One of the main reasons I started raising chickens was to provide a healthy, economical food source for our family that I knew wasn't full of antibiotics or hormones, provides by animals that were loved and cared for in a humane way. So why would I raise a backyard flock and then pump them full of chemical-laden medications, wormers and antibiotics? Instead I have taken the natural route - with great success.
Until recently, I only had my own reading, 'research' and personal results to let me know that I was on to something. But in the last year or so, more and more is coming out in the news about the dangers of overusing antibiotics, in humans and animals, and studies are being done into natural alternatives for chickens.
The New York Times ran a story last year called In Hopes of Healthier Chickens, Farms Turn To Oregano about one chicken farmer using oregano oil and cinnamon as an antibiotic substitute to treat chickens. Sage is being studied to combat Salmonella, as evidenced by this article called Sage Could Protect Young Chickens against Salmonella.
I read these studies with great interest because they prove the things that I believe to be true. Herbs tend to work in the bodies of chickens the same way they do in humans and nearly every herbs and edible flower has great health benefits. I dry homegrown herbs, then crush them and add them to our layer feed for added nutrition and immune system benefits. I add fresh herbs and flowers to my coop and nesting boxes to provide some added protection from parasites, insects, rodents and snakes.
Growing herbs is inexpensive, easy and not only useful for cooking for your family, but simple to incorporate into your chicken keeping. Here are some of my favorites to use with our flock:
Lavender - stress reliever, insecticide, increases blood circulation (photo: iStockphoto.com/VeraDo)
Mint - insecticide and rodent repellent
Nasturtium - insecticide, natural wormer, laying stimulant
Oregano - contains antibiotic properties thought to combat coccidia, E.coli, avian flu and infectious bronchitis
Sage - antioxidant, thought to combat salmonella
Thyme - aids respiratory health, antibaterical and antioxidant
For a more comprehensive list of herbs, their benefits and how I use them in my chicken keeping, please visit The Ultimate Chicken Care Guide on my blog or purchase my new book, Fresh Eggs Daily: Raising Happy, Healthy Chickens...Naturally, newly released by St. Lynn's Press and available online or at your local bookstore.