Create The Best Chicken Brooders For Baby Chicks!

Create The Best Chicken Brooders For Baby Chicks!

Heard of chicken brooders, but not sure what the fuss is about? Getting chicks, and not sure which brooders are best? In this article, we’ll give you all the details so you can pick the perfect home for your newest pets!

Chicks! Little balls of down that are so adorable you just want to eat them up! Or maybe that’s the family cat, we’re talking about… So maybe eating them up is a terrible idea. A good idea, however, is bringing them into the family. Soon, these day-old fuzzy butts will grow into amazing full-sized chickens: hens of the greatest laying potential and roosters whose protective skills are without peer! 

The question, then, is how to ensure that these chicks do reach adulthood. What can we do to protect these helpless little bundles of cute? Where can we keep them until they are ready to join the flock? What tips and tricks can we utilize to ensure that the cat stays away from them long enough to get big enough to defend themselves?

The answer to the above questions is quite simple: you need to get yourself a chick brooder. 

What is a Chick Brooder?

A brooder is a safe environment where a group of baby chicks can stay warm and comfortable until they’re ready to join other chickens in the run. All told, a chick will spend about 8-10 weeks in a brooder. It is a relatively short, but incredibly important part of their lives. 

Anything can serve as a brooder, from a plastic bin to a pre-fabricated brooder sold on Amazon. I personally just use a plastic tote bin because they’re cheap and easy to clean. 

You can see my brooder set up in this video:

Why Have a Brooder?

In the wild, chicks have a very unique personal defense system that they do not have in the adoptive world of your family. That defense system is called a mother hen. The mother hen digs or builds a nest for her chicks and there, she sits on them, defending and protecting them from all manner of dangers: from predators to chill weather. When a person decides to take on chicks and raise them, that person volunteers themselves for the role of mother. It’s obviously not a good idea for you to sit on a clutch of chicks for several weeks – we don’t have quite the warm, protective tail feathers that mother hens have (in addition to being far too heavy). As a result, we need a safe place to keep our developing chicks. That is where the brooder comes into play. 

What Size Brooder Should I Have?

It goes without saying that those cute little chicks will grow. Because of this, you’ll want to consider two recommended sizes for a good brooder. The smaller brooder should be about 12 inches tall, and should be large enough so that each chick has about 6 inches of space when they’re day olds – 4 weeks old.. This smaller brooder will become obsolete, however, at or around week 4 of their lives. At this stage of their development, you’ll want to upgrade them to a 24-inch tall brooder that gives them 1 square foot each. This will keep them safe and in check until they complete their developmental phase.

 It is possible, however, to forego the smaller brooder for the larger one. Your chicks will outgrow the smaller one, after all. If your resources are limited, then there is much to be said for that option. 

Where Should I Keep My Brooder?

A brooder is a safe place for your chicks. You’ll need to keep it in a secure place that can hold heat and protect your hatchlings from any and all of those great dangers just lurking out in the wider world. You could put it in a barn, a workshop, a garage, a basement, or even right in the house. The key is to keep it very safe from predators, such as cats, raccoons, opossums, and rats. 

Because you will need to provide your chicks with heat, a reliable power source is key. You’ll also want your brooder to be easy to get to, as you’ll probably want to check on your chicks at least a couple of times per day. I would also strongly recommend putting some kind of cover over your chicks – a mesh one for warmer weather or a piece of insulation in colder weather. 

Chickens are birds, after all, and once their wing feathers start coming in, they just might succumb to the urge to test out those flight enablers. The other reason for a covering your chicks are the curious whims of the family cat. Or dog. Or child. As much as we might love the other beasts in our menageries, they might not have the best interests of your chicks at heart. 

How Many Chicks Should Be In A Brooder?

I personally only put between ten and fifteen full sized chicks into a brooder at a time. This helps to ensure that there is enough space for each one, at least 6 inches of space per chick. Ten to fifteen chicks is easy to keep track of (for example, if one gets sick, it should be easy enough to identify that one.) It is also small enough to start getting to know the chicks’ personalities. If you’re like me and hope that these chickens become family, then it’s best to start familiarizing yourself with them sooner rather than later. Why not start right from the brooder?

If you’re going to have a clutch of bantams, up to 17 chicks is a good number. This is mostly just to help them stay warm, as being smaller chickens, they could use just a touch more heat. But the clutch should be no more than that. Otherwise, your chicks might squash each other.

At farm stores, you sometimes see there might be 50 chicks in a big bin. Farm stores do that because the chicks aren’t going to be there for that long. Many stores sell out in a day! 

So most farm stores don’t need to worry about whether a chick has long term access to food and water. At home however, if you have a lot of chicks in your brooder, you can’t guarantee that everybody’s getting the food that they need. So stick to a smaller clutch size, and get more than one brooder if necessary.

It’s harder to keep track of everybody and everybody’s health when a lot of chicks are in one brooder. They’re all running everywhere, and you can’t look at everybody really closely. 

Smaller numbers in your brooder make it easier to keep track of everybody’s condition. Is everybody getting the food that they need? Is everybody developing correctly? Is everybody warm enough? Does somebody look too cold?

If you use apple cider vinegar, it’s easier to make sure that everybody gets access to that. If you have one waterer and a large number of chicks in your brooder, maybe not everybody’s getting enough water or the apple cider vinegar in the water that they need. This is all the more reason to keep numbers manageable in a brooder. 

What Do Chicks Need In A Brooder?

For a brooder to be 100% effective, it will need a few key components. The first is warmth. Newborn chicks are covered in down, which is lovely and soft, but not that great at providing your precious little ones with the warmth they need to develop strong, hale and hearty. In their first week of life, the ideal temperature is about 95 degrees F. You will want to adjust this as your chicks start to feather out, as feathers provide them with natural insulation against the cold. 

The 95 degrees that was good in the first week might be too hot in the second week. If your chicks are too hot, they might start panting or moving far away from the heat source. Having a thermometer on hand will help you identify whether or not your heating source is too close to the clutch. When you test the temperature, be sure to be on the same level as your chicks. You want the readings to be as accurate to your birds’ experience as possible. 

Next comes food and water. A chick has to eat, right? Provide your clutch with a couple automatic waterers and feeders. If you put them in the corners of the brooder, it will help to reduce how much waste your chicks will deposit into the feed or water troughs. Most will spend their time in the warmest sections of the brooder – especially on colder days – and will then have to disperse to fill their other needs. The water and feed should be changed daily. If your chicks are especially messy, then this could be upgraded to twice a day refilling. 

Countless chicken lovers will tell you that waterers could use an anti-drowning preventative. Chicks are just getting their legs, so to speak, and as such, they might have a mishap or two with regards to how they drink. Shallow as their drinking troughs are, there is still a risk of drowning. To prevent this, put a number of marbles into the trough. This will give your chicks full access to water, but it will prevent them from dunking their heads.

The final thing your brooder will need is bedding. Chickens of all ages have the potential to be terribly messy. 

The Best Options For Flooring And Bedding

It seems like the go-to for bedding across the USA is pine shavings. This is very similar to what horses get in their stalls, and it tends to be light, fluffy, and holds chick waste quite well. In the first couple of weeks, it will need cleaning and changing every couple of days, but as your chicks get bigger, they will start producing greater quantities of waste. If pine shavings are unavailable in your local farm store, other options include straw, shredded paper towels (for the first week at most), or newspaper. Of all of these options, pine bedding works best for absorbency and overall comfort. You’ll need between an inch and three inches of bedding for your chicks. 

What Types Of Heaters Are There?

There are a few varieties of heaters to use in your brooder. The most common are a heat lamp and heating pads. A simple heating lamp can be clamped right onto the side of the brooder or dangle above it. These then produce powerful localized heat that spread out quite well over a general area. This actually provides both hot zones and cooler zones within the brooder. In the event that the weather shifts in your brooder’s shelter, your chicks will have temperature escapes. However, I don’t personally use or recommend heat lamps. They’re very dangerous.

Heat lamps produce tremendous heat. That much heat concentrated over wooden bedding is a fire hazard waiting to happen. When setting up your heat source, be sure that it cannot fall – secure it thoroughly with clamps or a bungee. 

Heat plates are a solid pad that is elevated off the ground and provides a surface area of warmth. Their height is adjustable so that your chicks will not bump their heads on the pads. These pads more closely simulate the localized warmth of a hen sitting on her clutch, but they tend to be far more expensive than heat lamps. 

You can also use space heaters.

Is There a Do It Yourself Option for a Brooder?

Brooders are remarkably affordable or easy to make. They require some basic and easily accessible materials, and can be quite durable, usable season after season. The simplest ones can be made from a large plastic tub or a large wooden box or coop. 

When Should I Get a Brooder?

It is imperative to get your brooder before you bring your first clutch of chicks home. You will want to set it up and test it out for any problems that might arise before your chicks get into it. You can trouble shoot anything that might hinder your chicks’ development or cause them undue stress. You can also check that  there is enough bedding, the heat lamps are secure and safe, and their water and feed is all set up. The latter is very important because when your chicks arrive. You’ll want to orient them to their food and water by dipping the beak of each one. This will ensure that they know where their essentials are.  

Sharing your home with a clutch of chicks is a truly amazing experience, and it all starts with having a good brooder for them. It’ll ensure they’re healthy and safe from predators. You’ll also get lots of hands on experience with your new pets! 

What’s your best chicken brooder tips? Leave a comment below!

Easy Wound Care For Pets

Easy Wound Care For Pets

If you have a pet, you’ve probably been witness to them injuring themselves in some capacity at some point. Wounds, especially superficial skin wounds, are very common in pets.

They can get in a fight with another pet or animal outside, they can get their skin caught on something sharp and not realize it, they can scratch themselves to the point of causing a wound, and they can develop an abscess or have a bad skin reaction to something they came into contact with. 

Even though the best thing to do when you notice a wound on your pet is to schedule an appointment with your veterinarian, we understand you may not be able to get them in right away and you want to be able to do something to help the wound heal and prevent an infection from developing. In this article, we’ll discuss here how to clean a wound, what to watch for, and when to take your pet to the veterinarian. 

It’s important to note that wound management at home is mainly for mild, superficial wounds. If your pet has a deep bite wound, or a large gash that is deeper than just the superficial skin, you need to take your pet to the veterinarian as soon as you can.

Cleaning A Wound

When cleaning a wound on your pet, the first thing you should do is rinse it with lukewarm, running water. This is to make sure you remove any debris or particles that may stick to the wound, causing greater inflammation. This is also to help prevent infection as it can help wash away any bacteria that may be in the area. If you have or are able to get chlorhexidine solution (2% is best), you can then wash the wound gently with this as well. This will help to kill any bacteria that may be surrounding the wound. 

Do not clean with hydrogen peroxide. Hydrogen peroxide does more damage than good, and can further damage the already damaged and exposed skin tissue.

You can then dry the area around the wound by patting it dry with a clean towel. You can do this directly on the wound as well if it isn’t causing your pet too much discomfort, or you can just let it air dry. If the wound is particularly dirty or gets debris stuck to it again, you can continue cleansing it daily for 3-5 days.

If the wound is on a dog, you can apply some Neosporin (triple antibiotic ointment) on and around the wound, but make sure your dog doesn’t just lick it off. Offering food or a tasty treat would be a good distraction to discourage them from noticing you have put anything on their body they may want to lick off. You can reapply the triple antibiotic ointment daily for 3-5 days. (If the wound is on a cat, do not apply Neosporin, as they will definitely groom it off and it can make them sick if they ingest even just a little bit of it.

It is ideal that you also try to get a cone or E-collar to put around their neck to prevent them from licking or chewing at the wound. As the wound begins to heal, it can feel tingly and itchy, but if your pet is allowed to chew or pick at it, this will delay healing and increase the risk of infection developing.

Signs to Watch For & When to Go to the Vet

As the wound heals, the skin should begin to look more normal after 3-5 days. Your pet should feel comfortable and not be bothering it too much, though it may feel a little itchy to them. If your pet is really bothering the wound, if it’s not looking better within 3-5 days, if it starts to swell up, or if the skin begins looking a blue-purple or grey color, these are signs it isn’t healing appropriately and you should take your pet to the veterinarian. Sometimes a course of oral antibiotics is all that is needed, while other times the wound may need to surgical intervention to promote healing.

Is Nasal Discharge & Sneezing in Pets A Bad Sign?

Is Nasal Discharge & Sneezing in Pets A Bad Sign?

If you suddenly see nasal discharge in your pets, or if your pet sneezes a lot, you might wonder what’s going on. Just like people, our pets can get stuffy noses, runny noses, and suffer from sneezing episodes.

It can take you off guard seeing and hearing your pet sneeze, especially if it is a sneezing fit that takes a few minutes for them to get over. In this article we’ll discuss some of the more common reasons why your pet may sneeze or have drainage from their nose, also referred to as nasal discharge.

Causes Of Nasal Discharge 

Nasal discharge refers to any sort of drainage coming from the nose. Drainage from the nose can come in different forms, depending on what the underlying cause is and how inflamed the lining of the nasal passages are. For instance, the drainage can be:

  • clear, 
  • green, 
  • grey, or 
  • red

and it can be:

  • thick and goopy, or 
  • very thin. 

There are many different things that can cause nasal discharge in our pets. Here is a list of some of the more common reasons your pet may have drainage from the nose:

  • Irritation from something they sniffed/inhaled
  • Allergies
  • Viral infections (upper respiratory infections)
  • Bacterial infections (upper respiratory infections)
  • Tooth root infections

If your pet’s nasal drainage is due to just an inhaled irritant, it should improve on its own within 24-48 hours and will likely be just clear in color. Nasal drainage due to allergies or viral infections can also sometimes improve on their own if your pet’s immune system is functioning properly and will usually last about 1-2 weeks. 

However, if you’re noticing thick, green, mucoid drainage from your pet’s nose, it could indicate they have developed a bacterial infection that will need to be treated with antibiotics.

When To Take Your Pet To The Veterinarian

If you notice anything more than clear, thin discharge, it’s best to take your pet in to see their veterinarian so they can prescribe the right medicine for them.

Your vet can also let you know if anything needs to be followed up on, such as scheduling a dental cleaning (only necessary if your pet has teeth). The reason infected tooth roots can cause nasal drainage is because the roots of the upper teeth are very close to the nasal passages, and if the tooth root is infected, this will also cause inflammation and infection to creep into the lining of the nose. 

There are also more serious conditions that result in nasal discharge, which do require medical attention. If you notice blood coming from your pet’s nasal area, or the nasal drainage does not improve on its own within 1-2 weeks, it is time for them to be seen by their veterinarian. 

Here is a list of some of the less common, but more serious causes of nasal drainage:

  • Having something stuck in the nasal passages, such as a blade of grass or pine bedding
  • Autoimmune inflammatory conditions affecting the nasal passages
  • High blood pressure
  • Cancer

If your pet has nasal drainage of any kind for more than 2 weeks or if there is blood present, it’s best to schedule an appointment with your veterinarian for them to examine your pet and discuss if any more extensive diagnostics need to be done to evaluate for the more rare, but serious causes mentioned above.

Causes Of Sneezing

Sneezing occurs when something is irritating to the nasal passages. It is a protective mechanism of the body to try to prevent allergens, infections, and foreign bodies from lodging further down into the lower airways. Oftentimes, sneezing can be caused by similar things that cause nasal discharge. Some common reasons why your pet may be sneezing include:

  • An irritant that was inhaled, such as dust, pollen, fragrance, etc.
  • Allergies
  • Viral infections (upper respiratory infections)
  • Bacterial infections (upper respiratory infections)
  • Something stuck in the nasal passages, such as a blade of grass

Sometimes these things can resolve on their own within a few days. If you notice green, mucoid discharge from the sneeze, blood from the sneeze, or if the sneezing doesn’t become less frequent within 5-7 days, you should schedule an appointment with your veterinarian for your pet to be examined. 

Nasal discharge doesn’t need to be scary or life threatening. In fact, in some cases, nasal discharge can be a good thing, especially if it helps your pets clear foreign bodies from their nasal passages. However, if your pet exhibits any of the symptoms listed above, then be sure to get veterinary help.

Choose The Right Nesting Herbs For Your Flock With This Simple Guide

Choose The Right Nesting Herbs For Your Flock With This Simple Guide

Do you want to add nesting herbs to your flock’s daily routine? Not sure which ones are best for your hens? Not sure what your flock really needs? In this article, you’ll discover the simplest way to figure out which nesting herb blend is best for your hens!

We’ll also cover how different herbs can provide different kinds of support, and why it’s so important to choose the right nesting herb blend.

What’s The Point Of Nesting Herbs?

You’re looking at all these herbs for chickens on Amazon, and they’re all starting to look the same. You’re not even sure what you need! Herbs can provide a lot of all-natural support and help you establish a healthy flock. They can also create a home for your hens that’s inviting and promotes egg laying, without using any synthetic or chemical scents. 

There’s a few different ways to use herbs:

  • As a feed additive
  • In your flock’s water
  • Mix with bedding
  • Add to nesting boxes

For example, you can mix herbs with your flock’s feed to improve digestion, improve the flavor of their feed, support immune systems, and/or add environmental interest. If you mix herbs into your flock’s nesting box or bedding, you can provide respiratory support, make the coop less attractive to flying insects, repel mites, and/or improve air quality. You can even use herbs topically by mixing into dust baths or by sprinkling them directly on your flock.

Why Most Flock Owners Use Nesting Herbs

If you’re new to chickens, or just looking to up your game, you might wonder why other flock owners use herbs in their coops, nesting boxes, and feed. There’s got to be some advantage if everyone’s doing it, right? After asking my readers, everyone I talk to has one or more of these 5 common reasons:

  • #1 A great smelling & inviting coop
  • #2 Healthier & better smelling nesting boxes
  • #3 Support egg production
  • #4 Pest control
  • #5 Respiratory support

Interestingly enough, these are also some of the biggest concerns that plague owners. Who doesn’t want a clean, great smelling home for their pets? Who doesn’t want great eggs with strong, unbroken shells? Who doesn’t want their hens to lay in nesting boxes? 

There’s a lot of different ways to arrive at this goal. My personal goal is to raise a healthy flock using as many natural solutions as possible. In my experience, herbs are some of the least expensive and most effective ways out there to raise a naturally healthy coop (especially compared to replacing flock members or visits to the vet). 

In our own coop, we started adding herbs to nesting boxes a few years ago. The hens seem happier and enjoy the herbs as treats. I like that the hens lay their eggs right in the nesting boxes (as opposed to the ground, where they can easily get broken and eaten). During days when they can’t go outside, the herbs keep them entertained for part of the day.

For example, this year, we’ve had a LOT of rain. Since chickens hate wet weather, they stay inside. This can quickly turn happy hens into bored hens who pick on each other and/or eat their eggs out of boredom. So, we regularly add herbs to relax the hens and provide environmental interest. It keeps them entertained and engaged, rather than indulging in unhealthy and negative behaviors.

With herbs, you can sweeten the smell of nesting boxes, repel flying insects during the summer, provide a healthy breathing environment, and more. (Just remember that herbs aren’t a magical panacea – you must keep your coop clean, and refresh your bedding weekly, and perform other good animal husbandry practices). 

We’ll dive into each of these reasons below. We’ll also cover which herbs or herb blends work for each specific reason.

First, Beware Of Nesting Herb Blends That Won’t Work

What’s not commonly understood is that herbs have specific traditional uses. Humans have sorted it out over centuries, and now there’s even studies to show how useful herbs are. Because people now know so much about herbs, we also are aware that an herbal combination can work against you.

For the best results with nesting herbs, it’s crucial to buy your flock’s nesting herbs from a safe source and to verify the herbs in the bottle are the real deal. 

Skip the grocery store because their herbs can sit around warehouses for YEARS. You can’t really know where they came from OR if they’re 100% pure. The herbs could easily be treated with chemicals (supposedly) safe for humans, but not meant for chickens to eat. 

Many times, companies will combine lesser quality herbs, or even a different species of plants. One example is cinnamon. Most cinnamon sold isn’t actually cinnamon. It’s cassia bark or a completely different herb called Chinese Cinnamon. Similar, but definitely NOT cinnamon. Cassia bark and Chinese Cinnamon don’t have the same benefits for repelling pests. 

So, make sure your herbs are USA sourced, all natural, and never synthetic or treated with any chemicals. We use these nesting herbs in our coop because we want to use all USA sourced botanicals. We want to make sure experts are consulted before a company develops a product.

Now, let’s talk about how to choose the right nesting herbs for your flock. The information below will make it very simple for you to decide on the perfect nesting herbs for your hens, and avoid blends that work against you.

What Kind Of Environment Do You Want To Create For Your Hens?

Some nesting box herbs you see on Amazon or Facebook aren’t created for a specific purpose. Usually, the herbs in these products are chosen because they’re popular and sound good. These products aren’t created by  backyard chicken experts working with herbalists or veterinarians. They’re created by anonymous companies who want to capitalize on the backyard chicken craze. 

These blends don’t have much use. You can tell because the manufacturers make many claims for a single product, such as “controls worms AND helps relax AND improves your flock’s immune system, AND controls mites” etc. 

These claims sound good. If you read between the lines, however, you’ll discover the true meaning: “We don’t know what we’re talking about, so we’ll just say what you want to hear.”

On the other hand, some nesting herb blends are created for a specific use. You can buy a blend for:

  • Pest control (such as mites)
  • Intestinal worm control
  • Supporting egg laying
  • Creating a relaxing environment
  • Adding environmental interest and joy to your coop, or
  • Immune support 

To make your decision easy, ask yourself: What do you want your new nesting herb blend to do? 

  • Do you want to support egg laying? 
  • What about controlling mites and lice? 
  • Offer respiratory support?

Figuring this out will help you decide on the perfect blend for your flock. It’ll also help you determine whether those herbs will work for you OR against you. You’ll end up with more bang for your buck, and a much less frustrating experience.

To make this point more clear, let’s look at some common situations we all need to troubleshoot in our own coops.

You Want To Support Egg Production

Supporting egg production is really, really important. It’s a very easy way to make sure your hens are as healthy as possible. If your:

  • Pullets just started laying
  • Hens return to laying after winter or a molt
  • Flock stopped laying for some unknown reason
  • Flock is super healthy already, and you just want a little extra support
  • Want to treat them to a fancy, sweet smelling nesting box 

then it’s especially important to provide something extra to help your chickens. When they just start laying, pullets (and even grown layers) don’t always make enough calcium to produce a strong eggshell. Why is this?

Creating eggs takes a lot of nutrients and energy out of your hens. She must draw the calcium from somewhere to craft her eggshells. It also takes a lot of nutrients! Luckily, providing support is easy. You can:

  • Provide oyster shells for extra calcium
  • Increase the protein in your flock’s diet
  • Add herbs to their nesting boxes for extra nutrients & to create a nice-smelling nesting area

Let’s look at the options above.

Oyster Shells

When your chicken eats oyster shells, it provides extra minerals to help her create healthy eggs. Readers frequently email me to ask why their hen laid a wrinkled, lopsided, or soft shell egg. It’s probably because the hen wasn’t getting enough essential minerals! Oyster shells are mainly made of calcium, and when your hen eats them, she can use the calcium to produce strong shells. 

Soft-shelled eggs like this can happen because your hen doesn’t eat enough calcium.

You can offer oyster shells free choice, in an herbal blend (like our blend Best Eggs Ever!), or mix with your flock’s daily feed.

Herbs To Support Egg Production

If you’re reading this article, however, you probably know about all oyster shells. And you’re probably also interested in using herbs in your coop. Luckily, you can also support your layer with herbs! Dried flowers such as:

  • calendula
  • rose
  • lavender, and
  • chamomile

can create an attractive nesting box. This is especially important if your hens aren’t using their boxes, and laying their eggs in the coop, or worse, in the dirt. (We talk more about why hens stop using nesting boxes in this article). 

It’s best to mix herbs together before adding them to the nesting box. Although a single herb will have some benefit, such as a great smell, when blended together, they’ll provide even more support.

For example:

  • Beta carotenes in calendula support nice, golden yolks. 
  • Calendula, lavender, and rose petals are soothing
  • Garlic, basil, and rosemary support healthy oviduct functions. 

While you can use any of these herbs individually, you’ll get better results if they’re blended together to provide a symphony of support (we’ve blended them together in our product, Best Eggs Ever! to make it easy.). The herbs mentioned above smell great, and have been used for centuries for these specific purposes.

You Want Your Hens To Relax And Use Their Nesting Boxes

Healthy eggs start with happy hens. If a layer is scared, stressed, or unhappy, she’ll likely stop laying eggs. For example, if a predator got into your coop, your flock might be scared. They might stop laying altogether, or simply refuse to use their boxes. They don’t feel safe!

Similarly, if your boxes are smelly, you might notice your hens prefer to lay on the ground, or worse, in a random place on your lawn. (Hello Easter egg hunt!)

 They don’t feel safe in their boxes.

How We Help Hens Who Refuse To Use Nesting Boxes

Whenever one of our chickens stops laying or refuses to use her nesting box, we first thoroughly clean the nesting area, then add herbs to their boxes. The sweet smells and bright colors get their attention, and attract our hens to their nesting boxes. 

Whenever this happens, you might consider adding herbs to attract your hens to their nesting boxes. Herbs that help your hen relax are a perfect choice.  You’ll want an herbal blend that smells great, and is irresistible to our feathered friends. 

Not every herb will do! You’ll want herbs traditionally used to create a relaxing environment. Fragrant flowers like:

  • Calendula
  • Chamomile (traditionally used to relax) 
  • Lavender (also traditionally used to relax)
  • Rose petals (great scent) 

are all great options.

Flowers or Petals?

You can use the whole flower or just the petals. Either is fine! For lavender and chamomile, I use the whole flower since they’re so small. I also use the entire calendula flower because the petals are very light, and blow away easily. The chickens can still pluck the petals off the flower.

Rose petals are a bit heavier and bulkier, so using the petals is easiest (in my option). While the whole flower is very pretty, it’s harder for chickens to pick at. The petals also look like spots of red among the other herbs, which is visually attractive to chickens. In my experience, hens are more likely to interact with rose petals versus the whole flower.

Other herbs traditionally used for relaxing include basil, rosemary (also great for purifying surfaces and the air), and clove. 

It goes without saying that it can be difficult to grow all these herbs and flowers year round. Some aren’t friendly for every gardening zone, while others take a long time to establish so you’ll have enough. You might need acres of available land to make enough of each herb. This is where nesting herb blends come in.

We use Best Eggs Ever! whenever our hens need some extra support or seem stressed. It’s easy to just add it to the bedding in our nesting boxes. It has all the herbs mentioned above.

You Need Pest Control

Will herbs stop mites from biting your chickens?

Let’s say mites are a problem in your coop. This is bad! Mites can make your chickens uncomfortable and unhealthy.

How do you know if your chickens have mites?

  • Sometimes you see them crawling on your chickens
  • There’s usually feather loss (around the vent, especially)
  • You see mite poop on your chickens. It looks like grey dirt caked onto the base of feathers (where feathers grow out of their skin)
  • Your chicken’s skin look red, dry, and irritated
  • The scales on legs are flaking off or look very bumpy (not smooth)

If you see one or more of these symptoms, you might have mites! You should take your pet to the veterinarian:

  • If you’re not sure IF they have mires OR
  • If you’re not sure what to do about it.

If you want to handle it yourself, you have some options to try:

  • A pharmaceutical solution (it’s best to speak to your vet for specific recommendations)
  • Vaseline on the legs (will be harder to implement on the rest of the body, but is good for scaly leg mites)
  • Apply diatomaceous earth or put it into their dust bathing area (good for legs and rest of body)
  • Use herbs (mix with feed, put in nesting areas, use topically, and/or sprinkle  in dust bathing areas)

Personally, I use a mixture of diatomaceous earth and herbs. Both are easy to get, and easy to apply. I use them topically, in the nesting boxes, and in the dust bath area (our blend, MitesBGone makes it really easy).

Let’s talk more about the herbs you can use.

Which herbs are good for pest control?

You want to make your hen house a healthy, fun place for your flock to hang out. You want to give nesting herbs a try. Well, you’ll need a blend that includes herbs specifically chosen to help you transform your coop.

Not all herbs are created equal, and different herbs have different uses. In this situation, calendula isn’t going to cut it. Neither will roses. Borage won’t either. 

This is why it’s SO important to not spend your hard earned dollars on a blend that’s for a variety of complaints. For example, some blends on Amazon claim they “control worms AND help relax AND improve your flock’s immune system, AND control mites” etc. I personally stay away from these nesting herbs. Like I said, herbs aren’t a panacea. It’s best to choose a blend for your specific need.

Mitesbgone nesting herbs
Adding MitesBGone to nesting boxes or dust bathing areas makes it easy to raise a healthy flock

Getting back to pest control. If you want clean, healthy nesting boxes for your layers, then you should use a nesting box blend with herbs traditionally used for to control pests on the body, and to repel them in the environment. For example, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has endorsed several herbs as safe for pest control:

  • Garlic (great for flies & mites)
  • Rosemary (great for mites)
  • Cinnamon (great for mites, ants, & flying insects)
  • Spearmint (great for mites)
  • Citronella (great for mites & flying insects)

This shouldn’t be any new information. These herbs have been traditionally used for centuries to promote a clean body and environment! The EPA is just catching up to old time, traditional knowledge. We’ve used these herbs in our coop for a long time, and they’re fantastic. 

In fact, it’s how we developed one of our products, MitesBGone! Mites don’t like these herbs! 

But before you rush to add herbs to your boxes, it’s important to remember that when the herbs in a blend are randomly chosen because they’re popular, you might not get the same results. In addition, if you look at the list above, no one herb works for every bothersome insect. 

But blended together, you can provide a clean environment for your hens. If you want to check out MitesBGone, click here for more information.

You Want Respiratory Support

We’ve all been there. The weather is questionable, your flock wants to stay inside, and YOU want to keep your flock in the best shape possible. We all know how important air quality is – ESPECIALLY during days when the weather isn’t super supportive. 

You need a blend that includes botanicals traditionally used to support a healthy breathing. 

Again, not all herbs are made equal. Some herbs can actually reduce healthy respiratory functions, or contain very small particles that can lead to lots of sneezing. 

Experts have written volumes about the best herbs to support breathing AND which herbs prevent healthy breathing. So, you choose a nesting blend that includes ONLY these herbs.

For example, I wanted to create a nesting herb blend that would support our own flock, especially during very rainy weather, winter weather, and very HOT weather (when ammonia can creep up in the coop).

I wanted to ensure my layers had only the best herbs. I consulted the experts! We wanted to make sure 100% that there’s nothing in our coop that can lead to poor respiratory support. 

We dove deep into exploring and discovering the herbs that have been used for centuries. 

We ended up choosing specific herbs for my flock that would help cleanse the air and support healthy breathing. Eventually, this mixture became our coop blend, BreatheRight, because they’re the herbs the experts recommend. 

For example, we discovered that we can support our flock with:

  • Spearmint
  • Mullein
  • Turmeric
  • Eucalyptus

These herbs have been used for centuries, across many different cultures, to support a well-ventilated and clean environment. If you inhale any mix with these herbs, you’ll know why! All these herbs work together – not against each other OR our goal of a healthy living space.

We incorporate BreatheRight Coop Herbs into our flock’s nesting box during times when we want our chickens to have extra support. You can also mix them directly into your coop bedding. Just sprinkle ½ cup in each corner, and mix to combine. 

Final Thoughts

So, there you have it! Hopefully, this article makes it easier for you to figure out which nesting herbs are best for your flock. Think about what you want nesting herbs to do for your flock, and make sure those herbs (and only those herbs) are included in the blend. It’s easy to find “any old nesting box herbs,” but it’s very important to discover a product for the specific problem you want to solve. If you;d like to learn more about any of the herb blends we mentioned in this article, just click here.

The Best Herbs For Chickens To Eat? These Are Them (Plus One For First Aid!) [Podcast]

The Best Herbs For Chickens To Eat? These Are Them (Plus One For First Aid!) [Podcast]

While a lot of herbs are great for chickens, there’s a few that I feel are the best herbs for chickens to eat.

There’s also a couple on my list that are perfect for other uses, such as first aid and as natural cleaners (make sure you grab my free reference sheet).

 

In this episode of What The Cluck?! we look at my favorite herbs for chickens to eat, as well as how to actually incorporate these herbs into your daily life with your flock. 

 

 

You’ll learn:

 

  • Which are the best herbs for chickens to eat
  • Why I recommend avoiding cinnamon
  • My favorite way to clean a chicken coop

 

Where to Buy:

herbs for hens

Chicken Farms Try Oregano As Antibiotic Substitute

Boy In Kentucky Dies From Cinnamon Inhalation

 

what herbs can chickens eat content upgrade-min

Transcript:

 

So, first let’s talk about the whys, meaning why bother being concerned about the best herbs for chickens to eat, as well as using herbs in the first place, and there’s some good reasons, as well as scientific reasons, why herbs are a good idea.

 

When it comes to chickens and their eggs, withdrawal times is a big deal, more so than with dogs and cats, for example.

 

And this is for obvious reasons, we eat eggs and we eat chicken, and many modern medicines will come out in their eggs and meat, we know this for a fact, so unless you want a mouthful of antibiotics, which I don’t think any doctor out there would recommend unless you’re sick, then withdrawal times play a really important role when making decisions for your flock.

 

Herbs, on the other hand, don’t have withdrawal times, so the advantage in certain situations is pretty clear.

 

As an aside, if you end up raising goats for their milk, for example, you can avoid wasting milk if you’re able to treat them with herbal remedies since medicines can come out in their milk.

 

But getting back to chickens, you can also use herbs to promote better laying and to get your hens to lay in their nests, if they don’t already do that. I do get questions frequently from readers and listeners whose hens won’t lay in nests, and there herbs I do recommend for that.

 

So, lets get into the best herbs for chickens to eat and how to use them!


Hens love nesting herbs!

nesting box herbs

Yes, I want to SPOIL my hens with nesting herbs!


Oregano

So we’re going to start off with my favorite herb to use in my coop, and that’s oregano. Oregano is one of the best herbs for chickens to eat and there’s a couple reasons for that.

 

Oregano is well-known for its antibacterial properties, and it’s becoming the darling of the egg industry because studies are showing that it’s more potent than antibiotics for keeping chickens healthy.

 

And these are large farms with hundreds of thousands of chickens, so disease tends to run rampant at those places just because of living conditions and overpopulation.

 

But these farms in New York State found that when they fed oregano, that their death rates and illness rates declined quite extensively.

 

And I’ll put a link in the show notes where you can read an article from the New York Times about it.

 

So, the way I like to offer oregano is dried or fresh in bunches, and the nice thing about this is that the chickens can peck at it, and it keeps them busy and not forming negative behaviors in addition to keeping them healthy.

 

Another great thing to do with oregano is to use it in their nesting boxes, and you can do this by just putting fresh leaves into the boxes themselves.

 

The hens will love the scent and it will help deter pathogens. Another nice thing is it will help keep the eggs clean because your hens will have a clean place to nest, and the scent will give them a boost and stimulate egg laying.

 

At the end of the day, happy hens lay better and if they have healthy food in their systems, like oregano, their eggs will be healthier, so offering them a nesting box with oregano leaves will help them lay better eggs.

 

So, like I said, oregano is really one of the best herbs for chickens to eat.

herbs for hens lavender

Lavender

While lavender has some antibacterial properties, and it is one of the best herbs for chickens to eat, it’s better known and better used as a calming agent.

 

So, lavender is well known to be a way to calm people and animals, and that means chickens too.

 

I like to use lavender in nesting boxes to help create a peaceful environment for chickens to lay in.

 

While it doesn’t outright promote laying, meaning you can’t feed a hen lavender and out pops an egg, you can create an environment that promotes calmness that will help your hen feel secure enough to lay.

 

Laying eggs is one of the most vulnerable times for a hen because she needs to stay still, and since hens are a prey animal, in the wild, not moving could mean death.

 

So, a hen that’s stressed or worried is not likely to lay, or at the minimum, she won’t lay a good, healthy egg.

 

So offering an environment that lets her feel safe is a great way to encourage her to lay, and if she feels secure, she’ll lay better eggs, assuming you’re also feeding her an adequate diet.

 

You can incorporate it into their feed as well, either fresh or dry, and like I said, it is one of the best herbs for chickens to eat because it does have antibacterial properties, so your hens will derive some benefit from it that way too.

 

You can also add lavender to cleaners to give them a calming scent your hens will appreciate.

 

Now when it comes to using herbs in your chicken’s nesting boxes, be sure to change them frequently so they don’t mold or breed other pathogens, especially if you use fresh herbs. Switching them out every other day or so will work well.

 

The other thing about lavender is it repels insects, and I’ve found it useful against flies, so including it in your nesting box will help repel flies, which of course, spread disease.

 

Mint

Mint is extraordinarily useful for many things when it comes to your chickens and I always keep a ton of it around the homestead. I like to use peppermint for a lot of things, and so that’s what I mostly grow, and it’s one of best herbs for chickens to eat.

 

Mint is great to put in nesting boxes along with lavender to stimulate laying, and it will create a fresh, good smelling environment for your chickens.

 

But what I really like using mint for is as a repellent. On our farm, because we have so many animals, we have a lot of flies, and I can tell you that mint is great for repelling flies.

 

I have a natural fly repellent I made here on the farm, and it works great.

 

You can read the exact recipe to make it on the blog, but to recap, you boil the herbs, I like to use both mint and lavender since both repel flies, and allow them to steep in the boiling water, just as if you were making a tea.

 

You then mix it with witch hazel to formulate your fly repellent.

 

The witch hazel does have a bit of a scent, but because water is absorbed really quickly into things while witch hazel isn’t, it works better for ensuring the lavender and mint stick around longer.

 

Once you make the repellent, you’ll have herbs left over, and you can feed them to your chickens for an additional immune booster.

herbs for hens calendula

Calendula

So next on our list of the best herbs for chickens to eat is calendula, and there’s a good reason for that.

 

Calendula have long been known to repel insects in gardens, and they’re considered to be one of the best companion plants out there.

 

So, using them in your chicken coop, in nesting boxes, for example, will help repel bugs and keep them out of your nesting boxes.

 

Calendula is also edible for both people and chickens, and they’re said to make your chicken’s egg yolks more orange, so if you want, you can offer the petals to your chickens in their feed.

 

 

Grow herbs in herb boxes

Now, if you want to do something fun and entertaining, you can grow the best herbs for chickens to eat in a grow box, which is a raised bed, 4 to 6 inches high is a good height, that also has a top made of hardware cloth.

 

So, as the herbs grow, they reach the top of the hardware cloth.

 

Chickens can peck the herbs above the hardware cloth or a little below it, but they can’t get to the roots of the herbs, so once the tops of the plant is gone, it has the ability to grow back.

 

It’s a great way to offer herbs to your chickens in a way that’s also interesting to them.

 

You can either grow the herbs straight in the ground or make the grow box like a container garden for them.

 

Now, if you’re interested in giving your hens herbs and want a handy reference sheet, you can grab my free tip sheet on the blog at TheFrugalChicken.com/chickenherbs.

 


Hens Love Nesting Herbs!

nesting box herbs

YES, I WANT TO SPOIL MY HENS WITH NESTING HERBS!


 

What Is Piling?

What Is Piling?

As we move through the process of raising baby chicks, we want to address some potential problems you may encounter. One of these is an issue known as piling.

 

Piling occurs when baby chicks clump together for safety. For example, if it’s cold or dark, then the chicks might lay on top of each other. This makes sense from an evolutionary standpoint. It’s not much different than mammals gathering together in a close-knit group to stay calm and keep away the chill.

 

The Downside Of Piling

Unfortunately, when 10 to 15 chicks pile together, some may get crushed or suffocate. Particularly if they are in a brooder or another enclosed area (you can learn how many chicks should be in a brooder here). The reason for this? Even though baby chicks are incredibly independent, they are still fragile. Bantams in particular.

 

These chicks are so tiny that they get lost in the melee to gather together. If a bantam is weaker or not growing as well as the others, this also leads to a greater risk of being crushed. In addition, since bantams get colder faster, there’s a likelihood of them piling up more frequently.

 

How To Minimize Piling Risks

Regardless if they’re bantams or full-size, chicks have a harder time keeping warm. And if the smaller chicks are mixed with normal sized ones, there’s a potential for greater damage. In the end, the way to minimize piling risks is to separate the chicks by size and make sure there’s no more than 10-15 chicks in the brooder. 

 

Not too long ago, we received a batch of bantams and full-size chicks from a hatchery. The first thing we did is to separate them out, so the smaller chicks didn’t get crushed by a wall of bigger ones. Overall, we were able to maintain the safety of all of them.

 

Another way to minimize piling is to keep baby ducks and chicks in different brooders. Infant ducks tend to be bigger and heavier. Even though their interactions may be cute, a baby duck sitting on a day-old chick can cause fatal injuries.

 

A third way to prevent piling is to provide different heat sources, especially in enclosed spaces. With these units added throughout the brooder, the chicks can move to another source of warmth if the first one is too crowded. Be sure the brooder doesn’t get too hot, though!

Get Your Chicks To Thrive

As you would do with babies in your care, you want to ensure your chicks are well protected. This means shielding the smaller, fragile ones from being crushed when a group decides to pile together. By separating bigger chicks from smaller ones, as well as providing multiple heat sources, you can reduce this risk. In turn, you will end up with a healthy flock of chickens in a variety of sizes.