Chicken keepers need natural ways to keep their flock healthy. Essential oils for chickens are a great option rather than dried herbs.
Keeping your chicken flock healthy is essential for backyard chicken keepers. One way to do that is to use essential oils for chickens. Essential oils repel insects, relieve injuries, and support your chickens’ healthy immune systems.
All chicken keepers will encounter some health problems along the way.
The one that comes to mind for me is frostbite. I have a rooster that ended up with frostbite on his leg with an open wound. It needed to be wrapped and treated for two weeks, and we used ointments I created with essential oils to heal it.
You might also encounter issues like mites that feed on the blood and dead skin cells of your chickens. Mites often come from migrating birds, so if your coop is near the woods or trees, mites are a possibility.
Before we dive into natural health for your chickens, I am not a veterinarian, so consulting expert help is a great idea if you feel uncomfortable using any of these essential oils. Do the research and trust your common sense.
Are Essential Oils Safe for Chickens?
Some, not all, essential oils are safe for backyard chickens. Evidence shows there are 20 oils considered safe for poultry production. All of these oils have different purposes for chicken care, such as:
- Improving growth rates
- Improving feed conversion
- Offering immunity and better health
- Killing bacteria
- Cleaning chickens living environment
We know that studies indicate EOs help our flock. A controlled 2013 study showed that several essential oils, such as eucalyptus and lemon, reduced Salmonella contamination in the birds’ crops. That reduced cross-contamination during the butchering process.
Another study shows that thyme essential oil boosted immunoglobulin A in poultry. IgA is essential for a chicken’s immune system to fight off sicknesses.
These are just two of the studies that focus on using EOs with a chicken flock. One of the most recent was a 2020 follow-up study, showing changes in cecal microorganisms when chickens have oregano essential oil and thyme essential oil added to their food. This change improves chickens’ digestive systems, increasing broiler chickens weight gain.
Safety Guidelines When Using Essential Oils for Chickens
If you decide to try pure essential oils on your animals, be sure to learn about any safety guidelines. Here is what you should know when using oils for live poultry.
- Never Use Undiluted Essential Oils. Many oils are considered “hot” oils, such as peppermint and oregano oil, and they may burn skin. So, if you decide to use EOs on your chickens, make sure you dilute heavily.
- Use a Carrier Oil. Grab a carrier oil for diluting the oil, such as liquid coconut oil, almond oil, or olive oil.
- Be Cautious About Where You Put the Essential Oils. Oils don’t belong on your chickens’ head area. If you spray, only spray the body, never near the head.
- Keep Oils Away from Kids and Animals. You never want animals to have free access to bottles of EOs.
- Make Sure They Have Fresh Air. If you clean the chicken coop with essential oils, make sure the birds have space and time to roam outside in the fresh air. The coop must air out before the birds come in for the evening.
9 Essential Oils for Chickens
1. Oregano Oil
One of the best essential oils for chickens is oregano. It’s a powerful essential oil, often used by humans as well, and it helps strengthen the immune system. Oregano is also powerful enough to kill bacteria.
Using oregano essential oil regularly for your flock has many benefits. It improves the immune response, so you won’t need antibiotics as often. Oregano also fights intestinal worms and keeps your flock healthier overall and free from diseases.
However, oregano is considered a “hot” oil that may burn, so you should never use it topically. Diffusing or adding to food or water are two effective ways to use it.
It’s easy to use oregano oil for your chicken flock. Add one drop of oregano oil for every two gallons of water. So, if you have a five-gallon bucket of water, two to four drops of oregano oil are sufficient.
This stuff is powerful, so be sure not to overdo it with your flock.
2. Lavender Oil
Lavender essential oil is a versatile option for backyard chicken owners, and it’s best used for healing and protecting wounds and sores. Make a lavender salve to apply to injuries, diluting to 1%. Always be sure to avoid eyes, mouth, and nostrils.
3. Tea Tree Oil- Melaleuca
Mites are a common problem for chicken owners, and you can use tea tree essential oil to eliminate these frustrating pests.
Mixing melaleuca and peppermint into the water and spraying them in the chicken coop is a good method to eliminate chicken mites. Do this when the chickens are outside of the coop during the day and let it air out before the evening.
4. Peppermint Oil
Peppermint is one of the most common essential oils used for humans and chickens. It is highly fragrant, so it’s great to repel flies and other insects in your chicken coop. That’s why it’s often used in DIY insect repellent for humans as well; the scent overpowers many bugs.
If you want to use peppermint essential oil to eliminate insects, mix 30-40 drops in two to three gallons of water. Put some of this into a spray bottle or a garden sprayer and spray your chicken coop and chicken run.
5. Frankincense Oil
Frankincense is a powerhouse essential oil, often used to soothe and repair skin irritations and troubled skin problems. One year, our rooster injured his leg from frostbite, and we mixed frankincense essential oil into some ointment to soothe and heal the injury.
If your chicken has an injury, mix one drop for every 15 drops of carrier oil. Then, use this cream twice per day on the wound.
6. Clove Oil
Another option to try is clove oil; I have used this for tooth pain. It’s safe to dilute clove essential oil at 2% in carrier oil to prevent feather picking. It works when your bird is picking her own feathers, or the other hens are picking at her feathers.
Typically, when a hen is plucking her own feathers, there is a problem that is an underlying cause.
7. Lemon Oil
Lemon essential oil is one of my favorite oils to use for cleaning my home, and it’s also great for cleaning and disinfecting the chicken coop. It gives the coop the clean feel we all love.
Mix 30 drops of lemon essential oil into 8oz white vinegar and 8oz water in a spray bottle. Make sure you give time for the coop to air out before bedtime.
8. Orange Oil
Chickens aren’t a huge fan of citrus smells, so one way to use orange essential oil is to prevent the flock from pecking on each other.
If you have a hen that the others are picking on, try spraying diluted citrus oils on the hen being bullied. Be careful when spraying the hen; you don’t want it on her head or in her eyes.
If you’ve never heard of nutmeg oil, you are missing out. It’s a natural pain reliever, but you must use it cautiously when dealing with your chicken flock.
Nutmeg essential oil is safe for minor wounds and injuries. It should only be used on closed wounds in small amounts; be sure to dilute to 1% or less in a carrier oil, such as olive oil or coconut oil.
10. Other Essential Oils for Chickens
We know there are around 20 oils that are safe for chickens or have benefits you may want to tap into. A few others to include on your list include:
How Much Should You Use
When you use essential oils for chickens, it’s best to follow the recommended dosages or start off slow if experimenting on your own. If you feel concerned, a veterinarian or herbal practitioner should be able to help you.
You should remember that a little oil goes a long way. Using more essential oils doesn’t mean you will have better results; more can be harmful in many cases.
In most cases, a little bit – very tiny quantities – are best when using EOs. A few drops of each oil is sufficient.
This is especially true when using EOs internally as feed additives. You only need very small amounts to improve digestion. Using too much will lead to opposite results when ingested, and your chickens may become sick.
It’s essential to never use undiluted essential oils for chickens; they must be dilated for maximum efficiency and effectiveness. The general rule is that the essential oil should be between 0.5% and 2% of the final mixture.
A few neutral carrier oils you could use for diluting include:
- Olive oil
- Sunflower oil
- Canola oil
- Sweet almond oil
5 Ways to Use Essential Oils for Chickens
One of the best ways to use essential oils for chickens is for natural cleaning and disinfecting. Make a homemade cooper cleaner that is safe for your chickens’ respiratory tract.
Clear out all the own coop bedding or shavings and spray the coop with a homemade deodorizing cleaner. The areas need to dry entirely before adding new bedding back inside.
You also can use essential oils to clean and disinfect feed bowls, water founts, cages, chicken crates, and more. All of these areas are breeding grounds for bacteria.
Cleaning the Coop
One of my favorite use of essential oils with my own chickens is cleaning the coop. I use lemon essential oils and other citrus EOs for natural cleaning and disinfecting in my house, and it’s easy to make a homemade coop cleaner with them!
Whenever I clean out the used bedding, I spray down things like the nesting boxes, ledges, and other parts of the coop. I wipe down the chicken roosts with it as well.
It’s safe to use to clean and disinfect their feeding bowls, waterers, cages, and more. If you use EOs for their waterers, be sure to rinse well before adding water to it again.
Here’s how I make a homemade chicken coop cleaning spray.
- 25 drops of lemon essential oil (or other citrus EOs)
- Put into a large, 16-ounce spray bottle, then fill halfway with white vinegar.
- Add water to fill up the spray bottle and swirl to mix.
At some point, one of your chickens will have a wound, and essential oils treat the injuries. Make a wound care ointment with essential oils, such as frankincense and lavender oil. It works great for sores and wounds.
If you want to make an easy wound care ointment, mix 4 ounces of coconut oil with 12 drops of lavender essential oil and 12 drops of frankincense essential oil. It works great for small scrapes and minor wounds.
One of the benefits of using essential oils is that they target pathogens, such as bacteria, parasites, and viruses. This is great news if you are a small backyard chicken keeper like me since pathogens potentially have devastating results.
We know that essential oils target some of the most dangerous pathogens in the chicken industry, such as:
- E. coli
- Eimeria species – this causes Coccidiosis
If you want detailed information about essential oils and antimicrobial effects in chickens, take a look at this 2017 study.
One of the benefits of using essential oils rather than antibiotics or other pathogenic medication is that it has no withdrawal period. Many medications require you to discard the meat or eggs for a set timeframe to ensure it’s out of their body before human consumption. EOs don’t have that!
There are several ways to treat pathogens, but try adding a few drops of EOs into a gallon of water. You will notice a significant change in the health of your flock.
Feed Additive for Internal Health
If you feel comfortable using essential oils internally for your chickens, evidence shows using heavily diluted oregano essential oil is safe for chickens and gives great results. It takes care of intestinal worms and replaces routine antibiotics in flock health care.
In fact, some large farms in the poultry industry switched to using oregano oil-based feed additives instead of using antibiotics. The results were great!
Try using essential oils for chickens! You may find that they were just what you needed for natural chicken keeping, creating a healthier flock without the use of medications or chemicals.