8 Potentially Harmful or Toxic Herbs to Avoid in Chicken Keeping

September 27, 2016

Most herbs have wonderful health benefits for both humans and animals and have been used down through the ages to treat, prevent and cure all kinds of ailments, but not all herbs are safe. 

I do use lots of herbs with my chickens, both in their environment and diet, but I am careful to stick to the common, culinary herbs which are safe and perfectly edible, because some herbs are toxic to chickens (and people).

While nearly anything can be harmful in exceedingly large dosages, even plain drinking water, several herbs, beneficial as they may be at the correct dose, can cause illness or even death in fairly small amounts.

And since little to no scientific study has been done as far as a safe dose for chickens, and I'm not a vet or medical professional I just choose to err on the side of caution and stay away from anything that could be a problem. 

Just because something is labeled 'herbal' or 'natural' doesn't mean it's safe. And since chickens are so small, it doesn't take much to cause serious health problems.

Be Very Careful with Essential Oils

Essential oils can also be very easily misused or given in too large amounts unless you have specific training in using them or are using precise dosages, so I always opt for fresh or dried herbs instead of the oils.

Some of the following potentially harmful herbs appear in all kinds of poultry products sold commercially or in homemade concoctions sold by individuals, so you want to always check the ingredient list before using any kind of herbal supplement or product with your flock - just to be on the safe side. 

Even if they aren't meant to eat a particular product, I avoid any product that contains any ingredients that could be potentially harmful, since as we know, chickens like to nibble and taste even things not necessarily meant to be eaten!

Here's a list of some of the potentially toxic herbs I try to stay away from. At the least, they can cause some pretty serious symptoms in your flock at high doses; at worst, most can cause death.

8 Potentially Harmful Herbs

Comfrey - can cause diarrhea or liver failure in large enough amounts. Better used as an external poultice to reduce swelling or inflammation and help to heal wounds, although comfrey tea is widely enjoyed by humans and many long-time chicken keepers swear by comfrey as chicken fodder. So just use caution.

Eucalyptus - not toxic itself, but can harbor Aspergillosis spores (a dangerous fungus that can cause death in various types of birds, including chickens and ducks). Also full-strength eucalyptus oil is toxic to both humans and animals.

Foxglove (digitalis) -  can cause heart failure

Horse Nettle - in the nightshade family, affects central nervous system

Pennyroyal - is toxic to the liver, resulting in renal failure and eventual death

Tansy - can cause diarrhea, liver disease, and even death

Wintergreen - can cause endocrine abnormalities, contains methyl salicylate which can be toxic
Wormwood/Artemesia -  affects the nervous system and can lead to seizures

For a list of the safe, beneficial culinary herbs that I use in my chicken keeping and their various health benefits for your chickens, read HERE.

Coop Confetti is an aromatic mix of edible Calendula, rose petals, chamomile, peppermint, Echinacea and various other perfectly safe herbs to keep your coop smelling heavenly, to deter pests and to keep your chickens calm and happy.
References/further reading:

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