Chickens love all sorts of plants and vegetables, including quite a few that people also enjoy. In fact, common herbs are some of the best and most interesting food options for chickens thanks to their unique flavors and health benefits.
But how about thyme? Can chickens and baby chicks eat thyme?
Yes, chickens can eat thyme. Fresh, dried, or cooked, chickens enjoy it, and it has several health benefits for them, especially concerning egg production and digestive health.
In western cuisine thyme is not the most commonly used herb but it’s still the “secret ingredient” in various dishes to the point that its absence is immediately noted.
Your chickens will like it also, whether by itself or mixed in with their other, usual foods.
Keep reading and we will tell you everything you need to know about feeding thyme to your chickens.
Nutritional Profile of Thyme
Thyme is mostly used as an herb in various cuisines, but it does offer a little bit of nutrition on its own.
Thyme can provide chickens with calories, a little bit of protein, some fat, and a few carbohydrates – so it is still worthwhile feeding it to them as a source of energy.
|Vitamin A, RAE
|Vitamin A, IU
|Fatty acids, total saturated
|Fatty acids, total monounsaturated
|Fatty acids, total polyunsaturated
If you are growing thyme in your garden, the fresh leaves of the plant will be particularly nutritious, though whether or not you want your chickens to get at them is a different story!
Benefits of Thyme for Chickens
Aside from a little bit of energy, thyme has some pretty significant health benefits for chickens, and this alone is reason enough to include it as a regular part of their diet.
First off, thyme has known immune system-boosting properties thanks to being naturally antibacterial in nature.
This can improve the overall health of your chickens, and there’s also evidence to suggest that thyme is a natural insect repellent, so it might give your chickens an extra edge at repelling pests and parasites.
If nothing else, it will help keep these bugs away from their food!
Thyme has also been shown to promote both respiratory and digestive health in chickens when ingested regularly, meaning it can serve as a natural health supplement if you make it a point to feed it to them several times a week.
But perhaps the most important, and certainly of most interest to your average keeper is that thyme has proven to promote increased egg production when steadily fed to chickens.
Anything we can do to keep our hens laying, and laying healthy eggs, is certainly a benefit, and considering the ready availability and cheap cost of thyme there is no reason not to incorporate it in your flock’s diet.
Can Chickens Eat Fresh Thyme?
Yes, chickens can eat fresh thyme. They will nibble the leaves and flowers right off of a live plant, or you can strip the foliage off of picked thyme, and serve it to them as-is, or by mixing it in with other food.
Giving fresh thyme to your chickens is the best way to maximize the nutrition and calorie content along, since fresh herbs always have more nutrients than dried herbs.
Can Chickens Eat Dried Thyme?
Yes. Chickens can and will eat dried thyme, and there seems to be something about the fragrance that is highly appealing to them.
You can mix in dried thyme with a little bit of oil with their usual dry food or other fresh foods, and your chickens will love it.
Can Chickens Eat Thyme Stems?
Chickens that can eat thyme stems, but they probably won’t. They are woody and difficult to digest, so expect them to eat those tender, tasty leaves and ignore the rest of the plant.
Can Chickens Eat Thyme Roots?
Yes, chickens can eat thyme roots, though they won’t go out of their way to dig them up.
If you have pulled up a whole plant, or if you are splitting one in two to start another growing, there is no reason you cannot give your chickens some of the tender, narrow roots.
Can Chickens Eat Cooked Thyme?
Yes. If for whatever reason, you are steaming thyme leaves or have cooked it down you can still serve it to your chickens.
However, they don’t seem to like cooked thyme as much as they do fresh or dried. Still, it’s good to know that you can if you really want to.
Never Feed Thyme to Chickens that Was Cooked with Harmful Ingredients
On the subject of cooking thyme, whatever you are making be sure you never feed your chickens any thyme that has been prepared with ingredients that could be harmful to them, or anything that is made with thyme that might be likewise.
Just because something has thyme in it doesn’t mean your chickens can now have it all of a sudden: it’s like how putting spinach on pizza doesn’t make it a healthy food, you know?
Casseroles, stuffing and things of that nature are not good for your birds and many of these dishes contain truly excessive amounts of salt, butter, oils, and other ingredients that are just no good for chickens.
You might think you are giving your birds a special treat by handing over some of your leftovers, but you could be setting them up for health problems; diarrhea at best, fatty liver syndrome, or high blood pressure at worst.
Chickens should only get thyme by themselves or thyme that has been mixed in with other foods that are good for them.
Careful About Pesticides on Grocery-bought Thyme
One thing to beware of if you are purchasing sprigs of fresh thyme at the grocery store or are buying whole plants from a nursery is that they are quite possibly contaminated with pesticides.
Lots of herbs that wind up sold at retail, or any other plants sold commercially, have likely been treated with pesticides for the entirety of their life to ensure they actually make it to market.
This means you’re going to need to thoroughly rinse them before giving any of it to your chickens, and even then some residues will certainly remain.
Over time, this could oppose a significant health risk to your birds.
A better option is to grow the thyme yourself so you know exactly what it has been exposed to. Thyme grows plentifully and is extremely easy to start and care for, so there’s no reason not to!
How Often Can Chickens Have Thyme?
Chickens can have thyme pretty much whenever they want. The herb is wholesome and healthy whether it is fresh or dried.
Now, you don’t want to feed them nothing but thyme for every meal, but including it in their diet as a snack, or as a regular mix-in in meals once a day or every other day will cause absolutely no problems.
Remember that to reap the benefits of thyme you’ll need to feed it to your chickens regularly, so making it a constant part of their diet is a good idea.
Preparing Thyme for Your Flock
Preparing thyme for your chickens couldn’t be simpler. If it is growing on your property, you can let them have at it to graze on it normally- if you allow your chickens to free range.
If you have picked fresh thyme, strip the leaves off and serve it to them as a salad, or mixed in with other fresh, whole foods.
Dried or cooked thyme can be mixed in with pellets or other dry food by tossing it with just a little bit of olive oil to help it stick. Your chickens will love it either way!
Can Baby Chicks Have Thyme, Too?
Yes, baby chicks can also have thyme. The same benefits that thyme provides for adult chickens also apply to chicks, but you’ll probably want to let them reach at least 4 weeks of age before letting them try it.
Chicks are notoriously sensitive eaters, and it’s not worth the risk of giving them an upset stomach or diarrhea by feeding them thyme.
Chicks do just fine on starter feed, no need to reinvent the wheel!
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.