I think my chickens might be spoiled…
I don’t make sweaters for them or anything, but they do have a completely-remodeled chicken coop…
And GMO-free, organic feed…
And all the kitchen scraps they could ever want…
And homemade essential oil coop spray…
And herbs in their nesting boxes…
I realize I just sounded like a crazy-chicken-lady, but I do have reasons for doing all of those things.
Let’s talk about nesting box herbs in particular.
A while back, I mentioned putting herbs in my nesting boxes on my Instagram account and got a ton of questions, so I figured I’d dive into the topic a little deeper.
And there really is some reasoning behind putting herbs in nesting boxes, other than being a crazy chicken lady. Promise.
Four Reasons to put Herbs Your Nesting Boxes
- Wild birds use herbs as they build their nests to possibly shield the baby birds from bacteria.
- Many herbs act as safe, natural insect repellents and may help drive away flies, mites, or other pests in your coop
- Some chickens like to munch on certain herbs, and certain plants may even act as laying stimulants
- Herbs make your coop smell awesome and provide a little “chicken aromatherapy,” which is kinda fun…
What Herbs to Use?
Man oh man, the sky’s the limit! There are so many options, it all depends on what you have available to you in your local area. Here’s a partial list, taken from my Natural Homestead eBook:
- Lambs Quarters
- Lemon Balm
- Marshmallow Root
- Mint (all varieties)
This is by no-means an exhaustive list of all the possible herbs you can use, but hopefully it will give you some ideas to get started.
Fresh Herbs vs. Dried Herbs
If I have access to fresh herbs, I’ll almost always opt for them, whether I’m in the kitchen or playing around in my chicken coop.
I’ve found that nesting boxes are a fantastic way to use up homegrown herbs slightly past their prime, or if you’re feeling overrun with a certain variety at the end of the year. (After you’re done making your homemade herb salt, of course!)
Honestly though, if I don’t have fresh herbs growing in my garden, I wouldn’t spend the money to buy herbs at the store just for my flock. The ones at the store are too expensive. (Sorry chickens, I love ya, but…)
How I Use Herbs in my Nesting Boxes:
If I’m using fresh herbs, I simply pick a handful and put several sprigs in each box. Depending on what I have growing, sometimes I just use one variety, while other times I’ll mix-n-match. Usually by the time I’m ready to clean out the boxes, the herbs are ready to be replaced/refreshed.
And yes, I have noticed my hens seem to prefer laying in the boxes with the herbs.
If I’m using dried herbs, I first mix them up in a small container, then sprinkle a bit in each box on top of the bedding.
I don’t have an exact recipe for my dried herb mix because it changes every time I make it, depending on what I have available. Usually it’s equal parts of three to four different varities of dried herbs, all mixed together.
Are Nesting Box Herbs a Miracle Fix?
Nope. If you’re expecting them to make up for a poorly managed coop, cure all your insect problems, or bring world peace, you’ll be sorely disappointed. You still need to be wise in how you take care of your birds and their living space, and I still clean my coop regularly and have a full fly management protocol. I feed high-quality feed, and my hens are allowed to free-range as well. However, adding herbs to my coop management has been a natural (and kinda fun) way to boost my other efforts.
Other Natural Chicken Keeping Posts:
- 15 Ways to Save Money on Chicken Feed
- Should I Use a Heat Lamp for my Chickens?
- 8 Ways to Use Chickens in the Garden
- Homemade Fly Trap Tutorial
- How to Keep Wild Birds out of your Chicken Coop
I love using herbs in the nesting boxes. It also helps keep the coop smelling fresh. My girls seem to like oregano, thyme, and parsley, but they don’t like sage.
Ours don’t care for it either
Are there herbs that should be avoided?
Jill Winger says
I have been unable to find any herbs listed as dangerous for chickens. Although, it’s wise to just use common sense. 🙂
Parsley is toxic to chickens.
Adena F says
Yes, my question would also be are there any to avoid? I have an abundance of basil and lemongrass so I will definitely add those today. I guess as for the ones you mentioned, it’s best to just mix and match until you find what your chicks like?
Jill Winger says
I haven’t found any glaring ones to avoid yet. 🙂 And yes, just mix/match/play around with it!
Our chicken loves to lay her egg in the rosemary when out free ranging.
So I will put some rosemary in her nesting box.
Becky Jo Koivisto says
I love fresh spices & herbs in the kitchen. The coop is a great place for your old spices & herbs be repurposed.
Got plenty of rosemary in the garden so gonna try that in the nesting boxes let u know what my girls think of it.
Marcia Hoelzen says
I’m fighting mites on my chickens. I clean the coop once a week total all old hay out all new hay in and scrape down all perches. I’ve tried ivermectin and poultry powder, diatomaceous earth in their sand bath. Still getting them. Is there a specific hrrb that repels mites/chicken lice?
Maryann Davis says
Have you heard of using industrial hemp for your coop instead of hay? Microbes grow to keep the bacteria down. YouTube Carolina Coops. Very informational. ?
We have a finch nest on a shelf on a side porch in the pot of Winter Savory
B Hobbs says
Make sure you don’t have any mites in the straw. I stopped using it for that reason!
Great advice. I have an abundance of mint (as many do). This sounds like a great way to put some of it to good use.
Betty Ann Jennings says
Very interesting to read about the herbs for chickens. I am brand new at chicken keeping. I have started with 5 white leghorn chicks to enjoy with my 1 year old grandson. Love all of your good advice and information.
I have week old babies…can I introduce herbs to them this young?
Also, I have one of them that keeps pecking at all of the others, she hasn’t drawn blood that I am aware of but she gets pretty aggressive with her constant pecking 🙁
I am at a loss of what to do to get her to stop or at least calm down.
Their broader has ample room, they have plenty of protein in the chick starter, and the temp is good.
They all seem very happy and healthy.
Only issue is the one being a bully….
Cynthia ebert says
Would love to learn more on the herb for chickens
Eileen Rahmoeller says
Can I grow thee herbs in the chicken yard/run?
What do you do for your entire flock management system? We’ve had chickens for several years and or most recent flock is having trouble…especially laying in nest boxes. I think it’s time to try something new!
try a chicken tractor
try a chicken tractor
What if the chickens eat the herbs?
Then your omelet is gourmet!
I’ve always added dried lavender to our nesting boxes. The chickens love it! I’ll have to try adding some fresh mint though. I’ve always got lots of that.
Hi Jill! We’ve got our first batch of chicks growing (4 weeks old already) and have two questions: 1) what brand of chick/chicken feed do you prefer? and 2) where do you keep your used bedding? We tried adding ours directly to our garden bed before planting and our dogs just rummaged around and ate it, haha. Should we add it to our regular compost or make a separate (enclosed) spot for it?
Susan R says
Which herbs seem the best at getting rid of mites and such? Thanks!
I have a bunch of herbs and flowers this year. My question is.. how to best dry and store them for winter. What I’m doing, which is hanging them to dry, isn’t working well. They lose color and scent.
I’d appreciate any suggestions you have.
Also, with the flowers.. do you use the leave and the flower or just the flower..
Thanks so much!
I lay herbs out in my hot greenhouse to dry them out quickly. Then crumble them into a collection bin. On a good hot day I transfer them into a large mouth plastic container. They seem to remain dry in this container, even on humid days when the herbs aren’t drying as quickly. I have also begun adding fig leaves to my mix, as they smell wonderful when dried and also very “crispy” and easy to crumble quickly. I also remove stems that don’t dry as quickly, or hurt my hands during crumble phase. I also avoid ANY plants that have gotten moldy.
Shelby DeVore says
I used to plant a large herb garden up by my house each year and I noticed that our hens would basically wear out some of the herbs (thyme, rosemary, oregano and dill especially). Some of these herbs would be eaten to the ground! We started growing herbs down by their coop and run that we started from seeds so they would be cheaper. When I plant an entire packet, the herbs last and they won’t eat them totally to the ground. Since I noticed them eating my herb garden a few years back, we’ve been making more of a conscious effort to give them herbs, including in their nesting boxes. Our hens really love them!
nicola bowersox says
Can I just add a mix of store bought dried herbs that I would using in cooking?
Did you try it ? I’m at a loss on what to add in the coop for my girls lol