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.

Why Won’t My Hens Use Their Nesting Boxes?

Why Won’t My Hens Use Their Nesting Boxes?

Is your flock refusing to lay eggs in their nesting boxes? Want to spoil your hens by creating a nesting area that’s beautiful and inviting? In this article, I’ll show you 7 most common reasons why chickens refuse to use their nesting boxes, what to do about it, and how to provide the best nesting area possible.

It can be heartbreaking and confusing when your flock lays their eggs on the ground instead of the carefully designed nesting boxes you provide. Nobody wants dirty, poop-crusted eggs! It’s also disappointing when they start hiding their eggs or stop laying completely. You spend so much time and money setting up their nesting area, after all! It can be really, really frustrating. 

Getting your flock to consistently use their boxes can take some trial and error, but it CAN be done. It all starts with providing an attractive and inviting nesting area. With the easy ideas below, you can discover if you’re making some very common mistakes in your own coop. If your hens aren’t laying eggs, be sure to print this article out. You can use it as a checklist.

Let’s cover the common reasons why your chickens might avoid laying eggs in a nesting box.

Common Reasons Chickens Won’t Use Nesting Boxes

  1. Too much noise & commotion
  2. There’s mites in the nesting area
  3. The boxes smell or are dirty
  4. The bedding is wrong
  5. Nesting boxes are too high or too low
  6. Your hens don’t like the material your nesting boxes are made out of
  7. They don’t have enough nesting boxes 

Chickens Like Their Privacy

It’s true. Even though they’re incredibly social animals, chickens like privacy when doing their most intimate business – laying eggs. Why is this? When a hen lays an egg, it can take up to 1 hour for the egg to actually emerge from her vent. She must stay still and quiet the entire time. In the last few moments, before the egg is laid, she might even have to strain a little. As you can imagine, it’s not a time when she wants roosters, humans, or other hens bothering her!

If you locate your flock’s nesting boxes in a busy area, your hens might avoid it. Similarly, if they’re easily accessible to roosters or bossy alpha hens, it’s likely too stressful for a quieter hen. In these cases, she will find her own, more suitable, area. 

Make sure your flock’s nesting boxes are inside the coop. Choose a corner where there’s no feeders, waterers, dust bathing areas, swings, or anything else that can attract another chicken to the area. Dedicate that nesting area just for laying eggs. Your hens will appreciate it!

Are Mites A Problem?

We all know what mites are. But did you know they can hide in nesting boxes? Not only that, they can turn a cozy, daydreamy nesting box into a nightmare. Eventually, mites can even cause death. If your flock’s nesting boxes are infested, your hens might avoid them altogether.

So, how do you know if there’s mites? Personally, I automatically assume mites will creep in, especially if I don’t do preventative maintenance. Regularly cleaning nesting areas helps. Spraying the area down with a cleaning solution and scrubbing it regularly is a simple but effective strategy. An all natural cleaner made from citrus is a cost-effective option. 

But don’t stop there. Cleaning prevents existing mites from making the boxes a home, but it doesn’t stop the invasion completely. Do double duty by adding herbs traditionally used to prevent external parasites to your nesting area. Herbs are a cost effective and all natural solution that can discourage mites from returning. Mites can cause anemia, which usually requires a visit to the vet to diagnose and cure. So preventing them is cheaper than a big vet bill. Always make sure to source your blends from a reliable source. We use this herb blend because it’s created specifically for chickens.

chicken mites and lice
A chicken with mites isn’t a comfortable chicken! Mites can make their nesting boxes an unhappy place to lay eggs. Get rid of them ASAP!

Does It Smell Bad? 

Finding eggs on your coop floor? Not always cleaning your nesting boxes when they need it? Then your hens are likely avoiding the smelly, confined areas. 

Who wants to lay in a dirty, stinky bed? Nobody. And your hens aren’t any different. Lots of things happen in nesting areas that humans can’t see. As the box gets dirtier and dirtier, problems compound. Eggs break. A hen drops manure or urine. Ammonia builds up. Their eyes start stinging. Feathers get stuck everywhere. It’s unpleasant.

The simplest way to avoid this is to clean the nesting boxes weekly. Remove all bedding, and do a wipe down. Then, add clean bedding and herbs. For a more detailed explanation, you can read this article to learn how to clean a coop.

It’s also important to clean any unusual messes as quickly as possible. For example, if an egg breaks, don’t allow the smell to fester and the egg to dry. It’ll be hard to get the stench out of your flock’s feathers. You’ll spend even more time cleaning. You’ll end up with stinky chickens in addition to no eggs. You want to avoid wetness, stickiness, and bad smells. Clean the box immediately, and replace any bedding and herbs. 

Which brings us to an important point: great smelling herbs are an easy way to keep your flock using their nesting boxes. Chickens are animals, and smells are very important. It’s how they understand their surroundings. They use scent to determine if an area is safe or not. We’ve found that adding herbs and dried flowers creates a more inviting area that smells better. Instead of repelling our chickens, the herbs invite our flock to use their nesting boxes. 

We like this product, which is full of fragrant, healthy herbs and flowers like calendula, lavender, chamomile, rose petals, and more. The herbs are all healthy for chickens, and other buyers report the herbs attract their chickens to nesting boxes better than just bedding alone.

Herbs can make any nesting box more attractive. This blend smells great, and chickens love it!

Is The Bedding Wrong?

Have you always used a certain type of bedding? Or, are you not using bedding at all? Chickens are sensitive, like a lot of prey animals. Bedding that doesn’t suit them – for whatever reason – can stop them from using their nesting boxes. If your flock won’t use your nesting boxes, try out different bedding options. Straw and pine shavings are two popular options. Adding herbs to bedding can also help attract your hens. In our coop, we use pine shavings from Tractor Supply and Best Eggs Ever! Nesting Box Herbs. Our flock enjoys them, and our hens always give us about a dozen eggs a day. 

Adding ENOUGH bedding is important, also. What would you rather sit on: a thin cushion or a nice, fluffy pillow? Personally, I’d opt for the fluffy pillow. I’m sure your chickens feel the same. 

When they lay eggs, the hens tuck their legs under them and bed down. Sitting on hard, cold metal hurts the shank of their legs and their toes. If their coop floor offers nice, fluffy shavings, they’ll likely opt to lay their eggs on the softer area. Add at least 1 inch of shavings per nesting box, and top it with ½ cup of herbs and flowers. Adding extra bedding and herbs can cost a bit extra, but it’s better than spending money on feed with no eggs to show for it! Your hens will show their appreciation by giving you lovely butt nuggets!

Whatever bedding you choose, just make sure to stay away from cedar shavings. While they smell good, some studies have shown that the aroma can have a long-term negative impact on your flock’s health. 

Are The Boxes Too High Or Too Low?

It’s true, sometimes chickens can sometimes be picky. While we have a lot of nesting options in our coop, for whatever reason, our flock refuses to use any that are placed too high. There’s a Goldilocks zone. If a new nesting box isn’t within those parameters, they ignore it. 

For example, a company sent us some nesting boxes to test out. The product looked perfect. But we committed a cardinal sin (at least a sin in the eyes of our chickens): We placed the boxes higher than our other nesting boxes. The hens promptly ignored them. As soon as we lowered the boxes, our chickens used them. 

It can go the opposite way, too. Sometimes nesting boxes are TOO close to the ground, and hens avoid them. This happens especially if the nesting boxes are directly on the ground. There’s a lot less privacy, and potential for opportunistic predators to infest the area to steal eggs. Bossy hens, roosters, rats, snakes, skunks, or other predators can easily enter the box. Because it’s not safe, chickens then lay their eggs in undesirable areas. 

If everything else in your coop seems okay, then perhaps the height of your boxes is the problem. Try lowering them or raising them to see how your flock reacts. It can be a chore, but so is an Easter egg hunt every day. In the long run, you’ll be happier with the results by finding your flock’s “ Goldilocks Zone.”

Choose Materials Your Hens Prefer

When we purchased our new coop, I had visions of easily removable plastic nesting boxes. I wanted to power wash them weekly to keep them dirt free. My flock had other plans. To this day, they refuse to use plastic nesting boxes. Instead, they’re fans of stainless steel. I’m still scratching my head, but that’s just the way it is.

Nesting boxes come in all shapes and sizes. They can be made of wood, stainless steel, plastic, wicker, and any other material you can imagine. Like people, chickens have their own preferences. This is especially true if you have an opinionated alpha hen. She can influence an entire flock. And sometimes, chickens just prefer one type of nesting box over another. 

For example, if your nesting boxes are made of cedar, it’s possible your hens want to avoid inhaling harmful fumes. If the boxes are plastic, maybe they’re just too slippery. If it’s winter, maybe the stainless steel gets too cold. In the summer, maybe it’s too warm. Maybe it’s too sharp or too hard, and it hurts them. 

Examine your own flock’s habits. Observe them as they interact with the nesting boxes. From there, you can figure out if they’re avoiding their boxes because they don’t like what the boxes are made from. You’d be surprised what you can learn by spending a few hours watching your chickens. You might end up investing in new nesting boxes,  but it’s cheaper than getting a big feed bill with no eggs to show for it.

When they love their boxes, hens will double up to use them!

Make Sure You Have Enough Nesting Boxes

It’s best to have approximately 1 nesting box for every 3 hens. Yes, sometimes your hens will all use the same nesting box. But please give them plenty of options. For example, if you have 5 chickens, 2-3 nesting boxes is best. For 10 hens, then 3 nesting boxes is a good number. If you have 15 hens, 5 boxes is best.

Why is this ratio important? It comes down to promoting good behavior and cleanliness. Let’s pretend two or more hens need to lay eggs at the same time. Where will all these lovely ladies lay? Sometimes, two chickens can pile into a nesting box. 

But most boxes can’t accommodate more than two hens. More importantly, they shouldn’t. When hens pile into a box, chaos happens. Eggs break, and fights start. If it’s hot, your hens can overheat. Somebody can get smushed or suffocate. Your hens might avoid the boxes altogether because it’s too stressful.

Having plenty of nesting boxes also prevents bullying. If you have a dominant hen, she might stop other hens from laying in “her” box. Then, the other hens start laying in undesirable areas. They have to lay somewhere! To avoid all these disasters, just follow this simple strategy. Build 1 nesting box for every 3 hens. You’ll get better eggs and have happier hens!

Final Thoughts

Yes, some chickens can be picker than others. But if your flock has suddenly stopped using their boxes altogether OR if they never used them to begin with, it’s pretty safe to say your flock’s tastes aren’t the only issue. Likely, the problem is environmental. Hopefully, I’ve given you a few ideas you can test in your own coop. You don’t need to implement every single strategy we discussed. But if you notice your flock is laying eggs in undesirable areas, it’s worth printing out this article and using it as a checklist. From there, you can determine whether you’re making any of the mistakes we covered. Good luck and let me know how it works out by leaving a comment below!

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!


 

Easy Herb Harvesting For Chickens!

Easy Herb Harvesting For Chickens!

Main takeaways:

  • Lemon balm and basil have lots of nutrients and health benefits for chickens
  • Ducks love them too!
  • Lemon balm is very easy to grow – you can harvest your first year, and it’ll grow back!
  • To easily clean herbs, put them into a 5 gallon bucket, add a top, and shake.

 

More reading:

Which herbs are great for hens?

How to grow an herb garden

Immune supporting herbs for chickens

 

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: