Almost every culinary herb (plus spices and many common flowers such as roses, nasturtium, bee balm, etc.) has amazing health benefits for both humans and animals. I grow a wide assortment of herbs to use in cooking and also in conjunction with raising our chickens and ducks. Many are perennials, such as lavender, mint, thyme and pineapple sage, or reseed themselves like dill, parsley and cilantro, so I just add a few more annuals, such as basil, marjoram and sage each spring to achieve a varied selection of herbs.
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 - warm in the winter, iced in the summer. 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 are perfectly safe to use around the chickens, so there's no worry about any being toxic or harmful to them. I just make up a mix of whatever needs to be cut back at any given time. It's a great way to snip and trim your herb plants when they need clipping without anything going to waste.
Here is a quick reference of some of the more common herbs and their specific benefits for us and for chickens:
COMMON HERBS AND THEIR BENEFITS
Basil - antibacterial, mucus membrane health
Bay Leaves - antiseptic, antioxidant, immune system booster, insect repellent
Bee Balm (bergamot/monarda)- antiseptic, antibacterial, respiratory health, calming
Catnip - sedative, insecticide
Cayenne pepper - aids circulation, appetite stimulant, antiseptic, digestive enhancement
Cilantro - antioxidant, fungicide, builds strong bones, high in Vitamin A for vision and Vitamin K for blood clotting
Cinnamon - promotes healthy breathing
Dill - antioxidant, relaxant, respiratory health
Echinacea aids in respiratory health and strengthens the immune system
Fennel -laying stimulant
Garlic - laying stimulant, antifungal, benefits circulation system
Ginger - stress reducer (don't laugh, chickens have stress in their lives too at times!), appetite stimulant, anti-oxidant
Lavender - stress reliever, increases blood circulation, highly aromatic, insecticide
Lemon Balm - stress reliever, antibacterial, highly aromatic, rodent repellent, calming
Lemon Grass (citronella) - fly repellent
Marigold - vibrant egg yolks, feet and beaks/bills, insect repellent, antioxidant
Marjoram - laying stimulant, anti-inflammatory, decongestant, improves blood circulation, detoxifier
Mint (all kinds) - insecticide and rodent repellent
Nasturtium - laying stimulant, antiseptic, antibiotic, insecticide, wormer
Oregano - combats coccidia, salmonella, infectious bronchitis, avian flue, blackhead and e-coli, strengthens immune system
Parsley - high in vitamins, aids in blood vessel development, laying stimulant
Peppermint - anti-parasitic, insecticide
Pineapple Sage - aids nervous system, highly aromatic
Rose Petals - highly aromatic, high in Vitamin C
Rosemary - pain relief, respiratory health, insecticide
Sage - antioxidant, anti-parasitic, general health promoter
Spearmint - antiseptic, insecticide, stimulates nerve, brain and blood functions
Tarragon - antioxidant
Thyme - respiratory health, antibacterial, antioxidant, anti-parasitic
Yarrow - antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, clears sinuses and respiratory systems, stress reliever
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.
This is the article written by Susan Burek, noted herbalist and owner of Moonlight Mile Farm, that first started me on the path to holistic chicken keeping. It really is a thought-provoking and informative, well researched article.