Herbs Especially For Layers
Spring brings warmer weather and often the advent of broody hens wanting to hatch a clutch of eggs. I recommend offering your hens some herbs specially chosen to help get them laying again after their winter break and also assist a broody hen once she starts sitting. Fresh or dried, herbs have many benefits for chickens. I add dried herbs to my layer feed year round and also offer my chickens fresh herbs free-choice when in season.
Early in the spring, laying stimulants can help kickstart egg production again. Several herbs purported to encourage laying and support the reproductive system include fennel, garlic, marigold, marjoram, nasturtium, parsley, red clover and red raspberry leaves, so I like to mix them dried into my flock’s daily layer feed.
Chickens’ sense of smell isn’t that well developed, but I certainly appreciate a scented nest. Aromatic herbs will make your coop smell good and also give your sitting hen something to munch on while she sits. Try adding fresh lemon balm, pineapple sage, and rose petals, all of which are edible.
Although you can’t force a hen to go broody, you can encourage her by providing her a secluded place to hatch eggs. A calm hen is more likely to stick it out for the entire incubation period needed for the eggs to hatch. Some herbs with calming properties added to the nesting box, fresh or dried, can help reinforce to your chickens that is a good, safe place to lay their eggs or raise chicks—and also help relax your hens as they lay their eggs or incubate them. Soothing herbs include: basil, bee balm, chamomile, dill and lavender.
The warm, dark space under a broody hen is a prime breeding ground for all kinds of bugs. Adding some insect-repelling herbs to the nesting boxes can help. My favorites include fresh catnip, marigolds, mint and rosemary.
Lastly, a sitting hen doesn’t get as much exercise as she would otherwise, so keep-ing her circulation going is extremely beneficial. Providing your broody hen fresh water and a dish of layer feed close by with some cayenne pepper, garlic powder, ginger, lavender and parsley will help keep her blood flowing.
Lisa Steele is the author of Fresh Eggs Daily: Raising Happy, Healthy Chickens…Naturally (St. Lynn’s Press, 2013). She lives on a small hobby farm in Virginia with her husband and their flock of chickens and ducks, plus horses, dogs and a barn cat. She is a fifth-generation chicken keeper and writes about her experiences on her award-winning blog at www.fresh-eggs-daily.com. In her free time she loves to garden, bake, knit and sip homebrewed herbal teas.