For most of us that own chickens, the primary reason is to get those wonderful fresh eggs day in and day out.
But laying season can be a difficult and hectic time: unhappy or stressed chickens might get broody, lay fewer eggs or even lay eggs of lesser quality.
That’s no good, and trying to figure out what will make your chickens happy to be a full-time job on top of all the other things you’ve got to do around the homestead…
But, there’s an easy way to improve the health and happiness of your girls and also get more and better eggs to boot: nesting box herbs.
It is exactly what it sounds like, and simply by adding fresh or dried herbs to your hens’ nesting boxes your chickens will enjoy natural parasite prevention, rodent repellent, and even better egg production overall.
Many herbs also function as natural antiseptics with germ-killing capability. In short, you’ll have happier chickens and better returns!
You can use all kinds of kitchen and botanical herbs for this purpose, and I’ll tell you about 19 of the best down below.
1. Peppermint (Mentha piperita)
Peppermint is one of the best nesting box herbs there is. This potent plant is known best for its invigorating aroma, and that aroma equates not only to a fresher coop but also to natural, chicken-safe insect-repelling properties.
When you include fresh or dried peppermint in the nesting box it will help deter all kinds of poultry pests like mites, lice, and other unwanted visitors, creating a cleaner environment for your hens.
It might even help keep rats and mice at bay! The strong scent is also thought to acts as a respiratory aid, promoting clear breathing for your flock. A winner, and my very favorite.
2. Lavender (Lavandula spp.)
Lavender an herb already well-known for its calming properties. Turns out this reputation extends to chickens, too!
Its soothing scent can help to reduce stress and anxiety in your hens, leading to more relaxed and content birds.
Better relaxation means a positive impact on egg production overall, as stress is a major reason why chickens lay less eggs.
Even better, lavender has natural antibacterial properties thanks to various compounds it contains like linalool and linalyl acetate.
This means it can help combat bacteria and keep the nesting box clean and hygienic for your hens aside from just smelling good.
3. Fennel (Foeniculum vulgare)
Fennel is a versatile, licorice-like herb that can bring numerous benefits to your hens when used as a box herb.
It’s most noted for its ability to boost egg production and quality in laying hens specifically by helping to increase the weight and shell strength of the eggs.
Also, fennel has been known to have a calming effect on chickens similar to lavender, once again reducing stress among your hard-working hens.
And like so many other herbs, fennel is a natural insect repellent, and incorporating it into your hen’s nesting box material can help keep critters that might infest it at bay.
4. Basil (Ocimum basilicum)
One of the most versatile and beloved kitchen herbs the world over, basil is a fine and fragrant choice for a hen’s nesting box.
This aromatic plant is known for its superb flavor, yes, but you might not know it has potent antibacterial properties.
Again, this natural germ-fighter will help to maintain the cleanliness of the nesting box and protect your hens and her chicks from various infections.
Basil is naturally insect repellent, though not quite as potent as some of the others on our list.
If you don’t enjoy the sometimes-cloying scent of stronger herbs, you’ll be happy to know basil has a sweet and “grassy” aroma when used fresh or dried in this way, so will help freshen the air in the coop just the same.
5. Thyme (Thymus vulgaris)
Another fragrant, pungent kitchen herb, and a good choice for our purposes when fresh or dry, the scent of thyme is not only pleasant for us humans but also for our hens, and like most of the herbs on our list it can soothe the frazzled nerves of our sometimes-stressed chickens.
Once again, this translates to more and better eggs, more reliably. Thyme is also highly antiseptic.
Naturally, and these properties will keep bacteria counts down in the box and surrounding coop.
Furthermore, thyme is likewise known to be a powerful deterrent against avian parasites including many species of mites and lice. Multipurpose and smells good, this is another winner in my book.
6. Bay Leaf (Laurus nobilis)
This is one of those herbs that we rarely use, but when we omit it our favorite dishes just taste off.
Bay leaf also possesses, besides unique flavor, known antifungal and antibacterial compounds that are a great benefit if you want a naturally hygienic nesting spot for your hens.
Bay leaf also has a distinct but appealing scent that can cover up bad odors in the coop generally and also create a soothing atmosphere for the hens.
Most chickens I know seem very fond of the stuff, and are more than happy to have some in their nest.
All together, bay leaf can contribute positively in a big way to your flock’s overall health and egg production.
7. Marjoram (Origanum majorana)
As you care for your laying hens, consider the addition of marjoram in their nesting boxes. This herb, with its subtle sweet and spicy aroma, can create a calming environment conducive to egg-laying.
Marjoram is known for its ability to stimulate egg production, making it a beneficial inclusion for your hens’ health and productivity.
The strong scent of marjoram also acts as an excellent deterrent against pests, keeping your hens comfortable and their nesting area free from unwanted intruders.
Whether you choose to use fresh or dried marjoram, it’s a simple yet effective way to enhance the wellbeing of your flock.
8. Rose Petals (Rosa spp.)
All the rage for chicken glamour shots, rose petals add more than just aesthetic value and Instagram cred to nesting box.
Their delicate but fragrant aroma serves to relax hens and promote calm. And of course those lower stress levels translate to healthier birds and better egg production writ large.
But if there’s one issue with rose petals, it is that some chickens are highly likely to eat them: if your birds are like mine, there is no part of the rose plant they won’t eat, and the petals are among their favorites!
Still, if you have some wild roses or old cultivated ones you need to get rid of, don’t hesitate to pluck those petals.
9. Chamomile (Matricaria chamomilla)
Chamomile has a sweet, vaguely apple-ish scent and is another excellent nesting box herb.
Like lavender, chamomile is well known and regarded for its natural calming effects and here again chamomile will reduce stress in your chickens.
It also has the added advantage of being another natural antiseptic thanks to alpha-bisobolol and cyclic ethers.
It’s especially good for keeping fresh box fill fresher, longer, when you add it after a routine change.
And, in my experience, it seems to work just as well fresh or dried, making it a versatile choice. Whether you use fresh or dried chamomile, it is another great pick.
10. Dandelion Leaf (Taraxacum officinale)
Derided as that most common and annoying of weeds, we all owe dandelion an apology! This underrated plant is rich in vitamins and minerals, and chickens ordinarily eat it.
This, of course, contributes to good health in chickens, but it can do even more in the nesting box.
The grassy scent of dandelion leaves, believe it or not, reduces stress levels in your hens and moreover the leaves contain natural insecticidal compounds.
Compounds which are chicken-safe; no harsh chemicals needed! By harvesting and including fresh or dried dandelion leaves in the nesting box you are repurposing those aggravating garden weeds for once.
Just be sure that you don’t use any such dandelions that have already been hit with herbicide- those chems are all bad for chickens!
11. Oregano (Origanum vulgare)
Among the most fragrant and instantly-recognizable of kitchen herbs, oregano is another that chickens love to eat.
You’ll love what else it can do for them in the coop aside from freshening the air a bit: oregano has potent antibacterial and antiparasitic properties, making it a shoo-in if you want a clean and disease-free nesting area.
And though it seems like it might be too much, the strong-yet-pleasant aroma of oregano will settle the nerves of your girls, creating a more favorable environment for egg-laying all around.
And don’t worry if your girls want to steal a nibble now and then; it won’t hurt, but you’ll need to add some more, of course!
12. Bee Balm (Monarda spp.)
This aromatic herb, also known as wild bergamot, has a vibrant, citrusy scent that smells wonderful and hides offending odors, but that citrus tang can also keep insects away.
For this reason alone you should consider adding it into your hens’ nesting box, but the pleasant, nose-tickling aroma does nothing of the sort to chickens. They seem to enjoy it!
Bee balm is also another “do-all” nesting box herb when fresh or dried since it is a germ-fighter.
Between the great fragrance, calming effect, and germ-killing qualities, sprinkling some fresh or dried bee balm in the nesting boxes is a smart move.
13. Calendula (Calendula officinalis)
This herb, known for its cheery, bright orange blooms, offers numerous benefits to your laying hens.
Calendula is known to stimulate the immune system and has anti-inflammatory properties that can contribute to the overall health of your hens.
The petals of this plant also contain xanthophylls, which are known to deepen the yellow color of egg yolks.
Additionally, its pleasant fragrance will help to settle your hens and is also thought to deter common pests, though not as well as some of the other herbs on our list.
Whether used fresh or dried, adding calendula to your hen’s nesting box is a beautiful and beneficial choice.
14. Parsley (Petroselinum crispum)
Most known as a simple garnish, Parsley is surprisingly nutritious and yet another excellent herb to consider for your hen’s nesting boxes.
The strong scent of parsley can also serve to calm your hens as it freshens the air, and furthermore parsley has been reported to consistently boost overall egg production in hens.
That makes this humble herb a truly valuable addition to your weekly chicken care routine during laying season.
And once more, whether use fresh or dried parsley you can rest easy knowing it will work just as well for your chickens.
15. Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis)
One of the most treasured cooking herbs, and my personal favorite, there’s just nothing like rosemary.
Rosemary is once again a “champion” nesting box herb: it smells great, soothes upset hens, repels pests has proven, natural and safe bacteria-killing benefits. This is a huge net gain for any chicken keeper!
And better yet, rosemary is believed to have special properties that can stimulate blood circulation and protect the heart, particularly under heat stress.
This is particularly important considering they will be sitting, and sitting, and sitting for very long periods of time when brooding.
Fresh rosemary contains the most antiseptic compounds, but dried is still very good all around and more convenient.
16. Lemon Balm (Melissa officinalis)
Another herb with a pleasant, citrusy aroma, lemon balm is a favorite among many keepers, and might be your favorite, too.
The scent of this herb, scientifically known as Melissa officinalis, seems almost supernaturally good at calming your sometimes-testy laying hens, whether or not they are brooding.
Its strong smell also works as a truly excellent deterrent for all sorts of insect pests, from lice to fleas and more.
Moreover, lemon balm is super-rich in antioxidants, which can boost the overall health of your flock when they invariably steal a nibble when coming or going from doing their business.
Expect some bumps in production and egg quality, and happier, healthier chickens generally.
17. Marigold (Tagetes spp.)
When you add marigolds to your chickens’ nesting boxes, you’ll immediately notice the vibrant orange and yellow tones brighten up the space.
But these beautiful flowers aren’t just for aesthetics: Marigolds are known germ-busters, and all parts of the plant, including the petals, have mild antiseptic properties which can help keep all kinds of diseases at bay in your boxes and around the coop.
And while marigolds aren’t the most aromatic plant on our list, they still help to keep things smelling a bit better than they would otherwise- especially if you have been slacking a bit on upkeep!
18. Sage (Salvia officinalis)
Sage, or Salvia officinalis, is a strong and versatile kitchen herb, but it’s yet another one that is hugely beneficial for your laying hens.
While it isn’t the first one most of us think of when it comes to purely pleasant scents, in the nesting box sage has shown again and again to help reduce stress in agitated hens, encouraging them to lay eggs more regularly.
Plus sage has powerful antimicrobial properties that can help protect your chickens from lurking, harmful bacteria such as salmonella, as well as various fungi.
Combine that with good pest-repelling properties and it’s easy to see why sage is such a fine choice as a nesting box herb.
19. Yarrow (Achillea millefolium)
Long loved as an all-natural health-booster and even as a versatile veggie or kitchen herb, the feathery leaves and delicate flowers of yarrow certainly make it an attractive addition to any nesting box.
But what else can it do? Well, for starters, yarrow does a lot more than just beautify your chickens’ laying space: It can help soothe anxious or stressed hens, and at the same time, it also has impressive germ-killing properties.
Plus, yarrow is a natural insect repellent, one that will help to keep bothersome, biting insects at bay.
With all these benefits, yarrow is certainly an herb to consider for your laying hens’ nesting boxes but make sure you stick with fresh: many of the beneficial and aromatic compounds degrade when dried.
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.