Peppermint, for Thicker Eggshells
Mint is one of my favorite herbs to grow. Sure, it will spread unchecked and take over your entire garden (and yard!) if you give it the chance, but that’s one reason I like it. It’s nearly impossible to kill, it will grow almost anywhere, and once it gets established, you’ll always have plenty.
Just one plant will spread and send out runners, so the following year you’ll have the beginnings of a wonderful mint patch! If you do want to contain your mint patch, planting it in containers, planters or window boxes is a good method to use, or you can just prune or rip out any mint that escapes the confines of your garden.
Mint is a cold-hardy perennial that is best started from a small plant instead of seeds, and comes in a variety of flavors. Most common are spearmint and peppermint, but it also comes in orange, lime, apple and chocolate varieties. Fresh mint leaves can be brewed into a hot or iced tea for both your family and your chickens. Chickens love steeped herbal teas. It’s a nice change for them from plain water, and adding some ice to their tea in the summer gives them a wonderfully refreshing, cooling beverage. But mint, more specifically peppermint, has been studied for other uses in chicken keeping.
A 2009 study in Pakistan (which was a follow-up to several earlier studies) showed that the antioxidant properties of peppermint oil successfully boost the immune systems of vaccinated chickens, helping to protect them from various infectious diseases including avian influenza and Newcastle disease. Another international study — this one done in 2014 with a team of scientists in Asia — showed that chickens fed a diet of dried peppermint leaves lay larger eggs with thicker eggshells and also showed an increase in egg production, so offer your chickens fresh mint from the garden or dry some leaves and crush them into their daily feed year round.
The jury is out whether mint actually will keep mice out of your coop, but I love to sprinkle fresh (or dried) mint leaves into my chickens’ nesting boxes. It smells nice and your chickens can nibble if they want a quick snack while they’re laying or sitting on a nest of eggs. Most insects, including flies, rodents and even snakes aren’t fond of strong scents, so adding a couple of handfuls of mint to your nesting boxes can’t hurt to try to keep these pests at bay.
Planting some mint around your coop is another great way to not only ensure a ready supply at hand when you need some, but also to try and deter those pesky field mice from moving into your coop come winter.
Research completed in 2009 and 2014 tested chickens fed controlled amounts of peppermint versus
a control group fed normal layer feed. Here is a summary of the findings:
• Peppermint leaves can be beneficial when fed to laying hens.
• Peppermint leaves at 5–20 g/kg improved egg production performance and egg quality.
• Peppermint reduces serum cholesterol and increased total proteins in serum.
• Peppermint oils proved to be able to trigger positive immune response and have a potent effect in chickens.
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 homebrewed herbal teas.