How To Infuse Oil With Herbs For Traditional Home Remedies

How To Infuse Oil With Herbs For Traditional Home Remedies

Wondering how to infuse oil with herbs? It’s really simple – and incredibly useful.

 

For millennia, humans have used herbs for all kinds of things – health, cooking, for religious purposes, keeping livestock healthy, and more. So, it’s nothing new to infuse oil with herbs for your own purposes.

 

And there’s a reason for our species dependency on our plant friends – herbs have natural properties in their essential oils that are useful for seasoning dinner and medicinal uses, such as calming an upset stomach.

 

When it comes to herbs, there’s various ways to use them such as eating or drinking them or applying topically – on yourself or your animals, including your backyard chickens.

 

To use herbs for things like cuts and scrapes, to promote healthy skin, as an anti-inflammatory, or more, you can apply the plants by themselves (there’s lot of traditional and historic records of humans using plants alone.)

 

OR you can infuse them in an oil, which makes the plants easier to spread over a large area and concentrates the natural chemical constituents of the plants.

 

How to infuse oil with herbs

 

You can also do other things with the infused oils, such as make lotions, salves, and more.

 

For your backyard chickens, using infused oils can be better than using the plants themselves. Chickens are less likely to pick at the oil and eat the plants, and it’s easier to keep oils on an animal that likes to run around and forage.

 

For complicated applications, such as open wounds, oil can make it easier to apply and “stick” the herbs, and get around folds of skin that might otherwise harbor bacteria.

 

Imagine trying to keep a bandage full of herbs on a hen! It CAN be done, but it’s just easier and better peace of mind with infused oils.

 

Infused oils also mean the essential oils of the plant – the part that helps the most – is more concentrated and bioavailable to your chickens.

 

In this article, I’m going to show you how to infuse oils with herbs…and we’ll use two GREAT medicinal herbs – comfrey (botanical name Symphytum uplandicum) and plantain (botanical name Plantago major).

 

Both have a long history of helping maintain healthy skin, regrow skin after injury, reduce pain from sprain, strains, and more.

 

Multiple studies have shown that comfrey aids in relieving pain from sprains and strains, and you can easily use oil infused with comfrey to make salves.

 

Now, there’s plantain the herb (botanical name Plantago major, also known as broadleaf plantain) and plantain the fruit (banana cultivars of the genus Musa) – they’re two different species of plants with nothing to do with each other. 

 

The plantain we’ll use in this recipe (Plantago major) is a traditional home remedy for insect bites and as an anti-inflammatory.

 

how to infuse oils with herbs

What oils should you use?

There’s lots of options here. The easiest oil to use is a high quality olive, although you can use sunflower, grapeseed (which has lots of antioxidants and vitamins), jojoba, coconut oil (fractionated or not) or any other oil you can imagine.

 

I would stay away from corn oil, which is likely to be impure and genetically modified, and anything with soy. I’m also not 100% sure how well peanut oil will work.

 

The key is to use a 100% pure, high-quality oil.

 

How to infuse oils with herbs

This is probably the simplest thing you’ll do all week. To get the benefits of the herbs in the oils, all you need to do is soak the herbs in your oil of choice.

 

I use mason jars to infuse oils with herbs because they’re easy to clean, keep on a shelf out of sunlight, and are readily available.

 

Place the herbs in the mason jar – for this recipe I used a 1:1 ratio of comfrey and plantain, about ½ a cup of each. For a pint mason jar, 1 cup of herbs total is what I use – that way, the oil soaks all the bits of plant and nothing molds or invites bacteria into the mixture.

 

As long as the herbs are covered in oil, they won’t mold, but if any air pockets remain, there’s the potential for them to rot.

 

Pour the oil over the herbs until the jar is full, then top with a mason jar lid.

 

Allow the mixture to infuse for up to 6 weeks. Realistically, you can do it for much longer than that, but you’ll want to use the mixture as fast as possible and in my experience, any longer than that has diminishing returns.

 

After 6 weeks, pour the mixture through a mesh strainer and into a clean mason jar to separate the oil from the herbs. Your infused oil is now ready for other recipes!

 

Depending on the herbs you’ve infused (calendula is one of my favorites!) you can also cook with this oil or use it as a salad dressing.

 

What herbs can you infuse oil with?

Pretty much any herb you want. A great alternative to plantain and comfrey are oregano and, as mentioned before, calendula and rose, which have great properties to promote healthy skin.

What Vaccines Do My Chickens Need?

What Vaccines Do My Chickens Need?

Quite frequently, I get messages from readers asking “What vaccines do my chickens need?”

 

In this article, we’re going to cover what vaccines are available for your flock. (This article was reviewed for veterinary accuracy by a licensed veterinarian on June 3, 2017.)

 

Before we get started, let’s get one thing out of the way: I’m not telling you IF you should get your chickens vaccinated – that’s a personal decision only you can decide.

 

I recommend you talk to your local qualified poultry vet and ask them what vaccines your chickens need. This article is meant only as a reference for what’s available (and remember that I’m not a vet – which is why I had this article reviewed by one!).

 

You should also know that I don’t personally vaccinate my chickens. That’s a decision I made based on the overall potential benefits compared to the overall potential negatives and costs (risk assessment, y’all).

 

For the most part, vaccines for chickens have been developed to improve the death rates, create herd immunity, and to reduce the potential transmission of diseases among chickens crammed together in a small space in the commercial sector, and not necessarily for the common backyard flock you and I have.

 

Wonder "what vaccines do my chickens need?" Here's a list! (Article reviewed by a veterinarian on June 3, 2017)

 

My flock doesn’t leave my property very often, and we practice common sense hygienic measures (cleaning and disinfecting coops, feeding only fresh food without mold, segregating new flock members for 30 days to check for disease, limited exposure to wild birds, etc).

 

These practices have been sufficient, and according to some vets I’ve consulted, quarantine and proper hygiene practices are MORE effective than vaccines.

 

Particularly if you’re raising Cornish Crosses for meat, remember you’ll likely be harvesting them between 6 and 10 weeks of age. You won’t want to do anything to harm or taint the meat, which might happen with injectable vaccines.

 

Remember also, that most vaccines come with warning labels advising to not butcher poultry that have just received shots (they tell you to wait anywhere from 15 to 60 days) – not ideal for meat birds.

 

If you DO want to vaccinate your chickens (for example, you attend poultry shows or are constantly bringing new chickens home from swap meets) – more power to you. I hope this article gives you a good overview of the options you can discuss with your vet.

 

Bottom line: It’s a personal decision only you can make after educating yourself and consulting with a qualified vet.

 

If you want to read about common chicken illnesses, you can do that in this article. If you want to learn how to care for a sick chicken, here’s a great reference

 

What vaccines for chickens are available?

 

This list isn’t comprehensive, and the veterinary world comes out with new medications and vaccines all the time. These are common ones I get asked about. The information referenced is from the Merck Veterinary Manual. (If you’re committed, you can find it online, or buy your own copy on Amazon here.)

 

Some of the most common vaccines for chickens are for:

  • Marek’s Disease
  • Mycoplasma gallisepticum infections
  • Infectious Bursal Disease
  • Encephalomyelitis
  • Fowlpox
  • Laryngotracheitis
  • Newcastle disease/Infectious Bronchitis

 

Marek’s Disease

When given, this vaccine is usually given to day old chicks, both broilers (usually Cornish Crosses) and layers. If you want your chickens vaccinated against Marek’s, most hatcheries will do it for you for a small fee (don’t bet on those chicks you buy at the local feed store having it – your best bet is to order from a hatchery and pay for the vaccine).

 

It’s given subcutaneously, which means below the skin. In most cases it’s given in the breast of your day old chick. An expert handler will do it likely without complication, but since chicks are very fragile, it’s also possible they will be injured by a less-than-adept technician.

 

You can buy a Marek’s Disease vaccine here on Valley Vet. (I don’t make any commission from this company. I personally buy equine vaccines from them, so I trust this source enough to recommend them). 

 

Newcastle/Infectious Bronchitis

You can read more about Newcastle/infectious bronchitis here. 

 

The vaccine is usually given between 14-21 days of age, via water, and at commercial poultry farms, is given consistently (every 2 weeks to 90 days, depending on age, location, managerial decisions, etc) thereafter. (See this chart about what vaccines chickens can get from the Merck Veterinary Manual). 

 

You can buy this vaccine on Valley Vet here.  You might need a prescription, so talk to a knowledgeable vet. They can also advise you on dosage strength and where (and how) to administer it.

 

Wonder "what vaccines do my chickens need?" Here's a list! (Article reviewed by a veterinarian on June 3, 2017)

 

Infectious Bursal Disease

This is a viral disease of the bursa, and it can interfere with immune system development as chicks age. You can read more about infectious bursal disease here. The vaccine is usually given 14-21 days old via water.

 

Encephalomyelitis

You can read more about Encephalomyelitis hereGiven in the wing web at 10-12 weeks old

 

Fowlpox

Read more about Fowlpox hereThe vaccine is usually given in the wing web at 10-12 weeks old. We’ve had fowlpox in our flock, and successfully treated it.

 

You can buy this vaccine on Valley Vet along with the vaccine for Encephalomyelitis. You might need a prescription for it, so speak to your vet first. Your vet can also advise on the dosage and where to administer it.

 

Laryngotracheitis

This is a viral infection. You can read more about it here. The vaccine is usually given at 10-12 weeks, intraocularly (in the eyeball) with eye drops, according to veterinarians I consulted.

 

Mycoplasma gallisepticum

This is a bacterial infection that can cause a chronic respiratory infection. You can read more about it hereThe vaccine is usually given between 10-14 weeks of age, either intraocularly (in the eyeball with eye drops) or by a spray (according to The Merck Veterinary Manual), although I have seen injectible vaccines (see below).

 

You can find this vaccine on Valley Vet here. Their product looks like an injectable vaccine, so discuss with your vet before using it. 

 

That’s the skinny on vaccines! It’s completely up to you if you want to vaccinate your backyard flock – just remember to consult a qualified poultry vet.

 

In all honesty, (based on my experience) if your local vet doesn’t have much experience with chickens, they probably won’t have these vaccines on hand, and they might not be comfortable administering or prescribing them.

 

I’d like to hear from you!

Have you vaccinated your chickens? What was your experience? Leave a comment below!

Vent Prolapse: How to Recognize & Treat Your Hen

Vent Prolapse: How to Recognize & Treat Your Hen

When your chicken has a vent prolapse, it can be startling and distressing – for you and the hen.

 

In this article, I invited Carrissa from Feather And Scale Farm to tell us about her experience treating vent prolapse.

 

Here’s Carrissa’s first-hand experience with vent prolapse with her hen Oreo, and how she handled it:

 

We started our farm with a flock of six chickens in our very urban backyard. Oreo, Ziggy, Henny Penny, Duchess and Bean were a gorgeous group of mixed breed hens and we adored them.

 

vent prolapse hen

 

When we decided to go away one weekend, our chicken sitter called us in a panic.

 

She said something was terribly wrong with Oreo, our Silver Laced Wyandotte hen. Her words were something along the lines of “her insides look like they’re coming out”.

 

We had her put Oreo in a crate separated from the flock and gave her instructions to keep the hen quiet and comfortable.

 

When we arrived home we looked Oreo over, and our sitter was right – it looked like her insides were coming out of her back end.

 

There was red exposed tissue that looked raw and completely unsettling to us as relatively new hen owners.

 

I quickly called my cousin/chicken mentor, and after sending her a photo, she gave me a crash course in vent prolapse.

 

What is a Vent Prolapse?

 

A vent prolapse is essentially a chicken’s insides coming out.

 

[Note from Maat: It’s totally normal for the vent to temporarily prolapse when laying – it’s definitely NOT normal for it to stay that way]

 

For a variety of reasons, the internal reproductive tract becomes loose and protrudes from the vent, making passing poop and eggs painful, and potentially deadly.

 

[Note from Maat: Click here to see a photo of a hen with a vent prolapse in the Merck Veterinary Manual]

 

What Causes a Vent Prolapse?

 

Vent prolapse can be caused by a variety of factors:

 

  • Diet – a lack of calcium and magnesium has been linked to vent prolapse
  • Weight – both being underweight or over weight can contribute to a vent prolapse
  • Age – a very young hen trying to pass a very large egg can lead to a vent prolapse. Older hens who have been heavy producers and have lost muscle tone are also prone to vent prolapse
  • Infection – often times a vent prolapse can be the result of an undetected abdominal or oviduct infection
  • Egg Size – Consistent oversized or misshapen eggs can weaken and damage muscle tissue leading to a vent prolapse

 

With the variety of causes that can lead a hen to have to a vent prolapse; the chances are good you may deal with at least one instance of this if you keep chickens.

 

Unfortunately not all of these causes are preventable – some people believe there is a genetic component as well.

 

That’s why it’s important to recognize when a prolapse is occurring, and be able to treat as soon as possible.

 

Identifying a Vent Prolapse

 

If the hen isn’t showing an extensive amount of exposed tissue, sometimes it can be hard to catch a vent prolapse when it’s starting. Know your flock.

 

Look for any behavioral changes or signs of distress with the hen, including a lack of appetite, lethargy, fluffing out feathers, lack of egg production, bloody eggs or being bullied by the other members of the flock.

 

If you gently turn the hen in question upside down, a quick visual inspection on her vent area will show you if there is any external tissue exposed. If you see exposed tissue, treat accordingly.

 

Treating a Vent Prolapse

 

Early treatment is the key to fixing a vent prolapse and preventing it from reoccurring.

 

Separate the hen from the rest of the flock. And enclosed dog crate works great for this, as you will want the affected hen to be somewhere dark with limited space for movement.

 

Wash the effected area. Prepare a nice warm bath for your hen. We add some iodine to help disinfect the area. Hold the hen gently with her back end in the warm bath. This will help to loosen any stuck feces and clean any abrasions to the tissue. It will also help hydrate and soften the loose tissue to help with reinsertion.

 

Manually push the tissue back into place. Wearing gloves, lubricate your fingers with a water based lubricant and gently push the protruding tissue back into the vent. It’s best to have someone hold the hen for you while you do this so you can have better control and be as slow and gentle as needed.

 

Treat the tissue. You will need to treat the swollen tissue to help shrink it down so it stays in place. Preparation H works great for this. Honey is also a great holistic way to treat this. I have also heard of sugar being used in a pinch. Whatever you choose, make sure to treat the affected tissue both internally and externally so your hen can recover fully.

 

Administer Antibiotics. If there is abrasion to the tissue and any chance of internal infection, you may want to administer antibiotics to assist with the healing processes [Note from Maat: consult a vet in your area for the best antibiotic and dose to give your hen.]

 

Vitamins and Calcium. Adding vitamins and calcium to the affected hen’s water while they’re in quarantine will help to provide good supportive care while they heal.

 

Prevent Egg Laying. Do your best to slow or stop the egg laying process. The best way to do this is to keep the hen in a dark crate, with minimal room to move around. Keeping them in a dark, quiet, restful place will help with the healing processes all around.

 

What if it Doesn’t Work?

 

By the time we had figured out what was wrong with Oreo, the prolapse had been getting worse for a few days. We treated the hen with everything we had.

 

We pushed the tissue back in place several times and tried to secure it with vet wrap. Unfortunately, nothing worked – the prolapse refused to go back in place.

 

Rather than allow her to continue suffering , we euthanized the hen ourselves. It was the first time we’d ever had to do something like that, and it’s stuck with us for a long time.

 

Sometimes there’s just nothing you can do, not matter how hard you try, and that’s difficult to accept.

 

On a more positive note, during a recent monthly flock inspection and parasite check, I happened to notice two of our Legbar hens had protruding tissue, indicating the start of a prolapse.

 

Luckily this time around I knew what I was dealing with and was able to take the steps necessary to prevent a major prolapse in each hen.

 

I am confident these hens will continue to lay and live out full lives in our flock, thanks to lessons we learned with Oreo.

 

Bio:

Carrissa Larsen from Feather and Scale Farm is a chicken chasing, goat wrangling, avid homesteader and blogger from southern Maine. When she’s not tamping down the latest homesteading crisis she also enjoys feeding and watering her husband and two teenagers.

 

I’d like to hear from you!

Have you ever dealt with a vent prolapse? What did you do about it? Leave a comment below!