5 Herbs Every Chicken Mama Needs This Winter

5 Herbs Every Chicken Mama Needs This Winter

While there are a lot of herbs that are great for your backyard chickens, there are a few that are very important during the fall and winter months.

 

Their tiny bodies have to work hard to stay warm and healthy during the winter, and while a good layer feed is ALWAYS the basis of any healthy diet, you don’t need to stop there.

 

There’s herbs you can provide your chickens that’ll support healthy immune system functions – which is especially important when the mercury dips!

 

Here’s the top 5 herbs you should keep handy!

 

Oregano

Oregano is one of my favorite herbs for backyard chickens. It supports healthy immune systems, and hens love to GOBBLE down the little green flecks.

 

You can offer fresh or dried oregano – both are great – and you’ll want to use the leaves of the oregano plant. Mix with their feed, offer separately, OR make a “tea” by immersing them in water.

 

Whenever we have a chicken or duck that needs some extra TLC, I turn first to oregano!

 

You can find oregano for your chickens here: Oregano for Backyard Chickens

Echinacea

Without a doubt, you’ve heard of echinacea!

 

Echinacea has been used traditionally to support healthy immune system functions for centuries, and it’s a great herb for your chickens, too!

 

You can use the leaves or the roots of the echinacea plant – while the roots are more powerful, they’re also more expensive. Chickens love picking at the leaves!

 

It’s easiest to mix echinacea with their feed or use it as a top dress. If your chickens aren’t sure what to do, add an extra treat such as mealworms or dried river shrimp to the mix – your flock will quickly figure it out!

 

To make it easier for chicken owners to get echinacea, we’ve included it in my herbal blend StrongHen (TM). Wherever you buy echinacea, be sure it’s 100% pure!

 

 

Calendula

Calendula is not only good for giving your eggs the perfect golden yolk, but it’s also great to offer your hens during the winter months. In fact, it’s a bit of a “superherb” that’s used in traditional herbalism for many things: to support skin, immune system functions, healthy digestion, and more!

 

As a bonus, it smells DIVINE.

 

The beta carotenes that gives these flowers their pretty yellow petals are also super healthy nutrients for your hens. Calendula has some antimicrobial properties, and is packed with many other vitamins that will help your flock be healthier during the cold winter months.

 

Plus your hens will love picking at these pretty yellow flowers, so it’s a great winter boredom buster.

 

You’ll want to use the dried flowers and/or petals. You can add to feed, create a tea (it makes a pretty sweet tea), or add to nesting boxes.

 

Find calendula here: Calendula for Backyard Chickens

 

herbs for backyard chickens

Elder

Elder is packed full of immune support power for your chickens.

 

Elderberry has been used as a traditional herbal remedy for centuries and researchers are discovering that it’s a powerful herb for keeping chickens healthy!

 

In a 2014 study, researchers found that elderberry helped prevent Infections Bronchitis Virus in chickens (source).

 

For humans, elderberries and elder flower are used to support healthy immune functions. With chickens, you can use the berries and the flowers – hens love both!

 

While humans can use elder in a tincture, you’ll want to stick with dried or fresh berries and/or dried flowers. Particularly if you offer dried berries, add it to their feed – your hens will love to pick at their tiny dark treats!

 

In our herbal blend StrongHen (TM), you’ll find elderberries (along with most of the other herbs I mention in this list). It’s an easy and economical way to get all these herbs in one product.

 

Garlic

Not only is garlic perfect for adding flavor to your meals, but it’s also great for supporting the immune system of your backyard chickens!

 

Garlic has been traditionally used for generations to support healthy immune functions, and it’s no different for chickens! The allicin in garlic gives the herb it’s characteristic smell AND it’s where the power of the herb originates.

 

It’s easiest to offer garlic steeped in your flock’s water. You can use fresh or dried garlic – both are great!

 

You can find garlic for your flock here: Garlic

PCM StrongHen (TM)

My StrongHen herbal mix combines the powers of oregano, echinacea, garlic, elder, calendula, and other great herbs to keep your chicken’s immune system strong. This mix is perfect for fall and winter because it gives your chickens the immune boost they need to stay healthy!

You can find PCM StrongHen here: StrongHen

Have more questions about keeping your flock healthy in the winter? Check out these articles:
How To Plant A Perennial Herb Garden

How To Plant A Perennial Herb Garden

One of our goals this year is to expand our herb garden, and try to establish it as a true perennial herb garden.

 

I’d like it if, year after year, we got as many plants as possible to voluntarily grow and produce aromatic herbs and seeds.

 

Our hens love herbs, and it’s one of those small luxuries that’s easy to produce, and easy to impress other people with. And it doesn’t even take a lot of space.


Have chickens that LOVE herbs? (Who doesn’t?!)

nesting box herbs

Yes, my hens love herbs!

 

For this project, we chose a shady plot in the garden, since many herbs do well in the shade, and it’s a good use of otherwise limited land.

 

Cilantro, in particular, is one herb I want to establish since I like to cook with cilantro and coriander.

 

Some herbs are hard to find in the store (like super fresh coriander) or you have to buy a TON just to get a tablespoonful (who uses a half pound of dill, for example?).

 

Your own herb garden solves both those dilemmas.

 

If you also want to plant a perennial herb garden, here’s some tips.

 

1. Decide which herbs to grow

 

If you’re just starting your garden, decide which herbs you’ll most likely use and enjoy, and plant those. If you use a lot of rosemary in bread baking or as a savory for steak, it’s a great bet to include in your garden.

 

You’ll end up using it frequently, and feel fulfilled after stepping just outside your door to snag a handful of fresh rosemary.

How to Grow a Perennial Herb Garden. It's a simple luxury that's easy to grow! Here's how to do it, and what you need. From FrugalChicken

Don’t just focus on only herbs you can cook with – if there’s a particular herb you love for the scent or just to look at, plant it!

 

For example, if you love lavender, but don’t necessarily see yourself using it a ton, you should still plant it. You might end up trying to use it, and discover a new flavor.

 

Just remember to plant herbs according to their needs – are they ok in full shade or do they need 8 hours of sun? Do they need only 4?

 

Will some grow so tall they’ll shade out others? Does your herb need to be 12 inches from another plant or 2 feet?

 

You get the picture.

2. Choose herbs that are likely to establish themselves in your area

 

Not all herbs will survive all climates, so do your research and figure out which herbs will survive your local environment. An herb that can survive in the extreme cold of Minnesota might not live in the extreme heat of Arizona.

 

Rosemary, mint, parsley, and oregano are some herbs that will survive winter, although you might have to use a cold frame around your herb gardenLavender and yarrow are two that do well in hot environments.

 

If there’s an herb you want to grow that won’t continue to reseed itself year after year, it’s better off in a container. You can bring your plant inside as needed to keep it growing.

3. You can start from seed or buy established plants

 

Some herbs are tough to start from seed. Or perhaps you started a bunch from seed but a wayward goat ate them or a chicken scratched up the seedlings.

 

I’ve had luck raising some plants from seed.  Sage in particular has been easy to start, and – surprisingly – so has dill.

 

How to Grow a Perennial Herb Garden. It's a simple luxury that's easy to grow! Here's how to do it, and what you need. From FrugalChicken

 

Others…let’s just say I’ve struggled with some.

 

I struggled with cilantro for years, and couldn’t keep even potted plants alive.

 

After some research, I learned that cilantro has a long tap root for an herb, which means in order to survive, the tap root (or main root) needs to dig deep into the earth to provide nutrients to the plant.

 

It’s one herb I purchased as an established plant, and transplanted into my garden. Finally, I’m having luck, and eating a ton of salsa!

 

Basil, on the other hand, is an herb I’ve always had an easy time growing even in containers. It grows wonderfully in a garden, and can grow large and bushy.

 

4. Consider different varieties of the same herb

If you have an established garden, or just want to try a bunch of different herbs to test your homesteading skills and your pallet, try different varieties.

 

Try a boxwood basil next to a traditional, large leaf basil. Try lemon mint next to peppermint. There’s also a ton of varieties of thyme!

 

Different varieties of the same plant species bring different flavors to the table, and are a great way to diversify your garden.

 

They also bring a different visual texture to your garden, since some might be large and leafy, while others might be short with tiny sprigs going out every direction.

 

How to Grow a Perennial Herb Garden. It's a simple luxury that's easy to grow! Here's how to do it, and what you need. From FrugalChicken

5. Prepare your soil

 

Once you decide what to grow, it’s time to prepare the soil. To get rid of any grasses or weeds that might be growing, I use a spade to remove an inch or so of soil, leaving only fresh dirt exposed.

 

I add a couple inches of composted manure, and mix it with with the soil by chopping it together with a hoe. Next, I use a metal garden rake to flatten the area so water doesn’t collect. A flat area is also easier to work with.

 

Using a hand trowel, I either dig a hole for an established plant or loosen up dirt to plant seeds. 

 

I use a hand rake a ton in my garden to dig around stubborn weeds to yank them by the roots.

 

I love leaf scoops to remove mounds of pulled weeds from the garden quickly.  They make a super tedious job quick and simple.

 

You definitely want to get good, sturdy equipment – I’ve bent many a trowel digging up a stubborn root.

 

6. Help the plants establish themselves

 

Whether you’ve started your herb garden by seed or used purchased transplants, give them a while to become established. Water regularly in the morning or evening (not during the day to prevent sunburn). 

 

Keep pests, chickens, and small hands away from your garden to help your plants establish themselves. 

 

Keep your herb garden weed free by removing any unwanted plants and laying down mulch or garden fabric to kill any potential weeds.

 

Steer clear of putting down hay – I’ve found that seeds from volunteer weeds like to hang out in hay, and can be hard to destroy once they’ve gotten their claws into your healthy, nourishing soil.

 

Make sure there’s a lot of branches on your herbs by regularly trimming the top of the plant an inch or so for the first few weeks – this will help the plant grow healthy and increase your yield.

 

It also keeps the herb from shooting straight up and going to seed by prompting the plant to put energy into creating strong, healthy roots.

 

Don’t harvest until your herb is least 6 inches tall to give its roots time to grow and spread into the soil.

 

7. Harvest, then allow for reseeding

 

Harvest your herbs continually throughout the spring and summer so they don’t immediately go to seed. Simply cut a couple inches off the top every now and then. 

 

Not only does going to seed deprive you of their herbal lusciousness throughout the season (because they’ll stop producing), but once they start going to seed, it can change their composition. 

 

Cilantro, when allowed to go to seed, gets thinner and a little bitter. To keep the leaves large and fresh-tasting, pinch off any flowers.

 

How to Grow a Perennial Herb Garden. It's a simple luxury that's easy to grow! Here's how to do it, and what you need. From FrugalChicken
When the season is over, though, let your herb plants go to seed – they’ll first bloom flowers, then drop their seeds. Your garden will hopefully be established when your plants grow voluntarily next year.

 

Which herbs will you try to create a perennial herb garden with this year? Leave a comment below!