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Spice Up your Chicken Keeping for Better Flock Health

Since ancient times, man has been using spices as a seasoning for food. But spices do far more than just ramp up the flavor quotient in foods, they also deliver a dose of healthy benefits for both animals and people. So why not add some spice to your chickens' diet ?

Like much else in the natural chicken keeping realm, not a lot of studies have been conducted on using spices with chickens, but common sense tells you that adding herbs or spices with beneficial health properties to your chickens' diet can only lead to healthier chickens.

In fact, many of these spices are thought to help battle coccidiosis, the #1 killer of baby chicks, which is one reason I add a bit of spice to my chick feed for my growing babies right from the start. Read more about that HERE.

Here are a few of the spices I recommend incorporating into your chicken keeping.

Black Pepper

Believe it or not, black pepper is packed with vitamins and nutrients.It is also an anti-inflammatory, antibacterial and works as an antioxidant, helping to flush toxins from the body. It also helps with the absorption of nutrients in other foods eaten.

Other properties include benefiting respiratory system health and quieting coughs. Since chickens are susceptible to respiratory issues, a little black pepper can be extremely beneficial to them.

Cayenne Pepper

According to old-timers, cayenne pepper can be added to your chickens' feed in the cold months to help warm up your chickens and boost egg production.

 This practice lives on apparently, and adding a bit of the cayenne pepper to your chickens' water can also get them laying again, according to this article in the Dallas Morning News back in 2012. 


Cinnamon not only makes baked goods and warm oatmeal taste delicious, it also reduces inflammation, has anti-infectious, antibacterial and antioxidant properties and can help guard against neurological diseases.

Cinnamon contains a compound that thins blood, which means that it also helps circulatory systems, which improves blood flow to combs, wattles and feet, helping to prevent frostbite.

Also, cinnamon is commonly used to help treat nasal congestion, coughing, infections, and the common cold.

Since chickens have such complex breathing systems and are so susceptible to respiratory issues, adding cinnamon to their diet is extremely beneficial. Read more about using cinnamon in your chicken keeping HERE.


Garlic is a nutrition powerhouse. It boosts the immune system, increases respiratory health and is also thought to repel mites, lice, ticks and other parasites. Garlic is a natural wormer and reduces the smell of chicken manure in flocks fed garlic regularly. 

Garlic can be added to your chickens' diet by floating whole cloves in your waterer, offering crushed fresh cloves free-choice, or adding garlic powder to the feed in a 2% ratio.

Small chicks should also be offered crushed fresh garlic, free-choice, early on so they develop a taste for it.   For more on using garlic with your flock read HERE.


Ginger has long been used as a natural remedy for motion or morning sickness (not really issues your chickens will face!) and upset stomach, but it can also be used as an appetite stimulant to get an ailing hen eating again.  Ginger supports the immune system, alleviates congestion and is a powerful anti-inflammatory and antiviral.

Ginger has also been studied as a dietary supplement for laying hens and it has been determined that adding dried ginger in a .1% ratio (1 gram per kilogram of feed) to layer feed results in greater layer performance, larger eggs and a higher level of antioxidant in the eggs. Read more HERE.


Oregano oil is being used in at least one commercial poultry farms as a natural antibiotic, as reported back in 2012 in the New York Times.  Oregano, fresh, dried or in the form of an esssential oil, is one of the most powerful natural antibiotics ever studied. It is thought to guard against coccidiosis, avian flu, blackhead, e.coli and infectious bronchitis. 

Adding dried oregano to your baby chicks' feed or feeding fresh chopped leaves to them free-choice helps protect them against many pathogens and get a good start in life, and adding oregano to your laying hens' diet helps with continued strong immune systems. Read more about using oregano in your chicken keeping HERE.

Salt (the exception to the rule)

Salt is one spice to stay away from. Just as in humans, too much salt in your chickens' diet can lead to hypertension, digestive problems, heart and kidney issues, dehydration and an electrolyte imbalance. Avoid feeding your chickens any salty treats such as chips, pretzels or overly processed foods. 

The one exception is if you have a hen suffering heat exhaustion and you're treating her with homemade electrolytes. Otherwise, steer clear of overly salty foods for your family and your chickens will benefit also from healthier leftovers.


Turmeric is best known for providing color to mustard and curry dishes, but is also a powerful anti-inflammatory and antibacterial which can be helpful in bringing down swelling due to bumblefoot or other leg or foot injuries.

Applied topically, turmeric also speeds healing and helps repair damaged skin which would be beneficial when applied topically to a chicken’s injuries from pecking or a predator attack. 

Turmeric aids in digestion and helps maintain healthy skin, eyes and brain functions. It’s a powerful antioxidant and antiviral, which helps boost the immune system. The National Institute of Health even suggests that adding turmeric as a dietary supplement can increase resistance to avian necrotic enteritis.

Turmeric is also thought to aid in the treatment of chicks suffering wry neck, a condition due to which the chick is unable to hold its head up, by providing Vitamins B and E.

Adding 1/3 to 1/2 teaspoon to the feed of an ailing hen is the recommend dosage. For more information on adding turmeric to your flock's diet, read HERE.

Consider adding some spice to your chickens' diet, even if it's merely by spicing up the vegetables and whole grains your family eats and then sharing the leftovers with your flock. That will help benefit everyone's health!
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  1. This is great information, Lisa. I have been formulating/tweaking my hens' feed and in addition to grains, I've added DE, kelp, and garlic powder, but I was still wondering which grains I want to add. I was getting ready to crack open your book, but this post came at just the right time. Thanks for sharing your knowledge!

  2. Oh good. I add raw oats, cracked corn in winter, you can also add lentils or peas...millet, quinoa, really any grains they will love.

  3. Oops---I said grains, but I meant herbs. My grain choices are hard red wheat, millet, peas, oats, and barley. I did read that barley is hard for them to digest, though---do you avoid it? I lowered the amount that I had originally had in there, but I still have it because I wasn't sure what to replace it with that was around the same price. I think old fashioned oats are, but I wasn't sure if it would be oat heavy.

  4. Just add a pinch of oregano and sage, baste every fifteen minutes till skin is golden brown..oh wait..this article is for chickens BEFORE they've had their heads lopped off..