When chicks or ducklings are hatched in an incubator and then brooded in a brooder instead of under a hen or duck, many of you like to put bean bags, stuffed animals or eye pillows in the brooder for the babies to snuggle up against. They really do seem to enjoy a soft bean- or rice-filled pillow to snooze on. Instead though, why not combine the security and comfort of a soft pillow with the health benefits of fresh herbs and make some brooder box herbal sachets.
Birds in the wild will line their nests with weeds and herbs, presumably because of the various health benefits the plants provide to growing chicks both when they eat them and when the rub up against them and the oils transfer to their skin. I have been added herbs to my nesting boxes and brooder by the handful for several years, and now also make these soothing sachets for my brooder babies, both chick and duckling.
It took a bit of trial and error at first. I experimented with cloth (too thick, I felt fabric wouldn't let the oils in the herbs seep through well enough to impart the benefits to the babies). I tried cheesecloth but it frays too easily and I was afraid the chicks would end up ingesting the thin strands. I tried lace, which worked well but can be kind of expensive. Then I found a forgotten piece of tulle in my craft closet. Perfect! Easy to sew on, tulle doesn't fray, the holes allow the essential oils to penetrate and it's very inexpensive.
Here's what you'll need to make your own sachets:
A piece of tulle
Fresh herbs (homegrown or store bought - your grocery store should carry them in the produce section) or dried if you can't find fresh
Here's what you do:
Cut the tulle into 8" squares and fold each square in half. Sew along the short end and up one long side, leaving the other short end open. (A sewing machine makes this project a snap, but you can also sew them by hand if you choose.)
Turn your sachets right-side out and snip fresh herbs, filling each bag to about 1/2" from the top. Sew along the top edge to close your sachet, trim the excess thread and you're done.
I make up a half dozen sachets at a time and put one or two in the brooder, storing the others in the refrigerator. Since they are so quick and so inexpensive to make, once the sachets in the brooder get dirty and the herbs dry out after a day or so, I just toss out the old ones and replace them with new ones. (This is safer than making drawstring bags and reusing them since the strings could strangle or choke the chicks if they try to eat them.)
I use various combinations of herbs, depending on what I have available. Nearly every herb has some benefit for the growing babies. The sachets pictured here were made using spearmint, chocolate mint, lemon balm, parsley and white violets.
For a list of the some of the health benefits of common herbs, click HERE.
You could also use drawstring bags if you choose, which would be washable and reusable, just be sure the string is securely attached and can't be swallowed.