Adding Thyme to Chicken Feed for a Natural Immune System Boost


I think we can all agree that one of the reasons we raise our own chickens is to afford them a happy life, spent frolicking in the grass, chasing bugs and eating good-quality feed supplemented with healthy treats. We hardly want to emulate the large, commercial chickens farms...or do we?
You might have seen the recent Perdue commercials on television explaining how they are adding thyme to their chicken feed to help support their chickens' immune system. And how they add oregano (oil) to their water to provide them antioxidants. And how they feed their chickens probiotics to improve intestinal health.
Now I'm not saying we should strive to imitate the conditions on large poultry farms, but I am rather proud that I've been doing these things for the past 8 years with my chickens despite the lack of any scientific proof or studies done specifically on poultry. Just based on my own research, common sense and personal results I've seen first hand. I realized that common culinary herbs have really wonderful health benefits for chickens as well as humans.

But if a big company like Perdue Farms is spending the time and money to add herbs to their chickens' diet, I'm guessing they have some pretty compelling reasons to do so. And that makes me feel even better about what I do - because in addition to having nutritious herbs in their feed and water, my chickens get to enjoy their days strolling around our yard munching on weeds, gobbling bugs and worms and taking dust baths in the warm sunlight. 

I plant my chickens their own herb garden. They love to wander through and munch on various herbs - and even take dust baths in them, I'm sure benefiting from the essential oils in the plants. 


Thyme is a hardy, low maintenance perennial herb. It makes a pretty ground cover and seems to be my chickens' preferred herb to dust bathe in. It like full sun and well-drained soil, on the acidic side. It actually prefers to be a bit neglected. Fairly difficult to start from seed, it's best to start with a few small plants. There are lots of various varieties including lemon thyme, lime thyme, coconut thyme and pink lemonade thyme. 
Add some herbs to your girls regiment. You'll be glad you did. Some ideas to incorporate thyme into your flock's diet:
- mix some dried thyme into their daily feed
- cut fresh thyme and offer free-choice
- stir fresh or dried thyme leaves into a favorite treat like warm oatmeal or scrambled eggs
- steep some fresh thyme in water for a week or so and then offer your chickens some herbal 'tea'
- plant thyme around the coop and let your chickens free range and eat what they want


Further Reading:
http://www.fresheggsdaily.com/2013/04/oregano-as-natural-antibiotic.html
http://www.fresheggsdaily.com/2015/09/probiotics-vs-prebiotics-in-chicken-diet.html
http://www.nytimes.com/2012/12/26/science/chicken-farms-try-oregano-as-antibiotic-substitute.html
http://www.gardeningknowhow.com/edible/herbs/thyme/types-of-thyme-plants.htm

Resources:
Perdue Launches New TV Commercial
Antibiotic Free Chicken
New Perdue TV Commercial Highlights Innovative Steps Perdue Takes to Raise Healthy Chickens Without Antibiotics

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