When I first started raising chickens more than five years ago, I knew I wanted to do it naturally. I mean, what would be the point of raising our own chickens for the eggs if we were going to use chemicals and medications and antibiotics on them. Trouble was, not a lot of studies had been done (and still haven't) on herbal remedies and preventives for chickens.
But I didn't let that deter me. What has been tested and studied is the health benefits of all the culinary herbs for humans. Every herb has amazing and varied health benefits for humans, and those benefits also apply to animals as far as I could ascertain from the few books that did talk about holistic animal care. All of the culinary herbs are completely safe to feed to your flock. I already grew many varieties in my herb garden to use in cooking, so I just expanded my garden and started growing extras for the chickens.
Common sense told me that adding herbs to our chickens' environment and diet could only have a positive effect. There was no downside as far as I could see. Practically free and easy to grow, herbs made their way into my chicken keeping regiment little by little over the years.
Maybe you don't believe that mint and pine repels rodents or that pumpkin seeds expel internal worms. I can't empirically prove that lavender calms hens or repels insects. But what I can tell you that in all the years I've been raising chickens, I've never had a rodent infestation in my coop, never seen any mites or lice on my chickens, despite using straw - which some claim harbors all kinds of critters. I've never had a hen with any kind of sickness, no respiratory illness, never had to treat for worms. So with so much potential upside to using herbs, and no downside, I continue to use them in my chicken keeping with really amazing results:
Whether you believe in the healing power of herbs or not, they at the very least make a beautiful and aromatic addition to any chicken coop. And just as you don't need to be a doctor to know how to feed your family a healthier diet, you don't need to be a vet or herbalist to feed your chickens a healthier diet. Just add some herbs.
For more information or further reading about my personal experience using herbs, my book Fresh Eggs Daily: Raising Happy, Healthy Chickens...Naturally (St. Lynn's Press, 2013) covers in far more detail how I have incorporated herbs into nearly every aspect of chicken keeping.
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