3 Herbs to Heal and Prevent Chicken Respiratory Infections
...because no one wants to hear their chicken wheezing.
Reading Time: 4 minutes
Many herbs have been proven time and time again to heal respiratory issues. Some studies have even been done on chicken respiratory infections!
Chickens can contract a lot of different ailments and diseases, but we often don’t freak out about it too much until we start talking about respiratory infection in chickens. Unfortunately, there are a lot of different respiratory ailments when it comes to chickens. And more often than not, a chicken respiratory infection can be a quick and dramatic killer of your beloved flock.
Chickens are so easily susceptible to contracting respiratory infections, but often you don’t notice them until it’s too far gone. This is why it is extremely important to prevent respiratory infections from happening before they begin. We accomplish this by offering natural herbal supplements into our chicken’s feed and water.
Rest assured, however. Not all sneezes and chicken wheezing is a sign of disaster. A chicken’s respiratory system is extremely fragile and sensitive. The average everyday dust can fly up a chicken’s nose and send it into a sneezing or coughing fit. This is why it’s important to be in tune with your flock each day and understand true sick chicken symptoms when they arise.
More than anything, you can help prevent respiratory infections from happening by keeping a clean chicken living environment, quarantining new birds before introducing to your flock, and practicing biosecurity. But when you need that extra boost of confidence that your flock will be ok, here are some herbs to consider offering to your flock on a daily or weekly basis. Many of these herbs have been proven time and time again to heal respiratory issues (some studies have even been done with chickens!).
Astragalus (Astragalus membranaceus)
I feel like I write about this herb in every single chicken article that I publish, but I cannot stress to chicken keepers enough that this herb should stay in their chicken medicine cabinet. In fact, it should stay in their own human medicine cabinet as well!
In a study done in 2013, astragalus not only helped prevent avian influenza but also helped shorten the duration of avian influenza in infected flocks. While the study primarily focused on the injection of astragalus, as an herbalist, I know that astragalus as a dietary supplement stimulates the immune system greatly, thus very likely preventing the inhabitation of the influenza virus altogether. In fact, this is exactly the same way it works with humans by preventing common flu.
Avian influenza is the ultimate chicken respiratory infection, and honestly, it probably scares just about every single chicken keeper on the planet when they hear the words uttered on the news. Of course, the sound of a chicken wheezing is enough to send me straight through the roof. That’s why this herb is so important. It is a powerhouse immune-boosting herb, and also works as an anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, and antiviral.
Give astragalus to your chickens a couple of times each week to boost their immune systems, either dried in their feed or in a decoction/tea (in their waterer). I prefer to offer it in a decoction, and my chickens prefer it that way as well.
Stinging Nettle, cooked or dried (Urtica dioica)
I really enjoy the overall benefits of this herb. Chickens won’t typically touch this herb in its natural environment, though some flocks will. Stinging nettle does exactly as it says it does — stings. The little hairs on the outside of the leaves leave a numbing sensation for many humans and animals.
However, stinging nettle is an incredible source of vitamins, nutrients, and minerals for your chickens. Stinging nettle is a natural detoxifier, antiparasitic, and aids greatly in respiratory health by strengthening and detoxifying the respiratory system. It is also a natural antibacterial.
When studied in nature, wild birds will eat on stinging nettle as a way to help prevent internal parasites and aid in respiratory health. Chickens will absolutely do the same thing.
Give freely throughout the year — fresh, dried, or cooked — or a couple of offerings each week.
Thyme (Thymus vulgaris)
Last but certainly not least — thyme. Thyme is a natural antiparasitic, antibacterial, aids the respiratory system, relieves infection, and is packed full of omega-3s that support brain and heart health. Thyme is also rich in vitamins A, C, and B6, as well as fiber, iron, riboflavin, manganese, and calcium.
This herb is extremely potent when it comes to aiding in respiratory health. In fact, we use it often, even for ourselves, in cough syrups and more around the homestead. It works exactly in the same way for chickens! In fact, many commercial companies offer thyme to their flocks for its respiratory aid and antiparasitic abilities.
Offer daily in their feed, dried or fresh, or freely on pasture or around the chicken run.
There are a lot of herbs for chickens and respiratory health out there, but these herbs I’ve listed are three of my top herbs when it comes to helping your flock. Offer these herbs to your flock every day if possible, or at least multiple times a week. Should your flock contract a respiratory ailment, offering these herbs every six hours to your flock in their waterer will do wonders. But more than anything, prevention is key. It is so nice to know that we can prevent our precious chooks from getting sick simply by using natural herbs and preventatives!
Originally published in the October/November 2019 issue of Backyard Poultry and regularly vetted for accuracy.