Winter Windowsill Herbs for Chickens
You Can Grow Herbs for Backyard Chickens Right Through the Winter
By Mel Dickinson — Growing herbs inside is a great way to beat the winter blues. Right now, most of us are bundling up, hunkering down with a cup of our favorite warm beverage, and catching up on our reading. We look outside to see all the shades of brown or that blanket of white snow. We start daydreaming of spring chicks and bountiful baskets of eggs. That’s when we realize it’s time to take back winter and get our grow on! That’s right; winter is a perfect time of year to spice up life by growing herbs inside.
Herbs for Backyard Chickens
Winter can be hard on flocks. Shorter days and snowy weather don’t offer as many hours for chickens to be out and about. The nutritious green grass has faded and the protein-rich bugs are temporarily gone. Winter doesn’t have to be all gloom though. We can easily brighten up our chickens’ days and diets by growing herbs inside.
Not only do windowsill herbs add vibrant colors and aromas to our daily lives and warm winter meals, they also offer health benefits for both us and our two-legged feathered friends. Growing herbs inside is a great, economical activity the whole family can enjoy. Herbs have many protective benefits. They support immunity and increase respiratory health in chickens. Herbs are also anti-microbial; naturally helping defend against some harmful bacteria. There are many healthy herbs that do well growing inside by a windowsill.
When planting herbs in pots you can either start them from seeds or use starter plants. Follow the planting and growing instructions given on the seed or starter plant labels. If you have been growing herbs outside in pots during the summer months, you can also bring them in for the winter. If you do this, just make sure to keep them separate from your other houseplants for a while until it’s certain the outside potted herbs do not have any bugs or diseases that could harm the inside plants.
Which Herbs Should You Grow?
With so many herbs to choose from, the hard part is to choose which ones to grow inside! Here is a short list of some of the herbs that do well inside that you may want to consider.
Oregano is considered to be one of the easier herbs to grow indoors. This is great since it has some serious benefits for our flocks! Carvacrol, the active ingredient in oregano, has been studied in recent years for its immunity building properties in both chickens and humans. Some commercial chicken producers have even started to use oregano in conjunction with proper nutrition, added probiotics, and good sanitary conditions to help keep their flock’s immune systems strong and help avoid bacterial, parasitic, respiratory, and other opportunistic illnesses.
Cilantro is another great herb to plant indoors. It’s high in antioxidants to help immunity and is also believed to be antifungal. When planting cilantro, it’s always a good idea to do some staggered planting to have a continuous supply. It’s a short-lived herb, but by starting a new pot every few weeks you won’t run out.
Parsley is a vitamin and mineral rich herb that contains vitamins A, many of the B vitamins, C, and E, along with minerals such as phosphorus and zinc to name a few. Not only does parsley pack a punch when it comes to supporting healthy immune systems, it is also good for bone health, and many chicken keepers add it to their flock’s diet to help increase egg production.
Rosemary is one of my favorite herbs to grow indoors. I always buy started plants to keep in the house over winter. Not only do they make fun, festive holiday décor, they’re easy to maintain, and you always have a supply of fresh rosemary around. Rosemary is known for its antibacterial, antifungal, and respiratory support in chickens. An added benefit is during the warmer months, rosemary helps repel insects and other pests.
Thyme is another great herb used for its antibacterial properties, particularly when it comes to helping defend respiratory issues. Not only is it great in winter, but it’s another herb to use during the warmer months to help keep insects away.
How to Use Herbs in Your Coop
Now that you have your herbs, what do you do with them? Herbs can be added to the coop in a variety of ways. They can be sprinkled on top of feed or cooked into a warm winter treat. They can also be added to water. Some of the more fragrant herbs, such as rosemary and lavender, are best hung up, sprinkled around the coop, or placed in nesting boxes. During winter, the herbs we use in our coop are oregano, parsley, and thyme. In addition, we like to add cinnamon in with our chicken feed and add raw apple cider vinegar to the water.
If growing herbs inside this winter doesn’t fit into your lifestyle, that’s okay too. Dried herbs are great to add as well. They can be purchased in bulk and given to your flock for an extra immunity boost to help keep them healthy through the winter. Once the snow melts, adding herbs to your chickens’ diets doesn’t have to stop. Supplementing with herbs year round is a great way to help support strong immune and respiratory systems and overall health through all seasons.