Healthy Hens Love This Winter Tea Supplement

Give your flock a beneficial boost during cold weather with these easy-to-make elixirs.

by Erin Snyder

Several years ago, I noticed that while my healthy hens were robust during the growing season, their health declined a little during winter when they weren’t regularly consuming herbs or other greens. So, I started supplementing my flock’s diet with herbal tea in winter.

Since introducing wintertime teas, my chickens have been as vigorous and healthy in the winter as they are the rest of the year. I have also noticed fewer winter deaths. So, if you want healthy hens this winter, look no further than wintertime teas.

Brewing Tea

Winter can be difficult for chickens as the snowy conditions make accessing fresh greens and herbs impossible. Not only does foraging for these nutritious plants act as fun mental stimulations, but they also provide chickens with essential vitamins, minerals and other health benefits. And tea is one of the best ways to incorporate herbs into your flock’s winter diet!

Brewing tea for your chickens is as easy as brewing a cup of tea for yourself. Start by boiling 1½ cups of water. Add 1 teaspoon of dried herbs to boiling water. Cover the tea and remove from heat. Let steep for 20 minutes. Cool to room temperature. Serve to your flock by mixing 1 cup of herbal tea into 1 gallon of water.

tea leaves that can be brewed to make a drink for chickens to keep them healthy in winter

Winter Herbs for Healthy Hens

While many culinary herbs benefit chickens, the herbs below are some of the best to boost chickens’ health during the colder months.

CINNAMON/OREGANO: While cinnamon and oregano tea may sound like something other than the tastiest combination, this tea is an herbal powerhouse. This tea is my go-to for treating minor respiratory problems.  Cinnamon is also one of the best herbs to aid digestion and positively affects the G.I. tract, helping with digestion and absorption. At the same time, oregano works as a  natural antibiotic and helps ward off viruses (including the avian flu)  and bacteria found in many chicken runs. Both of these herbs are also considered immune boosters and anti-inflammatories.

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To serve, dilute one-half cup (4 fl.oz.) of tea into one gallon of water.

THYME: During the winter months, our hens spend more time in the coop. While staying indoors during snowy days is vital for your flock’s survival, it can cause extra moisture to build up in the coop. In extreme cases, this moisture can cause respiratory issues in the flock. Thyme is excellent at boosting respiratory health and is also high in antioxidants, supporting a healthy immune system. One of the best antiparasitics in the herb world, thyme is a natural insect repellant and antihelminthic.

While thyme has many health benefits, it is also a potent herb. When brewing thyme tea for your flock, steep one-half teaspoon of dried thyme in one and a half cups of water. Dilute one cup in a gallon of water.

BASIL: If you are looking for a “one herb wonder” to treat all your poultry health problems, basil may be that herb. This herb has many beneficial flavonoids, vitamins and minerals to boost your flock’s immune systems. Basil also works as an antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, anticancer, antifungal and antiviral.

DILL: While dill is often overlooked when brewing tea for poultry, this tender herb offers many year-round benefits for chickens. Dill is excellent in aiding in digestive health, including stimulating the appetite. This quality is essential in winter, as chickens that aren’t consuming enough food could quickly grow weak and die. Ensuring your flock’s appetite is in peak condition during the cold winter is vital to keep hens thriving through winter and ensure their bodies are healthy enough to resume laying in the spring.

Dill also aids in respiratory health and is considered an antioxidant, anticancer and natural anti-inflammatory.

An Herb to Avoid in Winter

While many culinary herbs are beneficial in winter, some members of the mint family are best to avoid when temperatures dip below 40 degrees Fahrenheit. However, the herbs listed below are safe to feed fresh or steeped in tea during the warmer months.

MINT: Everyone loves mint, including chickens, so why should you avoid mint tea during the winter months? Some experts suggest that peppermint naturally helps lower body temperatures in chickens (and humans). Drinking a hot cup of peppermint tea in winter doesn’t negatively affect humans, but our chickens out in the cold and wind may not fare well. While more studies are needed to conclude this suggestion, I am always cautious and avoid feeding peppermint or other mint varieties during the colder months.

A hen looks out at the cold snowy winter
Erin Synder

A Word on Lemon Balm

Even though lemon balm is a member of the mint family, this tea has long been known as an antitumor. Due to the high risk of domestic chickens being diagnosed with reproductive tumors, I serve lemon balm tea year-round to my flock. Because lemon balm does have the same cooling properties found in other mint, adding lemon balm tea to your flock’s drinking water in the winter shouldn’t have any ill effects.

Supplementing your flock’s diet in winter will help keep healthy hens happy year-round. And resume laying those spring eggs every flock owner is eagerly anticipating.