Four Thieves Vinegar - An Herbal Elixir for your Chickens

According to legend, during the Black Plague in Europe a band of thieves roamed towns and villages pillaging the homes and graves of plague victims, protected from falling victim to the Bubonic plague themslves by an herbal concoction that one of the thieves who was an herbalist had concocted. 

When they were finally caught, as one story goes, they were offered a quicker, more 'humane' death by hanging, instead of being burned at the stake, in exchange for the recipe. They eagerly turned over the recipe and were sent to their death. 

Other versions of the story tell that the thieves would be set free if they buried the dead and survived (which they did with the help of the vinegar) or that they would be set free if they shared their recipe. Whether or not the legend - or any of its variations - is true, the recipe lives on in many various forms and has long been known for its ability to ward off cold germs. 

Four Thieves is a vinegar/garlic concoction that contains a mixture of herbs with immune system boosting, antibiotic and antiseptic properties. While originally used to soak cloths held up to the thieves' faces to keep the plague 'germs' out, it makes an excellent immune system booster for your chickens (or yourself!) as cold and flu season approaches.

Traditionally each thief contributed one herb to be mixed into the vinegar and garlic, but I use a mixture of six different herbs for a more potent concoction.

Apple cider vinegar is the base of this elixir, to which the fresh herbs are steeped. I find that my chickens actually prefer the taste of water with apple cider vinegar in it, and they eagerly sip at this herb-infused vinegar. Offer this vinegar several times a week alongside plain water, especially during the winter months, to keep your chickens in tip-top health.

Four Thieves Vinegar

2 Tablespoons fresh lavender
2 Tablespoons fresh marjoram
2 Tablespoons fresh mint
2 Tablespoons fresh rosemary
2 Tablespoons fresh sage
2 Tablespoons fresh thyme
1 quart apple cider vinegar

4 cloves fresh garlic

Rough chop or tear the herbs and place them in a quart canning jar or other glass container.  Fill the jar with apple cider vinegar, shake and let sit for two weeks, shaking the jar to mix the contents every few days. Strain the herbs out, then slice the garlic cloves and add them to the liquid. Let sit for an additional three days, then strain and pour back into the mason jar.  Serve to your chickens every few days for happier, healthier chickens. Store extra elixir in a cool, dark place where it should last for several months.

Four Thieves Vinegar is also a wonderful all natural Lysol substitute and great for wiping down surfaces in your home to kill germs. You can also drink a Tablespoon added with some honey to a glass of water several times a day to ward off a cold or other germs.

One final note: it was said this concoction could also be used to keep someone bothersome away from you. Write your target’s name on a piece of paper – some traditions recommend you use brown paper or parchment - and soak the paper in the Four Thieves Vinegar. Fold the piece of paper up as small as you can, then bury it in the dirt somewhere. 

While I can't vouch for that use of the vinegar, I can tell you that Four Thieves Vinegar is an integral part of my natural chicken keeping.

For more information on the health benefits of garlic and apple cider vinegar for your flock, click HERE.

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  1. Awesome recipe! I just picked up a gallon of organic apple cider vinegar ... so many benefits ... I have learned a great deal from Fresh Eggs Daily!

  2. This is a great recipe - I like the essential oil it's amazing and a huge benefit for never getting the flu.

  3. You sure can! I give my chicks 'herbal tea' from day one. It's a great start to life for them.

  4. I have not, I make a bunch while I have fresh herbs to use for winter, but dried would work as well.