Herbs for Hens: Basil

August 15, 2017

Basil is one of my favorite herbs to grow. Not only is it easy to start from seed, seedling or plant cutting, it smells so good when you brush past the plant! I love making homemade pesto and layering fresh basil leaves with slices of tomato picked from the garden and fresh mozzarella. A drizzle of balsamic vinegar and olive oil ....I could eat that for lunch every day all summer long! 

But basil is also an important part of my chicken keeping regiment as well. My chickens love to eat the basil leaves right off the plant. I started to notice that as they roamed the yard nibbling on the various plants and herbs, that they tended to gravitate towards a select few - one of them being my basil. 

So I started reading up on some of the health benefits of basil and it soon made sense to me. Like most culinary herbs, basil is super nutritious. Basil supports immune system health and improves digestion. It is a good source of protein and contains Vitamin K and iron. It also benefits circulatory and mucus membrane health  - which is really important in your flock since chickens are so very susceptible to respiratory issues.


Basil also acts as an antioxidant and anti-inflammatory and maybe best of all? Chicken who eat a diet that includes basil and other plants with high levels of xanthophyll lay eggs with brighter orange egg yolks than chickens without much of the pigment in their diet.

Basil plants actually benefit from being trimmed and plucked throughout the growing season, so I give my chickens fresh basil leaves all summer long. Just before the weather turns cold, I harvest all the remaining leaves (snipping a few long pieces of basil to bring inside and keep on the windowsill in water through the winter) and air dry them on a drying rack, then crush them and add the dried, crushed leaves to my chickens' feed through the winter when they don't have access to fresh weeds, herbs and grass.

Basil is also beneficial in your chickens' environment: hanging bunches of fresh basil in your coop, or planting basil in coop window boxes, can help to repel flies and other insects. There are lots of different varieties of basil including sweet Genovese,  purple Thai, and even lime basil - and I love to grow them all! Why not consider basil for your herb garden next spring...

Watch this video short all about Basil!

You might also enjoy:

Homemade Pesto Recipe
Common Herbs and their Benefits
Adding Dried Herbs to your Chicken Feed

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