Hens and herbs

Country Smallholding|July 2020

Hens and herbs
As well as flavouring food, herbs and other edible plants can be helpful for your hens. A wide variety of commonly grown garden plants can provide natural methods of boosting egg production, repelling pests and promoting good gut health, as Julianne Robertson reveals
Julianne Robertson

The medicinal qualities of plants have been harnessed for years across the globe. For many people it’s a natural way of preventing or treating a range of conditions, or as a supplement for good health, such as using echinacea to reduce the risk of catching a cold, or drinking chamomile tea to help you relax. But have you considered that the same herbs and plants could help your hens too?

Chicken-keepers will be well aware of the various issues that can affect their flock, ranging from worms and lice to problems with laying or respiratory difficulties. As with humans succumbing to the common cold, sometimes these things are inevitable and unavoidable, but there are measures you can take, using natural ingredients, which can boost the general health of your flock and help to prevent more serious issues gaining a foothold in your birds.

Herbs, edible flowers and other medicinal plants are easy to obtain and grow, and many are multi-purpose — being medicinal, attractive and good for pollinators. Some can be used just as they are, straight from the ground, while others may need to be dried or steeped before they are administered. So which are the common plants that can boost your hens’ health, and how do you grow and use them?


Catnip (Nepeta cataria): a hardy perennial herb that is easy to grow and is free-flowering. It attracts bees and, of course, cats! Acts as an insect repellent for lice and ticks, and also keeps rodents away, so grow it in your borders or in pots close to the coop.


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July 2020