What Herbs Keep Chickens Healthy?

what herbs keep chickens healthy

Can herbs keep chickens healthy? Does herb use increase the immune response in the flock? The answer to both questions appears to be, yes! Chickens love herbs, so dosing them with these natural compounds is an easy task. 

My Top Herb Choices For Chicken Care

If I could only grow a few herbs I would choose Mint, Oregano, Basil, Thyme, Lavender and Sage. As far as chicken keeping and animal care needs, Sage and Oregano are great for intestinal health and to ward off infections from Salmonella and Coccidiosis (cocci). Lavender is an all around great herb for infections, relaxation, odor control, and repels pests. Mint  repels insects and rodents, is a stimulant for egg laying, and the chickens love it. Thyme and Basil are aromatic herbs so they also repel pests.

Thyme and Basil are good for mucus membranes and Thyme is great for keeping the respiratory tract healthy or aid in recovery from a respiratory illness. Knowing that herbs keep chickens healthy is empowering. When I notice a potential health problem, I can immediately start supportive treatment by visiting my herb garden. All in all, most herbs are beneficial and growing them to add to the nest boxes or daily feed is a great idea. Of course humans benefit greatly from herbs too.

 I recommend the top six I mentioned because they are great culinary herbs, in addition to being good for your health. Chickens love to eat herbs but we can still use them in our cooking and health care. In the event of illness, making a tea and adding dried thyme to it, can help loosen a cough and make breathing easier. Thyme is great for respiratory health. I grow quite an assortment of all herbs and dry them in the dehydrator. If I am going to make a lotion or salve, I make an herbal infusion in olive oil. Continue reading to find out how to make an easy herbal oil infusion.

Herbs keep chickens healthy

Adding Herbal Care Into Everyday Life  

Most of the ways I use herbs takes only a few minutes a day. Snipping an assortment of herbs from the kitchen garden, and putting them in a basket to take to the coop is an easy task. I can even perform this job with a coffee cup in one hand! Years ago, I was only growing mint and basil. I had little idea of all the creative and healthy ways to use herbs. Cooking and baking our food with fresh herbs is one reward from growing herb gardens. The other rewards are seeing how healthy and strong my flock of chickens is, since I began incorporating herbs in their regular treats and diet. I have no trouble stating that herbs keep chickens healthy.

herbs keep chickens healthy
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Simple Herbal Oil Infusions

 When I need an infusion of one or more of the herbs, I start gathering the herbs by snipping some each day. It’s better to use the herbs dried so you don’t add excess water to the oil infusion. It won’t take long to dry out a cup of herbs on a drying rack or pop them on the dehydrator tray. 

Using the charts below, you can customize mixtures of herbal infusions for specific issues. Or simply make a fresh herb blend of some of the herbs and add to the coop or feed pan. If you use a chicken feeder, I would suggest adding the herbs to your hens diet separately. Pieces of herbs left behind in the feeder can get soggy and even mold. Be sure to clean up any fresh herbs that are not eaten by the flock.

Drying herbs from your garden is the best way to have a ready selection for winter herbal flock care. Herbs dry easily in a well ventilated area. Electric dehydrators speed up the process and allow you to keep a constant supply of dried herbs for nest boxes, infusions, salve making and cooking.

Simple Wound Salve for Chickens

What you will need:

  1. 2 glass jar – quart size recommended but pint can work too.
  2. quarter cup of each of – Oregano and dried dried plantain leaves, and a quarter cup of one of the following dried floral herbs-choose from calendula  petals, Nasturtium, chamomile, wild violet,or dandelion petals  
  3. olive oil, sweet almond oil or grapeseed oil
  4. mesh strainer
  5. 1/2 ounce beeswax
  6. 1/2 ounce coconut oil
  7. tea tree essential oil
  8. vitamin e oil

Prepare the infusion 

Add the dried herbs to the jar. (always use dried herbs and botanicals when making an infusion)

Pour the oil over the herbs to cover. The quick method for creating an infusion is to set the jar into a pan with a few inches of water in the pan. Bring the water to a simmer. Simmer for 10 minutes, turn off the heat and let the jar with the herbs and oil sit in the warm water for a couple hours. A crockpot set on low can also be used to warm the water and infuse the jar of herbs and oil.

Strain the oil, using the fine mesh strainer. Add a coffee filter or piece of cheese cloth if you feel it is needed. Save the herbs! you can feed these to the flock as a treat. Extra oil not needed for the salve recipe can be stored in the refrigerator for future use. Label the jar.

Healing salve pictured on the right. The left container is a drawing salve using charcoal and infused oil

Making the Healing Salve

Using a double boiler method described above, melt the beeswax and coconut oil together in a glass jar. Add four ounces of infused oil. 

When the oils and beeswax are completely melted together, add 15 drops of tea tree oil. Add 3 drops of liquid vitamin E or contents of one vitamin E capsule. Vitamin E acts as a preservative.

Have your salve containers ready. Use clean jelly jars, small tins, or other handy containers with lids. Remove the jar from the warm water bath. Quickly pour the mixture into the containers. The salve hardens quickly. 

Use this salve for cuts, scrapes, pecking wounds, bites, and other open wounds. Store in a cool location as the salve will melt if left in the car or in sunlight. 

Always consult a veterinarian if the wound is not improving, worsening, infected and not responding to your treatment. 

Herbal Tip:

Comfrey is an easy to grow herb that can aid soft tissue healing. For sprains, broken bones, and tendon damage, a compress of comfrey salve can be made using the same method. Apply using a compress to the injured area.

Knowing What Herbs Keep Chickens Healthy is Simple 

Learning how herbs keep chickens healthy is pretty simple. Knowing what type of problems cause chicken illness helps you remedy the situation. For example, if you know that weak egg shells can be a result of calcium deficiency or a reproductive tract issue, seeing that Marjoram, Parsley, Mint and Dandelions are high in the properties that improve reproductive health helps you know which herbs to use. Of course, make sure to only use wild plants and beneficial weeds from areas that have not been treated with herbicides or weed killers. Here’s a chart that lists common chicken ailments or problems and the herbs that may help.

Herbs keep chickens healthy

Herbs Keep Chickens Healthy Print out Information 

The four page graphic PDF is my way of organizing  the herbal information. You are invited to print out the PDF, for your own personal use.

To download and begin referring to How to Keep Chickens Healthy , 

herbs keep chickens healthy

Click here.>>>>>  to download a printable copy of this series of Herbal Info for Chickens

For more Do it Yourself Healing Remedies for Chickens, check out my book, 50 Do it Yourself Projects for Keeping Chickens (skyhorse publishing 2018) available through Amazon and local book sellers

Looking for a reputable source for organic herbs for your flock? Scratch and Peck Feeds carries many supplements for your flock in addition to healthy whole grain layer feed. You will smell the freshness the minute you open the bag!

While you’re there, sign up for the Flock’s Journey program.

FLOCK MEMBERS ENJOY…

  • Giveaways and Contests
  • Discounts on Scratch and Peck Feeds Products
  • Engagement Through THE FLOCK Facebook Group
  • Invites to Local Retailer and Scratch and Peck Feeds Events
  • Inspiration for Raising Happy, Healthy Chickens 
  • A Passionate Community of Cluckin’ Good Peeps

herbs keep chickens healthy

The Herbal Starter Kit by the Herbal Academy




Dropping Board -Keeping a Clean Coop

dropping board in chicken coop

How to Keep the Dropping Board Clean

Dropping board is a term used to describe the area directly below the roost bar in a chicken coop. It helps by collecting the manure and keeping it contained so that removal of the chicken manure is easy to complete.

With chores, I always find that the easier they are to complete, the more likely that the chore will get completed. While chickens are sleeping on the roost at night, feces drop from them onto whatever is directly below. Not cleaning up this poopy mess is not adding to the healthy environment you want for your flock.

dropping board

We Made a Beginner Error!

We did not realize this when we built our coop. The manure dropping into the built in nest boxes below was a disgusting problem. I did not look forward to cleaning that mess up every week. The smell of manure would sometimes get pretty bad and some years  the flies were just terrible. I  tried to clean up daily so that the task would never grow too large. I thought there had to be a better way.

How I Made the Dropping Board in Our Coop 

I placed two wide boards across the top of the nest boxes that sat under the roost bar. These boards would serve as the dropping board. Doing  just this helped the problem some, but I still had to clean manure off the dropping board frequently. If I failed to clean the dropping boards daily, flies and odor crept in.

One day I tried laying feed bags on top of the dropping board. The chickens promptly threw the bags on the floor of the coop.

Thinking up a better plan, I smoothed the bags out better, laid them on the dropping board and tucked them in behind the boards, up close to the wall. Pushing the dropping board back to the coop wall anchoring the bags, and keeping them from being pushed to the floor worked better. Now the dropping boards had a lining that was easier to scrape clean.

dropping board

How To Clean and Change the Dropping Board Liner 

Next I generously sprinkle a lime product called First Saturday Lime onto the dropping board liner. This lime product is safe for animals and poultry and is an extra source of calcium for the hens.

On top of the liner I add straw or pine shavings. This adds to the ease of cleanup by absorbing any liquid droppings.

dropping board

I take three things into the coop for a quick cleanup.

  • a bucket
  • dust pan
  • cat litter scoop

cleaning the chicken coop

Use the scoop to scrape the mess off the dropping board and onto the dust pan. Dump it into the bucket for easy removal to the compost area. Replace the entire set up when needed. If you purchase feed in paper bags (not the poly bags), you can add the entire layered mess to the compost bin.

What About Poly Feed Bags

If you use poly bags, you will need to scrap off the bags and remove them from the compost material to the trash. Either way, the process is quick. Keeping up with this clean up routine will greatly reduce the odor and flies in the chicken coop.

dropping board

Alternative Dropping Board Material

We have plenty of empty feed bags every week from feeding the animals on our farm. If you don’t use enough feed bags to try this method, perhaps newspaper would work the same way. Using newspaper, you would have to change it out more frequently than twice a week with the feed bags. You can add newspaper to the compost pile as well. This method might not work for every chicken coop but it has made one job, on our farm, easier to complete.

Messes in the coop are inevitable. Here’s another idea that will help keep your chicken area cleaner.

Peek Into Our Coop 

You can watch this video about how the system is set up .




Quiet Chickens – What Breeds to Choose in the Suburbs

quiet chickens  what breeds to choose in the suburbs

Quiet Chickens – Is that an option?

Are there quiet chickens that won’t disturb the neighbors? Many suburban and city neighborhoods have voted to allow residents to keep a few chickens in the backyard. This recent question was posed to me by a resident trying to get her town to allow chicken keeping. Generally speaking, I don’t find chickens noisy. Yes, roosters will crow, but most urban cities and suburban towns prohibit roosters, so that is not the concern. Hens will be more quiet than most dogs, as they go about their daily scratching and pecking.

The hen who is about to lay an egg or who has just accomplished her daily work, will cackle loudly. The hen is announcing her good deed for all to hear. But it isn’t as loud as a rooster and the cackle ends quickly. Other than that and an occasional tiff between two wannabe alpha hens, noise should not be a prohibiting factor. 

Which Breeds are the Quiet Chickens?

speckled sussex hen
Speckled Sussex

Even among hens, some breeds tend to be more settled and less flighty than other chicken breeds. When looking for quiet chickens the first breed often named is the Buff Orpington. Buff Orpingtons rate high on many of the factors people are looking for in backyard poultry. They are quiet, docile, friendly and fluffy birds. Orpingtons seek out their human caregivers by asking to be picked up with a submissive squat. They rarely become the mean girl in the bunch, and spend their days happily doing chicken stuff.

quiet hens

Other breeds often mentioned when seeking quiet chickens for the urban setting are Australorps, Wyandottes, Brahmas, Cochins, Barred Rock, Mottled Java (a breed currently on the Livestock Conservancy listing as in danger) Ameraucanas, and Rhode Island Red.

My personal favorite docile, quiet chickens have been the Orpingtons, Speckled Sussex, Brahmas and Wyandottes.

When receiving input on this topic from other chicken owners, quite a few stated that their Easter Egger hens were the loudest ones they owned.

What is Normal Behavior Even for Quiet Chickens

assorted chicken breeds
Left Silver Laced Wyandotte, light Brahma behind her, Middle Buff Orpington with Australorp behind her. Right, Rhode Island Red

In a flock without a rooster, it is common for one of the hens to assume the leadership of the flock. She will call the other chickens when treats are being given, or when danger is lurking. While not as loud and disturbing as a rooster crowing, the caution clucking is louder than normal activity clucking. This can be a warning to the chicken owner, as well, that something is wrong in the yard.

quiet chickens

What Can You do To Keep Chickens Quiet?

Are there chicken keeping tricks that help keep the flock peaceful and quiet? Consider these ideas when planning your flock.

  • Partially covered run for shade and protection. If the chickens feel safe from aerial predators they won’t carry on as long with loud cackling. The shade protects them from hot summer days, giving them a place to rest with less risk of heat stroke.
  • Chicken toys. If you have an adventurous flock, perhaps a home made chicken swing will add to their entertainment. Or try hanging a cabbage on a string for their pecking amusement.
  • Dust bathing chickens seem very content. Give the flock an area that has a mixture of sand, wood ash, DE powder, and dry dirt. Toss in a few dried grubs to get the party started. After a snack and a good dusting, your chickens will feel like they spent the day at the spa. Totally zen!
  • Make sure the flock has the necessities of clean fresh water, chicken feed, and a place to shelter if the weather is bad, or uninvited predators arrive.

Talk to Chicken Keeping Friends

Talking chicken breeds with other chicken keepers is a great way to narrow down the quieter breeds for your flock. Another good resource for new or aspiring chicken owner is the local farm store where you might choose to purchase chicks. The staff or owner should be knowledgeable about which breeds would be a good choice for you.

If you order from a mail order hatchery, I have found the staff and personnel to be very helpful and informative, too. Ask questions and prepare before you bring home the chicks. Have the brooder and the accessories set up before hand. This starts all new chicken owners off on the right foot.

If you’re looking for more opinions on which breeds of chickens will keep your peace loving neighbors happy, look to the comments. Originally written in 2015 and many readers have weighed in on their favorite breeds for quiet chickens.

quiet chickens

(This post may contain affiliate links which won’t change your price but will share some commission.)




Managing and Composting Chicken Manure

composting chicken manure

Composting chicken manure is a side benefit of raising chickens. This beneficial by-product must be managed before it can be used as a garden amendment. Chickens provide us with hours of companionship, fresh eggs, and……manure! Lots of manure. Approximately one cubic foot of manure is produced by each chicken in approximately six months. Multiply that by the six chickens in an average back yard flock and you have a mountain of manure every year!

If you live on a farm, that may not  be a problem, but in a backyard and in a neighborhood, there has to be a plan to take care of the chicken manure. How can you turn your pile of chicken manure into something  beneficial like the delicious eggs your hens are producing? With a little extra effort the manure can be turned into rich compost for your garden and maybe you will have enough to share with the neighbors, too. 

Cautions when Composting Chicken Manure 

Most chicken owners know that fresh chicken manure can contain Salmonella or E.Coli bacteria. In addition, the fresh manure contains too much ammonia to use as a fertilizer and the odor makes it unpleasant to be around. But, when properly composted, chicken manure is an excellent soil amendment. Compost does not have the unpleasant odor. Chicken manure compost adds organic matter back into the soil and contributes nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium to the soil. 

managing and composting chicken manure

Two Reasons to Compost the Chicken Manure

  1. 1. Adding the manure directly to the garden can spread pathogenic organisms to the soil which can be picked up by low growing leafy greens and fruit. 
  2. 2. Fresh  manure will burn the plants roots and leaves because it is too strong or “hot” unless it is composted. 

How to Compost Chicken Manure

The waste you scrape out of the coop, including all of the shavings, sawdust, straw and hay can be added to the compost bin with the fresh manure. Compost components are usually labeled either brown or green. The bedding materials, along with any additional yard plant debris, leaves,  small sticks, and paper would be your brown parts. The manure, and kitchen scraps would be the green parts. When composting chicken manure, a recommended level of 2 parts brown to one part green is recommended because of the high nitrogen content in the manure. Place all the materials in the compost bin or composter. (One cubic yard is recommended as the size of the bin). 

composting chicken manure

Continue to Turn the Compost Pile

Mix and regularly stir and turn the composting material. Occasionally check the inner core temperature of the material. A temperature of 130 degrees F or up to 150 degrees is recommended in order to allow the soil bacteria to break down the pathogenic bacteria from the manure. Turning and stirring the pile allows air to enter and the good bacteria need some fresh air to continue working. After approximately one year, you should have some very rich, valuable compost suitable for your garden. All of the E.Coli and Salmonella should have been destroyed by the heat produced during composting. It is still advisable to carefully wash any produce grown in a compost fed garden. 

A Few Safety Precautions

  • Always wear gloves when handling manure.
  • Do not add cat, dog, or pig feces into your compost.
  • Always wash produce thoroughly before eating. Individuals with compromised health should not eat raw food from a manure fed garden.

Containers for Composting Chicken Manure

Composting bins can be made from many different materials. You can, of course, buy a small compost system like this one. (affiliate link)

Do it Yourself style compost systems are easy to put together. Using a few wooden pallets, a series of three bins gives you a system for composting chicken manure.

pallet compost bins

When less space is available, chicken wire can be formed into a bin for containing the coop waste.

chicken manure




Pullet or Cockerel? How to Know

 

pullet or cockerel

Are some of your chickens looking different than the others? Do you know how to determine, early on, if you are raising a pullet or a cockerel? Lets say you wanted to raise chickens for eggs and purchased some hatching eggs. Or, perhaps, you couldn’t resist the fluffy little munchkins at the feed store this spring. In any event you now have chickens growing up in your backyard. You are feeding them and caring for their every need. But wait! Some of the chicks are starting to look different than the others. One or two in particular seem, odd. Could they be roosters? There are ways to identify the pullet or cockerel as they develop.

Pullet or Cockerel – How to Know the Difference

pullet or cockerel

There are a few ways to sex chicks and maturing chickens. At hatching the method that has been used for generations is called vent sexing. Sometimes it is referred to as the Japanese method. Using this method, look inside the tiny vent opening and notice the difference in the cloaca. I have not seen this done but hatcheries use this method with 85 to 90 % accuracy.

pullet or cockerel

Wing Feather Sexing

Another method is wing feather sexing. Look at the wing feathers of a chick on the first or second day after hatching. Cockerel chickens wing feathers would be all the same length. Pullets wing feathers would be in two layers of different length. A note of caution on this method. It does not work on all breeds of chickens. Certain breeds such as leghorns have the genetic trait that allows this method to be used. Not all breeds have this trait.

pullet or cockerel

Sex Linked Breeds

Sex Linked Traits – For certain genetic pairings, a predictable and identifiable appearance gives a fool proof method of determining sex of the chick. For this method you need to understand that the hen contributes genetic material to the cockerels and the rooster contributes genetic material to the pullets. Any sex linked characteristics will be passed on in this way. Color is one of the sex linked traits.

Knowing this, if you mate a hen that carries a sex linked color trait with a rooster that does not carry the trait, the cockerels will have the trait. This makes it easy to separate the pullets at hatching. There are some popular hybrid breeds that utilize this method. Black Stars or Black Sex links are the result of a Barred Rock Hen crossed with a Rhode Island Red Rooster. The cockerels have a white spot on their heads. Red Stars and Golden Comets are two other breeds that are bred for this reason and for increased egg production.

pullet or cockerel
Black Star or Black Sex Link Hen

If you absolutely cannot have a rooster or don’t want to deal with one, buying sex linked breed pullets is your most fool proof method of obtaining pullets. Using this genetic makeup to choose your flock helps you avoid the hassle and heartbreak of having to re-home or cull a backyard pet. If you are living a self sufficient lifestyle, and utilizing the protein provided from your flock, you might consider roosters as an additional meat. I realize this is a sensitive subject for many backyard chicken keepers and culling rooster for the stew pot is not something all chicken keepers can handle. Keep reading for more on re-homing roosters.

Developing chicks 

pullet or cockerel

As your chicks develop, you may begin to notice some differences in the growth and characteristics showing up. The two chickens shown in the photo are showing classic developmental differences between a pullet and a cockerel. The young cockerel grew up to be the best rooster we ever had on the farm. I am glad that the hatchery made that error and sent us King! 

Cockerels will often hold themselves differently, in a more upright stance. Their neck feathers will be longer and pointy as compared to the more rounded feather ends of the pullets. The combs and legs will also begin to look different. Combs on a developing cockerel will be darker colored, and larger than the pullets of the same breed. By ten weeks of age, you can be fairly certain if you have a developing rooster in the flock.

The Crowing and the Egg

keep the rooster

Of course, the final answer to the question comes when you find the egg. Or the morning noon and night crowing that is hard to dispute. Although, hens of some breeds, in the absence of a rooster may take up crowing.

One last anecdotal test. I have found that my roosters are often the chicks that were the most easily handled and didn’t mind being cuddled. It doesn’t last though! Somewhere around 8 months to a year, the hormones fully kick in and the rooster is no longer so cuddly. Before that point be sure you have made it clear that you are in charge. Roosters will look for weakness and begin to strike out when you enter the area where the hens are housed. You can read more about keeping roosters and tips for success in this post. 

pullet or cockerel

Re-Homing Roosters

If you are totally against using your roosters as food for your family, re-homing is another option that may work out. There are people with larger flocks that keep roosters for protection of the hens. I would check with a local feed store or agriculture supply store about a community bulletin board. Posting your available rooster there might bring some leads. When the rooster is a particular breed, posting on a local community forum might lead you to someone who is looking for a new breeding rooster. It’s not easy to re-home a rooster. Occasionally the right person comes along and all ends well.

pullet or cockerel

This post appeared first on Backyard Poultry Magazine.com   

Last updated and edited June 2019