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.

Easter Egger Chickens: Egg Color, Personalities, And More!

Easter Egger Chickens: Egg Color, Personalities, And More!

There’s something about Easter Egger chickens that brings a smile to their owners’ faces. Maybe it’s the surprise of their colored eggs, or their funny personalities. Each one is so different!

 

If you’re interested to know more about Easter Egger chickens, then you’re in the right place.

 

Easily confused with Ameraucana and Araucana chicken breeds, these feathered beauties aren’t a breed, but rather types of chickens – designer “mutts” that grow into beautiful layers that give us extra large eggs in colors from blue to green and even pink!

 

With their black outlined eyes and gentle temperaments, they make an interesting and beneficial addition to any flock.

 

The Easter Egger chicken temperament is exceptionally friendly and hardy – they love getting treats, and are easily trained to sit in your lap. Since they’re smaller and the roosters are calm, this chicken breed is a great choice for any family flock.

 

Let’s go through everything you need to know about the Easter Egger chickens and what you can expect from this bird.

 

Breed History, Personality, And More

 

What Breed Of Chicken Is An Easter Egger?

Easter Egger aren’t a breed per se. It’s a variety of chicken that carries the blue egg laying gene, and the modern version is descended from the ancient Araucana breed that first evolved in Chile to lay blue eggs. They’re usually a cross between blue egg layers like Ameraucanas (though sometimes Araucanas or Cream Legbars) and any other chicken breed. It’s very easy to be confused; many sellers mistakenly label Easter Egger chickens as Ameraucanas or Araucanas (or vice versa). They’re called Easter Eggers because their “butt nuggets” resemble the eggs many people hunt for during the annual spring festival.

 

The pigment oocyanin that covers the shell gives blue eggs their characteristic color. Research has revealed that this unique color is actually a genetic anomaly.

 

Because they’re not an actual breed (meaning there’s no standardization of the breed), two Easter Eggers can look completely different.

 

Even more, an Easter Egger crossed with dark brown egg layers (like Marans or Welsummers)  might result in an Olive Egger chicken OR it might result in a second generation (F2) Easter Egger!

 

In our own coop, we have two green egg layers who are Easter Egger/Marans crosses!

 

Easter Egger bantams are also popular – they’re the result of crossing a blue egg layer (full size or bantam) with a bantam chicken. While Easter Eggers themselves are pretty small (about 4-5 pounds), the bantam sizes are even smaller!

 

Easter Egger vs. Ameraucana

While both chickens are wonderful, they are definitely two different varieties. Ameraucanas generally always lay blue eggs, while Easter Eggers can lay blue, green, emerald, or even pink eggs. You can discover more about Ameraucanas here. Just remember that Easter Eggers do not conform to a breed standard as defined by the American Poultry Association (APA) or American Bantam Association (ABA), so the cute chicks you get at the farm store can grow up looking completely different from each other!

 

What Do Easter Egger Chickens Look Like?

Because Easter Eggers are a combination of a blue egg layer and any other breed of chicken, one chicken can look completely different than another – there’s no breed standard. You might find that each fluffy butt as a different comb style. We have Easter Eggers with pea combs and others with a regular style single comb. We also have some with a combination of the two (not quite a pea comb, and not quite a single comb)!

 

Some Easter Eggers have ear tufts and beards, while some don’t. Some have tails, and others don’t (Araucanas – which are blue egg layers – are rumpless, so they don’t grow tails). Really, anything goes!

 

Our Easter Eggers each have different color legs (some have dark colored shanks and others have light colored – one even has blue). In fact the only consistent thing is their toes! Easter Eggers generally only have 4 toes.

 

Their feathers are any combination of colors from grey to gold. Your Easter Eggers might have lovely black “eyeliner” around their eyes (our Easter Egger Cleo did – and she laid pink eggs!), or they might have grey feathers that show off their clear, bright eyes.

 

One Easter Egger rooster can look quite different from another. We’ve had some that are pure black, and some that are grey and copper with ear tufts and beards.

 

Like I said, there’s really no consistency!

easter egger chicken baby

Caring For Your Easter Eggers

To make sure your Easter Eggers have a great life, you should feed them a high-quality chick starter (if they’re babies) or a good layer diet, if they’re grown. An ideal layer feed has at least 16% protein. You’ll also want to offer oyster shells so your chickens lay great eggs.

 

Adding herbs such as calendula will improve the color of their yolks. For treats, hens love black soldier fly larvae and mealworms.

 

Be sure to house your hens in a well-built coop (you can learn how to build a chicken coop here and what to include in your coop here). Any type of coop is fine, as long as it has at least 10 square feet of space per chicken.

 

You’ll have to decide whether you want to free range your hens or not – you can read about advantages and disadvantages of free ranging here.

 

Egg Colors, Laying, And Amount Per Year

What Color Eggs Do Easter Egger Chickens Lay?

Easter Egger egg colors range from light blue, seafoam green, dark green, and pink. Each chicken only lays one color egg though! (So, if your hen lays green eggs, she’ll always lay green eggs). Some owners suggest their hens lay purple eggs, but in most cases, this is likely the bloom tinging the brown egg a different color. Our hens sometimes lay “purple” eggs, but if you wash off the bloom, they’re really just regular brown eggs!

blue easter egger eggs

Are Easter Eggers Good Layers?

Yes! They’re excellent layers who will give you lovely, large eggs. The color of the eggs will depend on the genetics of the individual chicken. They don’t tend to go broody, so you should get a consistent supply of eggs year round.

 

When Do Easter Egger Chickens Start Laying?

Easter Eggers start laying when they’re about 6 – 7 months, although some can take up to a year. This will depend on a few things, mainly their diet (they should get a 16% layer feed once they start producing eggs), the season (they’re less likely to lay eggs in winter), and their environment (a stressful home can make them stop laying eggs). You can learn about how to troubleshoot egg laying problems here.

 

How Many Eggs Do Easter Egger Chickens Lay Per Year?

While the amount of eggs laid per year will depend on the individual chicken, her diet, and her environment, you can easily expect about 250 eggs per year from your Easter Egger hen! To keep her laying consistently, offer layer feed with at least 16% protein. We cover the best feeders for backyard chickens in this article. An oyster shell supplement will ensure she lays eggs with strong, healthy shells.

 

Do The Hens “Go Broody”?

Easter Egger hens don’t tend to go “broody” and want to hatch chicks. Of course, this depends on the individual chicken – some hens hear the call of motherhood more than others. There’s not much you can do to alter this – either they want to hatch eggs or they don’t! If you want to have baby chicks but your hens don’t want to sit on eggs, you can incubate them yourself. We cover the best incubators in this article.

 

How Long Do Easter Egger Chickens Live?

Most chickens live anywhere from 5-8 years, as long as they’re given a good diet, lots of fresh water, a warm home, and veterinary care as needed. Some of my readers even report they have chickens that are 13 years old! You can read about the oldest chicken in the world here.

 

Do Easter Eggers Have Feathered Feet?

Not usually, but it’s not unheard of, especially if the parents have feathered feet. They are adorable! Usually, a bantam ameraucana would be crossed with any bird with feathered legs like Silkies, Brahmas, Marans, or Cochins.

 

Where Can You Buy Easter Eggers?

We’ve purchased our hens and roosters from a variety of places:

 

  • Cackle Hatchery
  • Meyer Hatchery
  • Tractor Supply

 

You can also search for a hatchery or breeder near you. Many smaller farm stores carry Easter Egger starting in April and ending in June. Usually, a single chick costs under $5, although this will vary from breeder to breeder. Either way, it’s not a high price for a new best friend!

 

At smaller farm stores, you can usually get a good deal, especially if the chicks are a week or two old. You also might find breeds that are unusual.

 

At places like Tractor Supply, you’ll have to buy 6 or more chicks at once. So, it’s best to call ahead to make sure they’ll have chicks, that the breeds you want will be available, and whether there’s any purchase minimums.

 

Most hatcheries also have minimums. This is for the safety of the chicks. For the first few weeks of their lives, chicks need an external heat source. If a hatchery only shipped one or two chicks in the mail, they likely would be far too cold, and arrive dead.

 

We’ve had good luck purchasing our Easter Egger chicks from Cackle Hatchery, and we continue to give them our business each year.

 

Do you own Easter Egger chickens? Leave a comment below!

7 Hacks for Healthier Urban Chickens!

7 Hacks for Healthier Urban Chickens!

One of the questions I get asked the most is: “Can I keep urban chickens even though I live in the city?” And my answer is always a huge YES!

 

Raising chickens is a rewarding and meaningful experience and I highly recommend it to everyone! There are, however, some things that you need to keep in mind when you are raising urban chickens in the big city.

 

It’s totally possible, but you will need to make some adjustments for an urban coop in order to keep you chickens happy and healthy.

 

Here are some of my favorite tips and tricks for raising urban chickens in small spaces.

 

My top tips for raising urban chickens are:

  1. Make sure you can have chickens in your area
  2. Feed organic herbs for healthier hens
  3. Feed your chickens a balanced diet with calcium and protein
  4. Use calendula
  5. Practice good coop hygiene
  6. Provide environmental enrichment
  7. Predator-proof your coop

 

 

 

Make Sure You Can Keep Chickens In Your Area

Before we get started with the rest of the tips in this article, first and foremost you need to make sure you can keep chickens in your area. Not every town allows them – PLEASE do your homework first!

 

Your town might allow chickens, but have limits on the amount of chickens, how many feet they need to be kept away from other homes, or whether you can keep roosters or not.

 

It’s no good trying to keep chickens if your area doesn’t allow them – you’re doing your chickens a disservice because you might have to re-home them. Not fun for anyone!

 

Now, if you CAN keep chickens and you know all the regulations, then read the rest of the tips in this article to help your flock be healthier and happier!

 

Use Organic Herbs in Feed & Nesting Boxes

For people keeping chickens in smaller spaces, such as urban backyards, my favorite piece of advice is keeping them happy and healthy with organic herbs.

 

Because urban coops tend to be smaller and owners need to protect their flock from predators, such as dogs and cats, urban chickens run the risk of developing negative behaviors such as feather picking because they don’t have as much space to roam.

 

Urban chickens also tend to have more stressful lives than pasture raised chickens, so herbs such as peppermint, oregano, garlic, wormwood, and calendula.

 

(And blends such as the herbs we carry in the Living The Good Life With Backyard Chickens store) provide both a natural health boost and environmental interest because hens can pick at the herbs and explore their treat.

 

 

nesting box herbs

Feed your urban chickens a high-quality, nutritious diet

Especially for urban chickens, it’s important that you make that they have a well balanced diet. They can’t forage for nutrients, and they lead slightly more stressful lives because urban chickens are typically cooped all the time, or face environmental stress such as polluted air, lots of noise, etc.

 

One important nutrient to ensure the health of your chickens is calcium. Making sure your hens have ready access to high quality calcium supplements is important to ensure they lay eggs with strong egg shells.

 

You can offer a calcium supplement in the form of oyster shells or dried, crushed eggshells. To dry your egg shells, simply wash them so the albumen is cleaned off, then allow them to air dry a bit.

 

Next, toast them by placing them in your oven at 200 degrees for about 10 minutes. Then crush, and offer separately or mix with your flock’s feed.

 

It’s also important to make sure that your urban chickens are getting enough protein. If you want an out-of-the-box treat, black soldier fly larvae are full of protein, fat, AND 50 times more calcium than treats such as mealworms.

 

And hens LOVE them! I have an in depth article about the benefits of black soldier fly larvae here if you want more information!  If you want black soldier fly larvae for your hens, we carry them in the store right here.

 

Keeping urban chickens is easy and healthy!

Mix Calendula With Your Urban Chicken’s Feed

 

For golden yolks (which is why most people keep chickens – for healthier eggs), adding the herb calendula to your chickens’ diet is a must. (We carry calendula in the store right here.)

 

Calendula contains beta carotenes, which lend their orange color to your hen’s yolks.

 

Practice Good Coop Hygiene

All natural hygiene is a must for urban chickens. They are more susceptible to internal parasites such as worms and external parasites such as mites because they’re not able to move around as much as their country cousins.

 

Using essential oils such as melaleuca and lemon when cleaning their coop will help keep their home clean and hygienic.

 

It’s important to not use household cleaners such as bleach – the fumes can harm your chickens, and when bleach mixes with the ammonia from your flock’s droppings, it can produce mustard gas! Yikes!

 

So, all natural cleaners are a must to keep your flock healthy.

 

Keeping urban chickens is fun!

Provide Environmental Enrichment

Like we talked about earlier, urban chickens have more stressful lives due to different environmental circumstances than their pasture raised counterparts.

 

So in order to avoid negative habits such as feather picking, you need to provide your chickens with some environmental enrichment activities.

 

This could be things like providing herbs for them to pick at or ensuring that there are places for your chickens to perch in your coop.

 

Providing environmental activities for your chickens helps to keep them happy and helps keep them from developing bad habits.

 

Predator Proof Your Coop

I’ve seen way too many urban chicken owners get burned because they didn’t predator proof their coop. They thought there weren’t chicken predators in the city.

 

While you might not have to worry about chicken predators like raccoons or possums in the city, you do need to worry about cats, dogs and any other animals that might be “interested” in your chickens. Always make sure that your coop is predator proof so you can keep your chickens safe.

 

Dogs can be another problem for those raising chickens in the city. If you have a pet dog they can be just a little bit too interested in your chickens and that can cause huge problems.

 

My number one tip is to keep your chickens and dogs separate. Even the best behaved dogs might get curious and ANY dog has the potential to seriously injure your chickens (even little dogs), so I recommend that you just keep them apart if you think there’s a chance your dog might play too rough with your chickens.

 

Make Sure Neighbors Are On Board

Many of the readers I get messages from are concerned about their neighbors getting upset because they have chickens. Honestly, as long as you don’t have a rooster, it very unlikely that anyone will know you have chickens at all!

 

In fact, I know someone who was raising chickens in the middle of a neighborhood for years and his neighbors didn’t even realize they were there! Hens can be very quiet!

 

I keep my coop super clean so it doesn’t smell as bad, and hens aren’t typically noisy. In fact, I think dogs are 10 times more annoying for neighbors than chickens could ever be!

 

Most chickens are docile, quiet, and pretty well-behaved from my experience. And trust me the second your neighbors try some of your chickens’ delicious eggs they won’t complain. In fact, they’ll probably want to get chickens of their own!

 

I always recommend that you check your cities’ ordinances and policies about chickens to be sure you know the rules about raising chickens in your area. Some cities might limit the number of chickens you can own based on how big your backyard is. Check it out to be sure!

 

Do you have experience with raising urban chickens? I’d love to hear about it in the comments below!




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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:
It’s June…Here’s 17 Vegetables You Can Still Plant For a Full Fall Harvest!

It’s June…Here’s 17 Vegetables You Can Still Plant For a Full Fall Harvest!

It maybe June (can you believe we’re halfway through the year?), but there’s still plenty you can plant for a late summer/fall harvest!

 

(This is an excerpt from my #1 Amazon Bestselling book Organic By Choice: The (Secret) Rebel’s Guide To Backyard Gardening. If you want a great resource to help you grow everything listed below, grab it on Amazon right here!)

 

Believe me when I say that there’s veggies on this list I’ll be planting myself – I just cleaned out the greenhouses, spread rabbit manure to add nutrients to the soil, and I’ll be planting some beans, beets, and greens I hope to overwinter!

 

Even if you haven’t started your garden, don’t despair – there’s still plenty of time!

 

Here’s 17 plants you can still start this month!

 

Beans

Lots of varieties love the warmer weather! You can harvest some varieties in as little as 45 days. In hotter areas, stick with bush varieties to conserve water. Direct sow every two weeks for a continued harvest well into fall. Plant 10-15 plants per person in your family.

 

Beets

You can grow beets for either the roots or the greens. Direct sow in the soil now, and they’ll be ready to harvest in 45-60 days. Pickle them to preserve them!

 

Bok Choy

I love bok choy because it’s mild (aka not bitter), you can harvest it when it’s still young for a super nutritious addition to any sandwich or salad.

 

Broccoli

While you might not connect broccoli with something you should grow in June, especially in climates with a shorter growing season, you can start it now so it’s ready to harvest when the nights start to dip below 50 degrees.

 

Cabbage

If you plant cabbage now, you can harvest well into cooler weather (cabbage loves lower temperatures!) It takes a bit of time to grow big enough for harvest, so make sure it has a dedicated space you won’t need for anything else.

 

Calendula (C. officinalis)

This medicinal herb/flower can be used for so many purposes, from giving chickens golden egg yolks to creating healing salves for your family. Direct sow, and seeds will germinate in about 2 weeks.

 

Carrots

If you start your carrots now, you can still get an early fall crop – and they can hang out in the garden well into late fall.

 

Corn

Corn grows fairly quickly, but it needs full sun and lots of water. You can harvest it in as little as 70 days if you choose a fast-maturing variety. If you want to harvest enough for your whole family, plan on 12 – 15 ears per person.

 

Cucumbers

Consider bush cucumbers to save space and water. You can harvest them when they’re small for sweet pickles.

 

Eggplant

Eggplant loves heat, and you can see purple eggplants starting to form in as little as 60 days. Choose a fast-growing variety. If your family loves eggplant, you should plan on 3 plants per person.

 

Herbs

There’s plenty of herbs you can start right now, including:

 

  • Basil (grow several plants for a winter full of pesto)
  • Oregano (Greek oregano has great, large leaves)
  • Thyme
  • Sage (grow 7-10 plants for smudge sticks)
  • Dill (grow 3-4 plants for leaves, 10 or more for dill seed for pickling)
  • Parsley
  • Cilantro
  • Lavender

 

You can plant herbs outside or in pots so you can bring them in at the end of season. Remember you will need time to dry them – so don’t plant too many and get overwhelmed.

 

Melons

Now is a great time to start watermelons and cantaloupe! Plan on 3 – 4 plants per person in your family.

 

Peas

Count on 20 plants per person.

 

Squash

Squash loves heat, and will grow quickly in the higher temperatures. Yellow summer squash is a great variety, as are gourd varieties.

 

Sunflowers

You can let them go to seed for a healthy snack or harvest them for cut flowers.

 

Swiss Chard

Perfect if you have a shady spot in your garden, which will help the leaves from bolting and becoming bitter.

 

Turnips

Plant for greens and/or the roots. You will be able to harvest them long into the fall.

 

I’d like to hear from you!

What are you planting right now? Leave a comment below!