There are lots of health products for chickens, but most of them are worrisome to my mind – with labels that say to not use within several days of slaughter or egg production, I cannot believe that they can be the safest option for my chicken if they aren’t safe for me to consume the meat or eggs from a chicken on which these products were used! Essential oils have no such limitations or risks, and are a much more comfortable solution for my flock.
It is important to use essential oils that are truly pure, as these are safe for internal use as well as external and aromatic use, and are not contaminated with pesticides or other toxins. Check the label on the side of your bottle and make sure it does not say "for internal use only."
There are undoubtedly more essential oils that could be used for chickens, but here are the oils I keep on hand for chicken health emergencies. Most studies mentioned below can be found in the book “Modern Essentials.” I have also starred my “top three” oils, for those of you who just want a few good essential oils to get started.
Cinnamon is a powerful antibiotic, antifungal and antiviral oil. Studies on rats have shown that cinnamon essential oil applied to wounds speeds healing by preventing sepsis. When applying this oil, dilute in at least 3 times as much carrier oil to prevent skin irritation. Cinnamon essential oil when fed in drinking water has been found by researchers to increase the beneficial microorganisms in the chickens’ digestive system and improve feed efficiency.
Cypress has a wide range of uses in people, but few of them translate into chicken health issues. It may be used for reducing pain, swollen eyes, and stress reduction. It is an excellent antimicrobial both for sick or injured chickens, and for cleaning the coop.
Deep Blue is a blend of oils including wintergreen, camphor, peppermint, blue tansy, chamomile, helichrysum, and osmanthus. These oils are used to treat inflammation, pain, swelling, sprains and bruises. It blends well with frankincense for enhanced healing.
Eucalyptus is a good multi-purpose oil to have around. It is antibacterial and antiviral, and can be used topically on a sick or injured chicken as well as for cleaning the coop. It is anti-inflammatory, and also good for many respiratory problems. It is also insecticidal and a good insect repellent, so it can be used topically and around the coop for parasite problems. A study on chickens showed that feeding eucalyptus essential oil in drinking water decreased incidences of salmonella as effectively as conventional medicine.
*Frankincense is a powerful healing oil. It has been highly valued as a medicine since before the time of Christ, hence it’s being one of the three gifts the magi brought to the nativity. It has been found to have pain blocking properties, acts as an anti-inflammatory, and enhances the activity of leukocytes to fight of infection, as well as it being in of itself antiseptic. I once used this on a hen that was injured so severely that she was considered a lost cause – she was cut so deeply into her abdomen than her intestines were clearly visible. I applied a heavy dose of this oil, and she completely healed within a week.
Helichrysum is another powerful healing oil. It is antibacterial and antiviral, and has been used to relieve pain, skin problems, and breathing ailments. It has been found to help in tissue regeneration as well. However, it also acts as an anti-coagulant, so do not use on bleeding wounds.
Grapefruit, Lemon, Lime, and Wild Orange have all been used for anti-pecking sprays. Chickens do not like the flavor of citrus; spraying a diluted citrus oil on chicks or hens that are being pecked at by their flock mates can help stop that problem. Citrus is also a good antimicrobial for cleaning the coop.
Lavender is a very soothing oil. It may be used for chickens that are stressed, such as when introducing a new hen to the flock, or when separating an injured or sick chicken. It also is used to reduce skin irritation, to repel insects, to reduce inflammation, and as an anti-microbial. It has been found by one study to kill mites.
Melaleuca, or Tea Tree, is another excellent multi-purpose oil. It is used for a variety of skin problems, as an antibacterial, antifungal, and antiviral, as an insect repellent and insecticide. It has been found to help with tissue regeneration. It has been found to kill lice, mites, ticks, and several other parasites in numerous studies.
On Guard is a blend of oils including cinnamon, orange, clove, eucalyptus and rosemary. This blend is excellent for antibacterial, antiviral, antifungal, and anti-parasitic properties. It can be applied on wounds, or sprayed or washed on feathers with mites or other parasites. Dilution in carrier oil is not usually necessary, but it can be diluted for easier application or for young birds or sensitive areas such as around the vent.
*Oregano is a powerful antimicrobial. It is antibacterial, antifungal, anti-parasitic, and antiviral, as well as acting as a stimulant to the immune system. It has even been found to inhibit MRSA and other antibiotic resistant strains of bacteria in lab studies. It is best to dilute this oil with at least three times as much carrier oil to prevent skin irritation. It is also used in drinking water, at low dosage. Oregano essential oil when fed in drinking water has been found by researchers to increase the beneficial microorganisms in the chickens’ digestive system and improve feed efficiency. Another study on chickens showed that feeding oregano essential oil in drinking water decreased incidences of salmonella as effectively as conventional medicine.
*Terrashield is a blend of oils including eucalyptus, lemongrass, and citronella. This blend is an excellent insect repellent and also has some insecticidal properties. It is good for spraying or washing on chickens with mites or other parasites. It does not typically need diluted, but if skin irritation occurs you can dilute it with a carrier oil.
Thyme is another powerful antimicrobial. It is antibacterial, antifungal, and antiviral. It should be diluted with at least four times as much carrier oil when using topically to prevent skin irritation. A study on chickens showed that feeding thyme essential oil in drinking water decreased incidences of salmonella as effectively as conventional medicine.