Lavender, for a Stress-Free Coop
Lavender is one of my favorite herbs to use in my chicken keeping because it has so many benefits for chickens when you add it to their nesting boxes. Its relaxing and stress-relieving properties can help calm laying and setting hens. Chickens need to feel that the nest is a safe place to lay their eggs, so the more relaxed you can make them, the better chance they will use the boxes to lay their eggs — and if you have a broody hen sitting on fertile eggs, adding some fresh or dried lavender to the nesting box can encourage her to sit for the duration of the incubation period.
Lavender also repels insects such as mites, lice, and ticks. This is especially important with broody hens because the warm, dark area under the hen is a perfect breeding spot for these parasites. If you have chicks hatching, you definitely don’t want mites or lice in the boxes, and shouldn’t use chemical pesticides to eradicate them. Adding some lavender to the nesting box can keep the box free of bugs and keep your baby chicks healthy.
Another benefit of lavender is that it improves blood circulation. When a hen is setting on eggs, she doesn’t get up as much as she should to exercise and stretch her legs, so hanging a bunch of lavender in front of her nesting box for her to munch on can help increase the circulation in her legs and feet, keeping her healthier.
How to Grow
Lavender is a perennial in zones 5 to 8 and an annual in the South. Plant small plants in the spring in well-drained soil in full sun or start seeds indoors in late winter and transplant in the spring. There are several varieties of lavender, all extremely aromatic with grayish-blue spiky leaves and small purple flowers. Reaching one- to two-feet, lavender will bloom from late summer through fall.
How to Harvest
Trim back as needed through the summer, adding the fresh leaves to your nesting boxes. In late fall, trim the entire stalk after the flower blossoms have peaked. Hang in bundles to air dry. Crumble and use in your nesting boxes throughout the winter and spring.
Lavender is a wonderful addition to your nesting boxes. Fresh or dried, the leaves and buds can both be used to make your nesting boxes aromatic and bug-free while calming your setting or laying hens.
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 Maine with her husband and their flock of chickens and ducks, two dogs and a barn cat. She is a fifth-generation chicken keeper and writes about her experiences on her award-winning blog at www.fresheggsdaily.com. In her free time, she loves to garden, bake, knit, and sip home-brewed herbal teas.
Originally published in the February/March 2016 issue of Backyard Poultry magazine.