Herbs, Flowers and Weeds for Chickens
Chickens are scavengers. Foragers. Omnivores. They eat herbs, flowers and weeds along insects and worms. They dig in the ground for foods they like. If allowed access, chickens will eat greens and bugs every day, all day. It makes us happy to see them happily pecking in the yard. But have you ever thought about what plants they are actually eating? Have you thought that some of these plants might be toxic? Or perhaps some of them have more benefits than you may think. In this article, we will be discussing what weeds, herbs and flowers are good for your flock, which ones you should avoid and which ones have special, healthy benefits.
Although annoying to us, weeds can be very healthy and nutritious for our flock. Especially weeds like dandelions, chickweed and clover. Dandelions are a good source of calcium, vitamins A, B, C, E and K and contain iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium and zinc. Chickweed acts as a natural pain reliever and aids in digestive health. Chickweed is also high in vitamin B. Clover is a highly nutritious perennial high in calcium, niacin, potassium, vitamins A and B, iron and protein. Aiding in respiratory and circulatory health, it is a very healthy plant for chickens to eat.
Other weeds good for chickens include:
Isn’t it nice to think that now you don’t have to throw out those weeds but instead you can feed them to your flock? Also, if you let your chickens free range, they will do some of your weed picking for you. (Of course they won’t pull the root out from the ground though.) If you keep a compost pile, consider throwing your weeds in and then allowing your flock to forage in there. (See end of article for a link on composting.)
And then of course there are weeds you shouldn’t feed your flock. These include:
•St. John's Wort
Just like weeds, herbs can be extremely good and healthy for chickens too. Lavender, bee balm, yarrow, oregano, parsley and mint are all examples of beneficial herbs. Lavender is calming, soothing and aromatic. Bee balm is also calming and aids in a chicken’s digestive track. Yarrow acts as a stress and pain reliever and boosts the respiratory system. Oregano is thought to combat diseases such coccidiosis, salmonella, infectious bronchitis and E. coli. Parsley is one of my favorites. It is very high in vitamins, aids in the digestive system and acts as a laying stimulant. Mint helps prevent flies in the chicken living quarters and is highly aromatic.
The list of herbs for chickens is long. Here is the best I could come up with besides the ones already listed:
I just love using herbs with my flock! I notice an improvement in their health and even their eggs. Herbs are a “must have” for flock owners who want to keep their naturally healthy flock.
However, there are some dangerous herbs that can poison your flock. Steer clear of the following:
Chickens love to eat not only greens but also flowers. They love to slurp petals in their mouths like we do spaghetti noodles! There are many flowers that hold health benefits for chickens. Roses, marigolds and nasturtium are some examples. Rose petals are aromatic, calming and high in vitamin C. Marigolds are possibly my favorite flower to use in my flock. They are highly aromatic; add color to egg yolks and soothing to irritated skin. Nasturtium acts as a laying stimulant and light antibiotic. All three of these flowers are best used in hen nesting boxes.
Other flowers to feed chickens include:
And then of course there are those flowers that should be avoided:
•Lily of the Valley
Well there you have it! Chickens generally know what plants they can and can’t eat but we still need to be aware of what they are eating. I hope this article has given you a clearer understanding of the weeds, herbs and flowers best used for chicken health.
If you are interested in more information concerning what we have talked about here, please feel free to check out these links
Special thanks to the BYC members Dan26552 and ChickenShan for allowing me to use some of their pictures.