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Do you forage for wild herbs for chicken health for your flock? When we keep chickens in coops and runs, we have to provide the majority of the nutrition. Present day chicken keeping varies and the picture may be totally different than in days gone by. A few generations back, our grandparents kept chickens free ranging in the barnyard. Some chickens were kept in small backyards, roaming freely, eating all the bugs and wild herbs they could find. Those wild herbs for chicken health were a free food and very beneficial.
Due to growth, suburban sprawl, fewer farms, and more people working off the homestead, chickens are often kept penned up for their safety. The chickens might still get some free range time, but leaving them out to roam freely can often lead to predators having a tasty chicken snack. Bugs and some greens might survive the run but most green plants will be eaten quickly by the flock. In order to provide a well balanced diet to the flock, chicken keepers rely on manufactured chicken rations. The chicken food is formulated to meet all the nutrient needs of a laying hen or growing meat chicken. The packaged food may not meet the need for fresh vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, that wild herbs for chicken health can provide. Just as in our diets, nothing beats fresh food for providing nutrient dense nourishment.
If your flock is able to roam and forage safely, you will notice the different types of plants and herbs that they enjoy. When they find a delicious species of plant there is often great excitement and cackling. All the other chickens come running to taste the treat. Usually chickens will ignore plants that are potentially toxic, as long as there are plenty of other choices in foods available. In the wild or in free range flocks, chickens forage all day long. Dandelions, chick weed, wild violets, jewel weed, plantain leaves and clover are some of the wild herbaceous plants chickens love to snack on.
Benefits of 5 Wild Herbs for Chicken Health
Smart weed – Antioxidant, Antibacterial, Antifungal and aids respiratory health.
Wild Violet – circulatory aid
Plantain – use for wound care, anti-diarrhea and anti-inflammatory. Delicious green leaves full of antioxidants and vitamins
Nettle -Minerals, Calcium and Protein Harvest carefully for your flock and dry the leaves so you don’t experience the sting
Chickweed – Natural pain reliever, high in vitamins and minerals Great source of nutrition
Other Highly Nutritious Safe Wild Herbs for Chicken Health
Purple Deadnettle – While it is completely edible, deadnettle isn’t the best tasting early foraged green. Purple Deadnettle is not related to Stinging Nettle. It is anti – inflammatory, antibacterial and antifungal. Since it is often an early appearing wild plant on the east coast, it can be a good source of health benefits, before other plants are waking from winter. The bees love it too.
Lambs Quarters– Rich in antioxidants, vitamins and minerals.
Mugwort – Often cited as a plant that repels external parasites such as mites, fleas, and lice. Not a bad idea to have this growing around the yard!
Wild Wineberry and leaves– Chickens can eat raspberries and wineberries are a similar plant. My chickens don’t go crazy over the berries but our wildlife sure does. If I don’t get some harvested from the vines quickly, the deer and birds eat them all! Rest assured though, if your flock loves the tiny wineberry, it won’t harm them, if eaten in reasonable amounts.
Clover – As part of a general free ranging foraging situation, clover is a good food for chickens. It should be well balanced with other plants due to it’s blood thinning capability. High in minerals, vitamins, and protein, clover is easy to find among the plants growing in your yard.
Toxic Herbs Chickens Should Avoid
St. John’s Wort
Mullein – A small nibble of the leaves or flowers probably won’t hurt the chickens, but the seeds are known to be toxic. I was disappointed to learn this, because we have a lot of mullein growing in our woods. It does have many good medicinal properties for people, both in the fresh yellow blooms and the dried leaves. Your free ranging flock will most likely totally ignore the wild mullein.
Other toxic herbs and other foods can be found on this list.
There’s no need to feel you are letting your flock down if you have to keep them penned in a run during the day. This is the responsible thing to do for their safety if you have predators able to access your yard. You can, however, add to their diet by providing fresh weeds and herbs for them. Picking a basket of wild herbs for your chickens will help them stay healthy and resist illness. It is a simple thing to provide wild herbs for chicken health.