Wild Violet

Benefits: Calming, high in Vitamin C, aid in respiratory health.

How to Use: Hang bouquets of flowers in the coop, scatter in nesting areas, offer free-choice.

 

Yarrow

Benefits: Antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, clears sinuses and respiratory systems, stress reliever.

How to Use: Hang bouquets of flowers in the coop.

   Herbs are easy to grow, generally not picky about the soil they are grown in and many come back year after year. Think about growing an herb garden for your family — and for your chickens. You’ll be glad you did!


LISA STEELE is a fifth generation chicken keeper and creator of the popular website Fresh Eggs Daily. For more than a decade she has been sharing tips and advice on raising backyard flocks naturally with her nearly 1 million followers worldwide. The author of six popular books on raising backyard flocks, Lisa is one of the world’s most prolific poultry authors. She lives on a small farm in the Maine woods with her husband, their corgi, a spoiled barn cat, and flock of more than two dozen assorted chickens, ducks and geese and is currently hosting the “country lifestyle” show Welcome to my Farm which airs nationwide on public television. A long time devotee of preparing seasonal dishes with produce fresh from the garden and eggs fresh from her coop, Lisa’s latest offering is a cookbook titled The Fresh Eggs Daily Cookbook. Visit fresheggsdaily.com or follow on social @fresheggsdaily to learn more.