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Oregano | Natural Antibiotic for Chickens

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Oregano is being added to poultry diets at commercial chicken farms to work as a natural antibiotic. Add some to your backyard chickens regiment for a happy, healthy flock....naturally.

It was reported in the New York Times back in 2012 that the commercial chicken farm, Bell & Evans, has been using oregano as a natural antibiotic for their flocks.

They have been experimenting with various natural substances to keep their chickens healthy, instead of using antibiotics, and have found that oregano oil and cinnamon specifically seem to work better than anything they've tried so far.

Oregano | Natural Antibiotic for Chickens

Perdue has also started adding herbs such as oregano and thyme to their poultry diet to avoid using antibiotics on them. 

The study and use of herbal medicine for humans and animals is a well-documented and time-tested practice that predates Western medicine by centuries. 

So in my humble opinion, there's got to be something to it.

But don't worry, you don't need a degree in holistic medicine or be an herbalist to incorporate herbs into your chicken keeping. Nearly every culinary herb has some great health benefits and is perfectly safe for your chickens.

Benefits of Oregano

Oregano is one of the most powerful natural antibiotics ever studied and has been found to be superior to many of the currently used antibiotics. 

The oil is more potent than the fresh or dried herb, but in any form, it's hard to deny the power of oregano.

Unfortunately, not many scientific studies have been done on herbal remedies on chickens specifically.  But that doesn't mean they don't work.

Little by little it seems that more and more folks are seeking natural preventatives instead of turning to commercial wormers, antibiotics and other medications in an effort to raise their chickens as naturally as they can.


Natural Antibiotic for Chickens

We eat their eggs, so even more than other animals we raise, we seem to want our chickens to be chemical-, hormone- and antibiotic-free.

What we do know is that wild birds will line their nests with herbs, flowers and weeds. 

We also know that chickens seem to instinctively know what is good for them and what is not, what they need and in what amounts (think free-choice oyster shell or grit).  


Health Benefits of Oregano for Chickens

But oregano specifically has some pretty amazing health benefits for both humans and animals. 

Oregano contains a substance called carvacrol. This helps oregano act as both an anti-inflammatory and antibiotic. It helps to strengthen the immune system and is also has antifungal and antiviral properties.

Carvacrol, which is also found in thyme, helps with digestive health, increasing feed intake and efficiency, increasing the nutrient absorption of the feed. 

Carvacrol also leads to healthy weight gain and has been found to be beneficial when fed to broiler chickens specifically. 

Common Poultry Illnesses

As an antimicrobial, the carvacrol in oregano helps to prevent chickens fed oregano from getting sick from some of the more common poultry illnesses including:

  • aspergillus
  • e. coli
  • salmonella

Oregano also contains a compound called thymol which is an antifungal and strengthens the immune system and protects against toxins.

Additionally, oregano has some pain relieving properties and may help to prevent cancer. Pretty amazing, right?

How to Feed Oregano to Chickens 

Whether or not you believe all the claims about the benefits of oregano for backyard chickens, there's not denying that oregano is a nutritious snack for them - and they love it! 

So don't over-think things. Grow some herbs for your chickens. (Oregano, thyme, parsley and basil are especially beneficial.) You can add fresh or dried oregano to your chickens' feed. 

Then toss some fresh herbs into your coop and nesting boxes too. They are so beneficial for laying or setting hens. Or hang some fresh herbs and let them dry in the coop. (Lavender, rosemary and mint are especially fragrant.) 

  • Offer straight from the garden, let the chickens browse and nibble as they wish
  • Feed fresh oregano free-choice to your flock in a separate dish or container
  • Dry some oregano and mix into your flock's feed
  • Hang fresh oregano in the coop or run and let your chickens peck at it
  • Toss fresh oregano into the nesting boxes

Your chickens will eat some of the herbs, lay their eggs on some and ignore some, letting those dry and scent the coop.  

Other ways to add oregano to your flock's diet include offering your chickens fresh oregano as a treat to nibble on free-choice. And be sure to dry some oregano to crush and add to their feed through the winter.  


Oregano Fresh, Dried or Oil


You can also make oregano  "tea" for your chickens to drink. They will enjoy the change from plain water. 

And I do actually keep a small bottle of oregano oil in my chicken first aid kit .....just in case. Oregano oil has the highest concentrations of carvacrol, so just a drop or two in a gallon of water should be sufficient to treat your flock.  

Note that oregano oil is NOT an essential oil. While it's stronger than the fresh or dried form of the herb, it's not nearly as potent as the essential oil. Essential oils should never be taken internally unless specifically directed by a health professional.

So what do you think? Can you keep your chickens healthy without the use of chemicals and antibiotics? I firmly believe that you can. It's a win-win for you and for your chickens.

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Further Reading
Carvacrol and Human Health
9 Benefits and Uses of Oregano


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