When we think about going low-tox outdoors, it can be easy to just think plants and weeds, but our animals are also in need of low-tox loving and some simple tweaks to their care routine can have profound benefits for their health and in turn, ours.
Oregano and Chickens
If you keep chickens, it is really important to ensure they stay healthy and take steps to protect them from pests and diseases.
One of the best things we can do is to incorporate herbs into their diet. Of particular importance is oregano. Oregano contains a compound called carvacrol, which is powerful natural antimicrobial and antioxidant. (See PubMed study numbers: 29744941, 31617738 and 31566822)
You can grow herbs in the garden and feed your chooks the excess as well as line their beds with them and that’s what I’m doing at the moment. But until such time as the plant is producing well, we can use oregano essential oil in its place.
It’s important to remember that essential oils are not soluble in water so adding a few drops to their water really won’t help the whole flock and it would be far too much for one chook if she happened to consume that entire amount.
If using oregano oil to supplement your chicken’s diet, it is best to mix it through their other food or add it with some carrier oil (such as olive or coconut oil) and then drizzle over their grain.
While oregano has the highest levels of clarvacrol, other popular herbs that contain this beneficial compound are thyme, pepperwort and wild bergamot.
Other popular herbs for chickens include parsley, sage, basil, mint, comfrey and calendula. Aromatic herbs make great insect repellents as bugs are thrown off by the strong scent so aside from just feeding these to your chickens, you can also dry them and hang them around the coop, use to layer the roosting boxes or grow around the outside of the enclosure.
The great thing about herbs is that they are super easy to grow, incredibly pest-resistant and often yield far more than we could ever consume, so they are also a budget-friendly way to boost your chicken’s diet. And in the event that your crop fails, there’s always the essential oil for back-up.
Egg shells can be an important part of the diet for many animals, particularly chooks and dogs as they are predominantly calcium carbonate. You don’t want to be feeding either of these animals egg shell that looks anything like egg shell as it could encourage the chickens to start pecking at their own eggs, or your dogs to try and steal from the coop!
I like to make big batches of shell powder so I wait until I have 30 or so egg shells, loosely crush them and then spread them out evenly on a baking try. I bake for 10 minutes on 100C to kill any bacteria and then blitz the shells in the Thermomix until they’re a reasonably smooth grit and use within a day or two.
I pour 1 teaspoon over the wet food for each dog and mix a few tablespoons through the grain for my chooks. Chooks happily consume this on its own though, so you could just give it to them in a separate dish. I do this once a week for both the dogs and chooks.
Many groups suggest that shell powder can be kept safely in an airtight container in the fridge for 1-2 months, but we go through it much too rapidly to have to store for any great length of time. If you’re concerned about storing it safely, just make a smaller batch to use immediately.
It is best to use egg shell straight from your own chooks or a local farm so that you know they haven’t been washed in harsh chemicals that are used to clean store-bought eggs.