Want a great smelling, healthy coop, and heard herbs are what the pros use? Not 100% sure HOW to incorporate herbs into your daily routine? Want to make sure your flock will truly benefit from your investment?
In this article, I’ll show you the best and easiest way to incorporate dried herbs into your flock’s nesting boxes. We’ll look at a real blend, and show step by step how I mix it with my flock’s bedding so I hear clucks of joy!
First, there’s a couple things you should consider BEFORE adding herbs to your chickens’ nesting boxes.
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Very Important! Make Sure You Buy Herbs From A Reliable Source
You might read in Facebook groups that any type of herbs will work. This isn’t really true. It’s very important to source your flock’s nesting herbs from a safe source. You need to know the herbs in the package are the real deal.
So, skip the grocery store. Those herbs aren’t fresh (they typically sit around warehouses for YEARS before hitting the aisles). 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, culinary herb companies will combine lesser quality herbs, or even a different species of plants. It’s a bit like the Wild West. As long as its safe for HUMAN consumption, these companies can pretty much do what they want.
A great example is cinnamon. Most cinnamon sold isn’t actually cinnamon. It’s cassia bark. Similar, but definitely NOT cinnamon. Cassia bark doesn’t have the same herbal benefits. But those labels don’t mention that, do they?
So, before you start adding herbs to your flock’s nests, first make sure they’re safe. Make sure they’re USA sourced, all natural, and never synthetic or treated with any chemicals. The herbs we use for our flock are all USA sourced and certified.
You Can Use Fresh, But Dried Herbs Have A Longer Shelf Life
Another common question is whether dried or fresh herbs are better. Both have their benefits. But I prefer dried herbs. They’re easier for chickens to eat, and the essential oils (what makes them smell great and has health benefits) are more concentrated. Dried herbs also have a longer shelf life, and a little goes a long way.
Blends Have More Benefits Than Single Herbs
Most herbalists will tell you that in many cases, a single herb won’t provide as much benefit as a blend. Each herb has a different benefit, so they work together like a symphony. For your chickens, it’s no different.
A single herb will have a finite number of benefits. A combination of herbs, however, provides multiple benefits and all the herbs work together. From your flock’s perspective, they’re getting a variety of treats. Your chicken can explore the different herbs available to them, and taste test them before settling into their nest.
Ok, now that we got that cleared up, let’s move on!
How to Add Herbs To Your Nesting Boxes
First, Add Bedding To The Nesting Boxes
You don’t just want to toss a bunch of herbs into a nesting box and hope for the best. Your aim is to make the area as inviting as possible. And who wants to sit in a cold nesting box? Not your chickens!
It’s important to add enough bedding so your flock has a nice cushion. We use pine bedding (avoid cedar). You can also use straw or shredded newspaper. It’s important to use fresh bedding – so throw away anything that’s soiled or smells.
Proper bedding also protects your flock from cuts and scrapes (especially if you use a metal nesting box) and can prevent the egg from breaking.
In this video, you can see my chickens in their nesting boxes – which are full of herbs!
Add Herbs On Top Of Bedding
Just remove a ½ cup of herbs from the bag, and sprinkle them over the bedding (½ cup per nesting box). Spread the herbs out so they’re as evenly distributed as possible. Make sure to put some in the corners of the box as well. It doesn’t do much good to clump them all in the middle – they’ll just get squashed, and most biting insects prefer corners of the box anyway.
Mix Them Into The Bedding
You want herbs in all layers of the bedding – not just the top. It’s important to mix them fully into the bedding. This is for 3 reasons.
#1 So the herbs can repel external pests.
Pests like to hide in crevices, so just adding the herbs to the top of the bedding won’t be as effective.
# 2 Before your hen lays an egg, she usually likes to arrange her nest.
As she sorts through the bedding, she’ll discover the nesting herbs, and likely take a taste test – which will provide her with environmental interest AND the natural benefits of the herbs.
#3 The herbs will last longer because they won’t be immediately soiled.
To mix them in, just use your hands. Make sure to hit all 4 corners of the box. You can also “pre-mix” the herbs by adding 1-2 cups of herbs to 1 bag of shavings. Then, add the mixture to your nesting boxes. A little amount of herbs goes a long way, but add as much as you like. It’s hard to over do it!
When it’s time to change your flock’s bedding, remove all the bedding AND herbs. Then, repeat these steps to add fresh herbs to the new bedding. If the bedding is soiled by a broken egg or a lot of manure, then you should change the bedding more often.
See – adding herbs to your nesting boxes is easy! I hope you’ve enjoyed this article. Please be sure to reach out to us if you have any questions!
Maat van Uitert is a backyard chicken and sustainable living expert. She is also the author of Chickens: Naturally Raising A Sustainable Flock, which was a best seller in it’s Amazon category. Maat has been featured on NBC, CBS, AOL Finance, Community Chickens, the Huffington Post, Chickens magazine, Backyard Poultry, and Countryside Magazine. She lives on her farm in Southeast Missouri with her husband, two children, and about a million chickens and ducks. You can follow Maat on Facebook here and Instagram here.