If there’s one thing you can say about chickens for sure, it is that they enjoy a wide variety of food.
One of life’s great little pleasures is watching your chickens free range around the yard and seeing what they pick out for a snack.
A bug here, a worm there, and a nibble off seemingly every plant there is. Sometimes they’ll even nibble plants in your garden that you would rather they not eat!
Headaches aside, how about basil? Can chickens eat basil?
Yes, chickens can eat basil fresh or dried. Basil has important health benefits for them, particularly in improving the quality of eggs, and also as an antibacterial. It may even help to repel biting insects.
Basil is one of the most beloved kitchen herbs used in cuisines all around the world. If you like basil in your own recipes, I’m here to tell you that chickens will also like it in their food.
You’ll especially like how it can improve the health of your flock.
This article will tell you what you need to know about incorporating basil into the diet of your chickens.
Nutritional Profile of Basil
Basil is known predominantly for the delicate, fresh flavor it can give to food and not so much for its nutritional profile, but fresh basil does contain nutrients that chickens need.
Basil has only a few calories along with a little bit of fiber and some carbohydrates, but it also has a tiny bit of protein. Every little bit helps!
Most notably, it also contains some vitamins and minerals in the form of iron, calcium, and vitamin A. But its best attributes on the form of antioxidants, beta-carotene, and lutein.
Together, these antioxidants can prevent a lot of cellular damage, and seriously improve the overall health of your birds.
It should be noted that the nutritional content of basil declines rapidly when it is dried, so if you feed it to your chickens for the health benefits you should always, always stick with fresh basil.
Benefits of Basil for Chickens
Like I mentioned above, basil has been loved for millennia as a kitchen herb, but not many people know that it is also been employed as a medicinal herb.
This isn’t folklore, either, as multiple scientific studies have confirmed the positive health benefits of various compounds in basil for chickens and people alike.
Probably the most notable benefit is its ability to massively improve the quality of eggs laid by your hens.
Simply incorporating it into their existing diet is enough to improve the color and texture of yolks and also increase the amount of polyunsaturated fatty acid levels along with linolenic acid levels.
Even better, basil has known antibacterial qualities, and has been proven in testing to inhibit or even destroy various nasty pathogens that chickens and people alike fall victim to, such as shigella, staff, and pseudomonas.
Nasty germs to be sure, so every little bit helps in the fight against them.
Lastly, basil is a decent insect repellent, at least for certain blood suckers like mosquitoes.
Feeding basil to your chickens does not guarantee that they won’t fall victim to these biting pests or other parasites, but it is another component of a holistic plan to keep them safe.
Considering all of the other benefits that basil has, you can consider any insect-repellent quality to be a bonus!
Can Chickens Eat Fresh Basil?
Yes, they can. Fresh basil is loved by chickens, and it also happens to provide the most benefits and nutrients.
If you have any choice, always opt for fresh, organic basil when providing it to your chickens.
If you have an oversupply of basil and don’t feel like using it quickly enough, you can carefully freeze it for later use while preserving most of the beneficial compounds and nutrition.
Can Chickens Eat Dried Basil?
Yes. Dried basil is an acceptable addition to the dried feed of your chickens, but it should be used as a meal enhancer only to add interest.
Dried basil is a lot less potent nutritionally than fresh basil, so the health benefits are diminished significantly.
Can Chickens Eat Basil Stems?
Yes, though they might or might not depending on individual preference.
Some birds might find the stems too tough or fibrous to eat, but others might really enjoy them. You can always give it a try and see how your flock reacts.
Can Chickens Eat Basil Roots?
Yes, they sure can, though most chickens don’t like them and won’t go out of their way to get at them. All parts of the basil plant are safe for chickens to eat, though, so you don’t need to worry.
Can Chickens Eat Basil that is Cooked
Yes. Cooked basil is totally safe for chickens. Though it is usually added as an ingredient and rarely, if ever, prepared by itself you can still provide it to your chickens after cooking.
But like with drying, cooked basil loses much of the fantastic antioxidants and other compounds that make it so good for your flock, so try to provide the fresh version when you can.
Don’t Feed Basil to Chickens that Has Been Prepared with Harmful Ingredients
Since we are talking about basil and cooking in the same breath, now is a good time to remind you that you should never, ever feed any basil to your chickens that were cooked with harmful ingredients, or food made with basil that they shouldn’t have.
Lots of dishes that you and I love contain things that are either toxic or otherwise not safe for our beloved birds.
Things like salt, butter, sugar other things are all bad for chickens and should never be fed to them, so if you have a dish made with basil that has any of these ingredients in it, keep it far away from your flock.
You might think it kind to share some of your leftovers with them, but you could be setting them up for health problems like obesity, salt poisoning (a real thing!), or worse.
Keep your birds safe by giving them fresh basil only!
Beware of Pesticides on Store-bought Basil Plants!
One more thing you should be cautious of when giving basil to your flock, especially fresh basil that you did not grow yourself.
Basil is vulnerable to pests and is much more likely to be sprayed with pesticide so it stays intact and makes it to market, either at the grocery or your local nursery.
So if you are buying basil plants from the store to provide it fresh to your chickens, make sure they have been certified organic and free of any nasty chemicals that could cause harm to your birds.
In any case, always wash your basil prior to feeding it to your flock, and even then it is highly likely that some residues will remain.
The best thing you can do is grow your own basil so you know for sure it is free from any pesticides. Basil is easy to grow, so there is no excuse!
How Often Can Chickens Have Basil?
Pretty much whenever you want to feed it to them. Basil should never be the majority part of their diet, of course, but feeding it to them regularly as part of a well-rounded diet will ensure they get the most benefit from this amazing herb.
Adding basil to their feed weekly or even every other day is a great way to keep your birds healthy.
Preparing Basil for Your Flock
The best way to give basil to your chickens is fresh, as mentioned several times above.
Simply pluck the leaves and give them to your chickens or chop them up into finer flakes and mix them in with their feed.
A little toss of olive oil can help the bits stick to the pellets, and ensure your chickens actually eat them.
Can Baby Chicks Have Basil, Too?
Yes, baby chicks can also have basil in small amounts. Keep the leaves a bit bigger for the littlest birds, and offer it more infrequently than you would to adult chickens.
But otherwise, you can feed them all the same basil as you give your adults.
I do recommend waiting until they are a few weeks old before you allow them to try it, though: baby chicks have a super-sensitive digestive system that needs a bit of time to mature before they can accept a wider variety of foods.
Tom has lived and worked on farms and homesteads from the Carolinas to Kentucky and beyond. He is passionate about helping people prepare for tough times by embracing lifestyles of self-sufficiency.