Rosemary (Salvia rosmarinus), the intensely fragrant herb from the Mediterranean, looks much like lavender, but is actually more closely related to mint. The plant resembles a miniature ever-green tree, with a thin woody stem and flat needle-like leaves.
Used since ancient times, rosemary makes a nice seasoning for roasts and soups. It’s one of my favorite herbs to grow to use in my chicken keeping as well.
From an aromatherapy standpoint, rosemary can be used in your chickens’ nesting area to calm and soothe your laying or sitting hens. Fresh or dried, sprinkling some rosemary around your coop can help relax your flock. Just smelling the rosemary essentials oils can also improve their immune systems and enhance respiratory health.
While rosemary is edible, but I don’t find that my chickens really like to nibble on it, so it’s a good choice to plant around your coop or run for some pretty landscaping. There’s a good chance your chickens will leave it alone. Rosemary is a well-known a pesticide, working to discourage insects, so it can help keep your coop and run free of flies and mosquitoes when planted in window boxes or hung in bouquets around the area.
An important part of your herbal arsenal, Rosemary also contains anti-inflammatory properties. The oils can be applied to a sore or sprained leg or foot to reduce swelling and provide some pain relief to your hens. Rosemary is thought to help fight staph infections also, making it a great natural choice to treat bumblefoot. Using Rosemary for chicken health is a great idea.
Lastly, rosemary improves circulation, which is very important especially when your chicken is sitting on a clutch of eggs. During the three-week incubation period, she doesn’t get up as much as she should to exercise, so tucking a bit of fresh rosemary under her can be very beneficial. She doesn’t need to eat the rosemary to glean its benefits; the contact between her bare breast (since she’s pulled out the feathers in preparation of hatching her chicks) and the oils in the needles will cause the oils to be absorbed into her skin.
When you harvest your rosemary, be sure to put some aside to hang in your coop or scatter in the nesting area for better chicken health.
“The key to successfully keeping potted rosemary plants alive in winter is to take them outside as much as possible. Once you pot your rosemary plant, let it stay out during days that are 40 degrees or above.” — From Pam Freeman’s piece, “Exploring the Rosemary Plant,” at www.countrysidenetwork.com.