The Health Benefits of Herbs

Almost every culinary herb (plus spices and many common flowers such as roses, nasturtium, bee balm, etc.) has amazing health benefits for both humans and animals. I grow a wide assortment of herbs to use in cooking and also in conjunction with raising our chickens and ducks. Many are perennials, such as lavender, mint, thyme and pineapple sage, or reseed themselves like dill, parsley and cilantro, so I just add a few more annuals, such as basil, marjoram and sage each spring to achieve a varied selection of herbs.

I put fresh herbs in the nesting boxes to calm setting hens, repel insects and rodents and add an aromatic scent to the chicken coop.

 I brew herbal tea for our chicks and ducklings to give them a good start in life and also for our laying hens - warm in the winter, iced in the summer. I put fresh herbs in my brooders for the newly hatched little ones also because the essential oils benefit their growth.

All of the culinary herbs are perfectly safe to use around the chickens, so there's no worry about any being toxic or harmful to them. I just make up a mix of whatever needs to be cut back at any given time. It's a great way to snip and trim your herb plants when they need clipping without anything going to waste.

Here is a quick reference of some of the more common herbs and their specific benefits for us and for chickens:

Basil - antibacterial, mucus membrane health, repels flies and mosquitoes, high in protein and calcium
Bay Leaves - antiseptic, antioxidant, immune system booster, insect repellent
Bee Balm (bergamot/monarda)- antiseptic, antibacterial, respiratory health, calming

Borage - high in calcium, betacarotenes and niacin, soothing, supports cardiovascular health, antioxidant, mucus membrane health, helps keep bugs out of the garden
Calendula - heals wounds
Catnip - sedative, insect repellent
Cayenne pepper - aids circulation, appetite stimulant, antiseptic, digestive enhancement
Chamomile - kills mites and lice,  repels fleas, antiseptic, anti-inflammatory, antibiotic, calming, relaxant, detoxifier
Chervil - heals bruises, thought to prevent illness
Chives - aid digestion, stimulates appetite, good source of iron
Cilantro - antioxidant, fungicide, builds strong bones, high in Vitamin A for vision and Vitamin K for blood clotting
Cinnamon - promotes healthy breathing
Comfrey - pain reliever, anti-inflammatory, heals wounds, promotes muscle, cartilage, and bone growth. Not to be taken internally, but instead used as a poultice or applied externally.
Dandelion - antioxidant, digestive aid, vitamin-rich, high in calcium
Dill - antioxidant, relaxant, respiratory health, stimulates the appetite, high in protein

Echinacea antibacterial, aids in respiratory health and strengthens the immune system, treats wounds, combats staph infections
Fennel - laying stimulant, insect repellent
Garlic - laying stimulant, anti-fungal, benefits circulatory and respiratory system, relieves diarrhea
Ginger - stress reducer (don't laugh, chickens have stress in their lives too at times!), appetite stimulant, anti-oxidant
Goldenseal - Antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, useful for treating wounds
Hyssop - improves circulation, heals wounds, detoxifier
 Lavender - stress reliever, increases blood circulation, anti-inflammatory, highly aromatic, insect repellent, improves digestion, antibacterial, antifungal, combats staph infections
Lemon Balm - stress reliever, antibacterial, antiviral, highly aromatic, rodent and insect repellent, calming

Lemon Verbena - aromatic, fly repellent, antiviral properties
Lemon Grass (citronella) - fly repellent
Lovage - aids respiratory and mucus membrane health, blood detoxifier, anti-inflammatory
Marigold - vibrant egg yolks, feet and beaks/bills, insect repellent, antioxidant
Marjoram - laying stimulant, anti-inflammatory, decongestant, improves blood circulation, detoxifier, high in protein and calcium
Mint (all kinds) - insecticide and rodent repellent, antioxidant, aids in respiratory health, digestive aid, lowers body temperature naturally. Feeding results in larger eggs, thicker eggshells and increased egg production.

Nasturtium - laying stimulant, antiseptic, antibiotic, insecticide, wormer
Oregano - combats coccidia, salmonella, infectious bronchitis, avian flue, blackhead and e-coli, strengthens immune system
Parsley - high in vitamins A, B,C calcium and iron, aids in blood vessel development, laying stimulant
Peppermint - anti-parasitic, insect repellent,
Pineapple Sage - aids nervous system, highly aromatic, antiseptic

Plantain - Antibacterial, antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory, and antioxidant. Prevents infection.
Raspberry Leaf - antioxidant, relaxant, supports healthy reproductive system.
Rose Petals - highly aromatic, high in Vitamin A, B, C and D, antioxidant, antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, detoxifier, good for heart and digestive health, help clear up diarrhea, calming
Rosemary - pain reliever, respiratory health, insect repellent
Sage - antioxidant, anti-parasitic, general health promoter, thought to combat Salmonella and staph infections
Spearmint - antiseptic, insect repellent, stimulates nerve, brain and blood functions
Tarragon - antioxidant, appetite stimulant.

Thyme - aids in respiratory health, antibacterial, antimicrobial, antiseptic, antioxidant, anti-parasitic, stimulant, combats staph infections
Yarrow - antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, clears sinuses and respiratory systems, stress reliever

Herbs are easy to grow, generally not picky about the soil they are grown in and many come back year after year. Think about growing an herb garden for your family - and for your chickens. You'll be glad you did.

This information is excerpted from my book Fresh Eggs Daily: Raising Happy, Healthy Chickens....Naturally and also covered in my book Gardening with Chickens. Buy your copies online from Amazon or anywhere books are sold.

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  1. I really enjoy reading your blog. I became an over night farmer the day the girls came into our family on April 10th, 2012. Now I have a little garden going with herbs and all.

  2. Isn't it fun Allison ? Little by little you will immerse yourself into it. I'm taking on canning and preserving this year for the first time. And have started hatching babies myself.

  3. Also, when you are snipping herbs like Lemon balm and lemongrass, rub leaves on exposed skin for a natural insect repellent.

  4. I wish I could Have some girls. We found out after bringing our sweet house duck into our lives March 2008 that having poultry is against the law in our city. Since she is inside and we discovered the "law" after we had all bonded together and 6 months had gone by, we just take her out in the backyard and don't flaunt it! She really is a house duck, and loves that she rules the roost. She bullies our poor 13 year old cat. What would we do without her? Thank you for this great list of herbs.

  5. Great info! I love basil (especially in lemonade) and it's good for you!

  6. Great ideas. I never thought to give my girls herbs. Do they eat them too?

  7. First time stopping in and have really enjoyed! Can't wait to read more! Stop by and follow at:

  8. Just found you on NOBH. What wonderful insights! Thank you! I have always wanted a flourishing herb garden, and this just reinforces why!
    Love and God Bless,

  9. I love your concept on this. Very informative blog you have. thank you

  10. Thanks for the article. I need to use more of these in my cooking

  11. Thanks for sharing useful article mate, no doubt green herbs have lots of health benefits. They are useful both for human and animal. I love this idea and hope you will carry on your good work.

    Tacoma Fitness

  12. I need to get our herbs back in shape after the winter! I just moved an old toy chest over by our coop to plant an herb garden in it just for our ladies :)

  13. Wow this is awesome. Thanks for The blog, I had no idea herbs were so good for chickens. I already have an Herb garden. I think I need to expand on it some

  14. Found this article thru HomeSchool Giveaways. I need to spend some time exploring your site and learning what I can do for our chickens and ducks. Thanks!

    1. Oh wonderful! So glad you found us! Please be sure and check us out on facebook as well at Fresh Eggs Daily (and Ducks Too, our duck page)

  15. This is probably a really stupid question, but do strongly-flavored foods affect the flavor of the hens' eggs? I seem to remember that some things can affect the flavor of the meat. Will they affect the flavor of the eggs, too?

    1. There are no stupid questions! I have never found anything to effect the flavor of eggs. Not even garlic powder.

  16. Thanks for all the useful information and photos. I have had laying hens for around 15 years but acquired adult ducks only a month ago. Three females: Welsh Harlequin, Runner, Cayuga. Their egg laying performance is outstanding in numbers but if they are free ranging they don't always come home to "roost" like the chickens. So, I was researching treats to give them in the evening to train them to come home so the eggs don't end up scattered around in the woods beside whatever puddle they found. The previous owner said she gave them lettuce; that excites them to a frenzy of quacking and grunting with pleasure, ripping and tearing the leaves, flipping them in the air. Eventually I might let them loose again one morning when I can trust them to come home at night.
    About healthy herbs and spices, I am surprised you don't mention fenugreek seed. It's the best laying stimulant; I give it to the hens regularly when they are laying and especially when I estimate they are due to start laying again after a 4-5 month break.
    I think that the herbs and spices can affect the taste of the eggs, the foods they eat as well, though usually the difference is subtle. I feed flax seed and a small amount of the astaxanthin algae supplement.
    I refer occasionally to my grandfather's copy of The Poultry Book, 1904 edition, part of which is based on an earlier book published in England. Recommends feeding celery seed to ducks to improve the flavor of the meat. This book refers in a few places in turn to the writings of Roman authors Columella and Varo on poultry and agriculture 2000 years ago. "The fundamental things apply as time goes by..."

  17. Wow this is awesome. Thanks for The blog, I had no idea herbs were so good for chickens. I already have an Herb garden. I think I need to expand on it some
    and thanks in advince happy to be your reader
    فوائد الزنجبيل

  18. what kind of nettle would be best to grow for my chickens

  19. Any kind should have the same health benefits.