Sunday, February 3, 2013

Natural Lice and Mite Prevention: Using Herbs in the Nest Box

By Sue S.




For years I've been aware of the health benefits of using fresh and dried herbs in a variety of settings.  Since beginning to raise chickens, I've also read and heard of so many benefits of various herbs used in natural chicken husbandry, that I am determined to plant a variety of herbs for fresh use this next spring.  I love the idea of allowing the chickens to freely choose greens from a garden area that includes various herbs that are rich in vitamins and minerals as well as various healing properties.  



In the meantime, I've purchased various freshly harvested herbs to let the chickens eat throughout the winter along with other greens like kale and Swiss chard.

Last summer I learned about using certain dried or fresh herbs in the nest boxes mainly for the purpose of helping to prevent infestation by insects such as lice, mites, fleas, etc.  Depending on the herbs chosen, they can also have anti-bacterial properties, perform as natural wormers, have rodent repelling properties and help stimulate egg production.  It seems that even birds in the wild have been observed lining their own nests with various aromatic herbs when they're available!
 


Knowing that a lice or mite infestation can cause a definite drain on a chicken's health, and also wanting to use the most natural husbandry methods possible, it made sense to me to take a proactive approach towards prevention rather than having to use more drastic measures to treat after the an infestation occurs.  To help achieve my goal of prevention, I provide a dusting box that includes some wood ash year-round.  I also began using herbs in the nest boxes.     



Though I may make my own blend in the future, when I first decided to try using herbs, I didn't want to have to purchase a large amount of individual herbs not knowing if I would even like the results.  It was too late in the season to begin growing in the garden but I wanted to start experimenting right away.  I was hoping to learn more about various herbs and possibly grow some that would be appropriate this coming summer.

I began to do some research and ended up reading about the  "Nesting Box Blend™" by Treats for Chickens and decided to purchase some to try it out.  After having used it since the end of the summer, I really like it and would definitely use this blend of herbs again if my garden didn't produce well (and maybe even if it did!) 

When I started using the nest box blend, I decided to only put it into a single nest and let the girls choose if they would use it or not.  One of our old friends once stated that they had used a single herb in their nest boxes and thought that they were observing an allergic skin irritation so I wanted to be sure that wasn't an issue.  As soon as I put it in the box, every one of the girls wanted to get in there. I've since been using it in all the boxes and whenever I renew it they always scramble to be the first one in!


And I have to say that it smells absolutely wonderful!  Using only a small amount, the whole hen house just had a great smell - an unexpected but definitely welcome benefit!




 

On their website, "Treats for Chickens" states: 

Our formula is antibacterial and anti-parasitic and also calming, soothing and healing.

Known Blend Benefits:

-anti-parasitic and antimicrobial
-excellent pest repellent and anti-mite preventative
-antifungal and antibacterial
-anti-inflammatory, soothing and healing
-antiseptic and widely used against stress and anxiety 
-mild decongestant (which can also kill air-borne germs in winter)

Here's a run-down of the ingredients that are in the blend and a very brief note about each.  Additional information on each herb can be found at:  http://medicinalherbinfo.org/herbs/Herb-index.html 


Lavender:  This herb has long been used for it's relaxing properties including calming a nervous or excited animal.  For centuries it was sprinkled on linens before storing them as a natural insect repellant that preserved from moths and other insect infestation while imparting a wonderful scent.

Chamomile:  Also used to calm and relax.  Among many of its health-restoring uses, it is effective in treating worms.  According to medicalherbinfo.com, it contains a form of calcium that is easily assimilated.

Bay Leaves:  The leaves are insect deterrents that are used to drive away fleas, lice, moths, and bugs in flour and cereals.   It also has anti-microbial and anti-fungal properties.

Eucalyptus Leaves:  Among its many other properties eucalyptus is a powerful insect repellent for man or animals. Dried, finely powdered leaves are used as an insecticide.

Oregano:  Used in the nest box as an anti-parasitic; also has anti-fungal properties.

Peppermint:  Insecticide and anti-parasitic.

Tansy:  Leaves are insecticidal and it is also used to expel worms.  Caution:  tansy should only be used in very small quantities.  Do not use this herb in a "do-it-yourself" blend unless you have experience!

Wormwood:  Repels moths and other insects.  Wormwood is another herb that should only be dosed and used with caution and experience.

Marigold Petals:  Insect repellant.  Marigold petals have many other uses including treating yeast infections, a  pain reliever for insect bites, and  part of a soothing skin ointment.  Contains phosphorus.

Spearmint:  Antiseptic.  Eases stress and fatigue; also helps with sinusitis, asthma, bronchitis, nervous conditions, and the oil is used to relieve itching. 

Catnip:  The Herbalist Almanac mentions that catnip was grown around buildings of farms as it was believed that the odor drove off rats.  It is insecticidal  and is also used to expel worms.  Catnip contains Vitamin A, B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, B9, and B12 and C.






45 comments:

  1. We have over 20 hens, we just revamped the coop and are still finishing the new boxes, so we currently have 4 up. Can't wait to try the nesting material. Yum!

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    Replies
    1. Good luck in the drawing! That nesting box blend smells GREAT!

      LM

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  2. This is great! Thanks for posting!

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  3. Oh, I forgot to mention that I have 11 laying hens. I have four nesting boxes, but the goat feeder is a favorite spot for some. LOL

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    Replies
    1. That's funny! I know Aoxa's love nesting in buckets :)

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    2. That was supposed to be from LM!

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  4. I've used this and I love it!

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  5. You make this blend sound so good I want to put it in my own nest box's. I will be ordering this come spring for sure! My 9 layers and all of my nest boxes are getting a new paint job finally. I just might be opening the other 6 nest boxes!! It sure sounds inviting for the hens. Thank you for posting this.

    Vicki

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  6. I have 5 nesting boxes but my AG's make their own spots all over everywhere

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  7. I have 4 nesting boxes, currently. Two are in my chicken tractor and two in the dog house. I have 5 laying hens and 1 rooster. My hens all lay in just 1 nestbox that is in the dog house. Each morning I let them out of the tractor, and one by one, they take their turn laying their egg in the same box in our dog house. This spring we are going to build a large coop and install a 10'x10'x6' covered dog run.

    Farmerfogg

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  8. I saw this at Jax's, great to know it works.
    I have 6 nesting boxes and 24 hens. My hens lay in 5 of the boxes. I don't know why they don't like that last box. Maybe I should try these herbs?

    Thanks for this blog. I appriciate the work and the information here is relivent and I can trust it. I am so happy too that I get an email now when there is a new post. Thanks for all your hard work.
    mo

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    Replies
    1. You know, I hear so many people say that their hens use just a few of the boxes so I think that's quite common and normal. The photo above with one in each nest box is not very common...I just happened to be in the right place at the right time to get that. Often there are 3 eggs in 1 nest by the end of the day. Especially when they're not all laying at once.

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  9. Sounds like it worjs

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  10. I have 6 nesting boxes currently,and because it is winter and dark and cold, only 6 of the hens are laying right now. The favorite nest seems to change over time and depends on who is laying first in the day!
    lala

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    Replies
    1. um hm! They really are "monkey see, monkey do" it seems :)
      LM

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  11. o boy I use herbs all the time for myself never thought of it for the chicks. We will be getting 10 chicks this spring so would love to try

    Thanks

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    Replies
    1. forgot to add we have 10 boxes

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    2. Will this be your first time with chickens? Good luck in the drawing!

      LM

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  12. We have 8 chickens and consistently get 6 or 7 eggs every day. I have 3 nest boxes, but they all pile in one. My husband is putting the finishing touches on a new coop this week - we are adding 20 more hens next week, and moving all the girls into the new house. So these herbs might be the ticket to convince them to lay in their new boxes!

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    Replies
    1. Wow! I bet you're excited. Good luck in the drawing.:)

      LM

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  13. I love the idea of using herbs in nest boxes! Perfect product!

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  14. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  15. I was just at Big R today and didn't see this item. Great post!

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    1. So far I've never seen this carried in any store I've been at. Wish they did get it out there but I'm wondering if it is because they want to make it as possible? The longer dried herbs sit - especially if they're exposed to heat, the "weaker" they seem to become.

      Not sure if that's it or not...just a guess!

      LM

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  16. Great article! I hadn't thought of using herbs in the nest boxes and I'm excited to start. With 10-14 applications per 4 oz. it really is very cost effective. How often should you change the bedding in your nest boxes?

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    1. I change the bedding very infrequently. So far my birds have never pottied in there! They keep it clean themselves and I've only added a little more grass from time to time. (I use a base of some wood shavings with grass from the lawn mower on top.)

      I think I probably add the herbs about every 3 or 4 weeks - whenever it seems that the fragrance gets weaker.

      LM

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    2. But...forgot to add.... since I have some new babies, mom has been taking them up there on the roost in front of the nest box. Found some baby poopies in there today :(

      So...I may have to clean them out until the kids realize it's not a playpen!

      LM

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  17. My new chicks should be arriving today! I'm trying to learn what I can to keep them as healthy as possible..I'd love to try the herbs!

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  18. I currently have 10 nest boxes and out of 52 layers only about 1/3 of them are laying right now. I basically let them take the winter off if they want to. :) We just added on to our coop this last fall so this spring there will be an inside coop revamp!!

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  19. Replies
    1. I haven't seen them eat any of the herbs from the nest box but there wouldn't be any reason they couldn't! It's possible that they've eaten it and I just haven't seen them.

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  20. I have just bought some nervy and human-shy chickens that could have been ex-battery hens and was interested in the bit about lavender being used to calm animals. Will give that a go!

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  21. I know I'm late to the party for this post, but wanted to say thanks and that we made up a batch of this today for our hens' nesting boxes. The barn smells incredible!

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    1. did you make your own from the listed ingredients? Some things I have never seen for sale or advertised. May have to look a little deeper. Plan on growing some of each for the fall and now as soon as it can be picked and dried!

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  22. Hmm, I just added a comment but I don't see it. I'll repost:

    Do you add anything else in the nesting box besides the Nesting Box Blend? I wasn't sure if this was in 'addition' to straw or something else. Thanks kindly.

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  23. Regarding the comments about hens using only certain nest, I went out one morning and found 3 young hens in one of the 3 nest. THey were stacked up 3 high actually sitting on top of each other and one waiting on the ladder in get in. SIlly girls!

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  24. Will the herbs change the taste in eggs, and will it improve brighter egg color yolk

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    Replies
    1. Some people say that too much garlic may change the taste of the eggs, yet in double-blind studies people don't seen to notice any difference.
      ;)

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  25. Can you use this for ducks too or only chickens?

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    1. It can be used on DRY ducks and ducks should stay dry a number of hours after being treated.
      Ash turns to lye when it gets wet and this chemical reaction can burn. After a few hours of preening, there won't be enough left in the feathers to cause this reaction.
      :)

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