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 .




Build a Goat Sleeping Platform

goat sleeping platform

Building a goat sleeping platform was one of the simplest projects we have put together on the farm. The hardest part of the project was nagging  reminding my son to please pick up some pallets for me since he has the large truck with out a cap on it.

Each section of the goat sleeping platform goats, used two pallets. You can make your goat sleeping platform as large as you need to or what your barn space will allow. 

goats on the goat sleeping platform

Raising different species of livestock adds much to our lives. I love thinking up projects that will enrich the lives of our animals and keep them comfortable. It doesn’t have to be a fancy fix to add some comfort to the goats, sheep and pigs lives. They don’t get fancy around here, but they sure are kept comfortable! Lots of dry bedding is one of the care essentials. As I age, I feel aches and pains where there were none before. Animals experience this phenomenon of aging, too. 

Goats require good nutrition, safe, dry housing, and plenty of forage. Mostly, goats are easy keepers, as long as they have their needs met and any problems addressed promptly.

As often as possible, I like to use natural preventative care and natural remedies for my goats. Building these raised goat sleeping platforms fit right in with our preventative goals.

Why Build a Raised Goat Sleeping Platform?

Age is one consideration when thinking about building a goat sleeping platform for goats. Our flock of Pygora fiber goats are getting up in years now. Our first goats, that we purchased in 2004, are considered senior citizens! Goats can get sore joints as they age. Similar to large dogs in size, goats can get stiff, sore joints, and be stiff when they try to get up from resting. Giving goats a raised goat sleeping platform can help by keeping the joints warmer. Add a thick cushion of dry straw to make everything really comfortable.

Foot rot is another reason to build a goat sleeping platform. Anything you can do to keep the goat on dry ground, helps prevent an outbreak of foot scald which, with the right combination of bacteria, can lead to foot rot. Once foot rot is present in your barn or paddocks it will remain there. It waits for the right opportunity to flare up from a tiny sore area in between the goat hoof “toes”.

pygora goats

A third reason to build a goat sleeping platform is because goats like to climb! They will enjoy being up even a few inches off the ground. As long as the platforms you build are sturdy and stable, the goats will use this structure. 

Fiber goats will have a nicer fleece harvest, if the goat remains clean and dry throughout the winter. Sleeping off the damp ground helps keep the fiber in top shape.

In Case Of Emergency….

If your barn happens to get a minor flood from a heavy storm, having a platform already built, gives the goats somewhere to stand while they wait for you to “rescue” them. This happened to us one winter. We arrived to find the goats fighting for places that were anywhere above the few inches of water that had invaded the stalls. Building a few swales helped redirect the rain waters but the goats were very unhappy about the situation!

goat sleeping platform

What We Used for the Goat Sleeping Platforms

Two pallets per section. – I made a double platform for the stall with six goats. They can’t all sleep on it, comfortably but it keeps most of them off the ground. As we reconfigure the barn, arrangements will be made to have sleeping platform space for all the goats. 

Stack two pallets. Add pallet stacks as needed. Two sections of stacked pallets will require one sheet of plywood to cover the open slats. 

goat sleeping platform

Cover the pallet structure with the sheet of plywood. Use a nail or two in each end to keep it stable. 

goat sleeping platform

Cover the pallet goat sleeping platform with straw. The space underneath the platform will trap warmer air. Also cover the stall floor with a good layer of dry bedding and straw. Replace wet areas as needed to keep the flooring dry.

Let me know in the comments if you try this with your goats or have found another method. I would love to hear your feedback. 

goat sleeping platform

Look for this project and over 50 others in my next book- 50 Do It Yourself Projects for Keeping Goats (Skyhorse Publishing 2020)




Essential Natural Dye Tools and Materials

natural dye tools and materials

There are certain essentials in natural dye tools and materials, that need to be gathered before you begin to set up a natural dye workshop. Your original impression might be that this will really add up to a lot of money. That is actually not the case! First lets go over the tools you need, then I will give you some tips on shopping for deals.

Before You Buy Anything…

It’s important that you keep your natural dye tools, and equipment separate from the pots, pans and utensils used for cooking food. Even using substances from nature can lead to toxic buildup on cookware and utensils. With a small investment, you can gather equipment specifically for your dye work.

Look for used or new, stainless steel pots. You can use aluminum pots but the metal might affect the resulting color. Once I fell in love with the natural dye process, I invested in a large stainless steel pot that can handle a larger amount of fiber or yarn. These are great for natural dye tools.

A bucket for rinsing out the yarn can be useful. Small measuring cups for dissolving powdered dyes with a little water come in handy. A glass mason style jar is another option. Measuring spoons, long handled tongs, long wooden or metal spoons, strainers, and pot holders are essential. Once you begin experimenting with pH, a pack of pH strips will come in handy.

What to Use for a Heat Source

Unless you stick to solar dyeing, you need a heat source to simmer the dye vats. My favorite method is an outdoor camp style propane stove. I didn’t purchase this right away for my natural dye tools. It is one of the more expensive equipment additions. In the meantime I used various electric burners outside on our covered deck.

natural dye workshop

It’s not advisable to heat dye pots inside your house unless you have really good ventilation. Even natural substances can release irritating fumes when heated.

Eventually, I upgraded to the propane stove. The electric burners were fine for small batches. As I began dyeing larger batches, I needed more power to heat the water.

Keep Safety Gear with Your Natural Dye Tools

Some materials are irritating to lungs and eyes. Eye protection and dust masks are inexpensive essential items to include in your dye kit.

Other Essential Natural Dye Tools

A long stem candy or brewing thermometer helps you keep the dye at the correct temperature. An infrared thermometer is another option.

Most dye measurements require a scale. Postage or kitchen digital scales are great for dye work. Having a scale that measures in grams is particularly helpful in your natural dye workshop.

A drop cloth and disposable gloves are good additions.

natural dye tools

Do You Need Alum in Your Natural Dye Workshop?

Alum is the most common substance used as a mordant for natural dye work. Cream of Tarter is often used along with alum as a softening agent. Both of these substances help the yarn become receptive to the dye, allowing it to stick.

With some natural dye substances, particularly berries, vinegar can be the mordant that prepares the yarn to accept the color.

Washing soda, and iron are easy to find modifiers that can substantially shift the color of the dye.

Other mordants and modifiers are a bit tricky and not recommended for beginning dye work.

One Last Essential Addition to Your Natural Dye Tools

No natural dye workshop is complete without a notebook for recording your details and results. Keep track of your measurements in the notebook, including how much dye material you used and the ratio of mordant to dry wool. ( Usually 10 to 12%). Note the weight of the yarn being dyed as this is important to repeating your results later.

Add a small piece of your fiber or yarn to the notebook. This is my favorite part of my natural dye notebook.

This is a great place to note how each dye substance worked for you. Note the season you gathered the material, and if you used the flowers, leaves or roots.

List of Natural Dye Workshop Supplies

  • pots and pans
  • strainer, fine mesh and regular
  • outdoor heat source
  • digital scale
  • cooking utensils
  • thermometer
  • safety gear
  • pH strips
  • mordants and modifiers
  • drop cloth, rubber gloves
  • hangers for drying yarn
  • buckets for rinsing yarn

Keep track of what you forage and grow in the garden for your natural dye work. The possibilities are endless when you have your own natural dye tools ready to use. You can read more about raising fiber animals, and all the lovely crafts you can do with wool and natural fibers in my book. Enjoy the journey!




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

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