Most of the information in my book was based on my own personal observations and results, along with applying the human benefits of various herbs to chickens. Now, nearly four years later, the studies still aren't out there, but something interesting caught my eye recently.
I don't know how many of you have seen the Perdue commercials where a farmer is standing in his chicken house holding a bunch of fresh parsley and talking about how he feeds it to his chickens. That fascinated me.
Clearly, someone at Perdue didn't wake up one morning and just decide that the company was going to start feeding all their chickens parsley. That's a huge expense for them, and not something they would do on a whim. Obviously THEY have done studies and know exactly how much, how often and what benefits feeding parsley offers to chickens. And this makes me very, very happy. (I mean I still feel very, very badly for any commercially raised chickens, but at least their diet is getting better - at least at Perdue farms.)
The fact that a large poultry producer like Perdue feels that the cost of adding parsley (and a few other herbs too!) to their chickens' diet is justified (based on scientific studies that they have done) actually does wonders towards validating the information in my book. I makes me feel like I was on the right track just by applying a bit of commonsense.
In fact, I actually chuckled at this: A reader actually emailed me a few months ago and told me that she believed that someone over at Perdue had read my book - because now they're feeding parsley to their flocks! While I would love to believe that my book was the impetus for their switch to a more natural diet, I am pretty sure that's not how it happened. Although that would be super cool......
Now, while I DO mention parsley at least a half dozen times in my book, extolling its virtues as a laying stimulant and an aid in blood vessel development that's jam-packed with vitamins - especially Vitamin B - and protein, I hardly think that reading my book was what drove Perdue to start adding herbs to their chicken feed!
Instead I think it was more likely due to the Veterinary Feed Directive being implemented on January 1st of this year. As a result of the Directive, many antibiotics for all types of livestock have been removed from feed store shelves and now require a prescription from a vet in order to be dispensed. This has lead to a scramble by many in the poultry industry to find alternative and natural ways to improve the health of various kinds of animals, and especially chickens.
According to this article, Perdue also is adding oregano to their chickens' water and thyme to their feed. Both oregano and thyme act as immune system boosters and natural antibiotics - and yes, I do talk in my book about feeding my chickens both oregano and thyme as well! Perdue is also adding probiotics to their flock's diet to help build good bacteria in the gut - again, something mentioned and recommended in my book.
But I digress. I'm sure that my little book isn't on Perdue's radar. But regardless of the reasons why, Perdue, the third largest poultry operation in the US, is the FIRST to completely eliminate the use of routine antibiotics in their chicken keeping. Here's hoping that others follow suit!
So, until some of the studies being done by the commercial poultry industry are released to the general public, I'll continue doing what I've been doing - offering my chickens a steady diet of (mostly free-choice) fresh and dried herbs like parsley, sage, oregano and thyme (what Jim Perdue calls The Scarborough Fair Diet) because I believe that a healthier, more natural diet leads to healthier, happier chickens and more nutritious, more delicious eggs for our families.
Oregano natural antibiotic, strengthens the immune system, antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, combats coccidiosis, salmonella, infectious bronchitis, avian flu, blackhead and e-coli
Parsley laying stimulant that's high in vitamins A, B,C calcium, iron and protein, aids in blood vessel development, feather growth and eggshell strength
Sage general health promoter thought to combat Salmonella, laying stimulant, antioxidant, anti-parasitic
Thyme natural antibiotic that aids in respiratory and immune system health, laying stimulant, antibacterial, antioxidant, anti-parasitic and insect repellent
Update 4/22/2017: To be filed under "You Can't Make this Stuff Up". Coincidentally, I met the Director of Hatcheries for Perdue on my flight back to Bangor yesterday. Turns out, he lives just a few towns over from me. I told him that I loved their ads, had actually written a book about using herbs with chickens and had just written this blog post about it. He confirmed that Perdue had done a bunch of scientific research into adding various herbs to chickens' diets, and that it was indeed in response to the new Veterinary Feed Directive. We exchanged business cards and went our separate ways - he had the good fortune to be upgraded to first class on the flight! Now I'm wondering if he'll read this post!