Most folks, regardless of what continent they live on, are familiar with the scent and taste of mint. The genus Mentha consists of two dozen varieties of aromatic perennials. We most often associate mints with culinary use or health additives. The most common, peppermint and spearmint, are widely used in candy, gum, toothpaste, pairings with chocolate and even as a liqueur.
Lots of us have experienced unprecedented heat waves last summer. Two of my favourites to beat the heat are a Mojito cocktail and watermelon salad, both made with fresh, crushed mint from my garden. The combination of ingredients, their cool temperature and the aroma put them on the list of must-haves.
Mints have also long been used in traditional medicines as antioxidants, anti-inflammatories and digestive aids. Their leaves are rich in phosphorus, calcium and vitamins like A, C, D, and E which support the body’s immune system.
Mints are easy to grow in a variety of conditions, but do best in light, moist soil with good drainage. Most will grow in sun or partial shade, but beware they can be invasive. Planting them in pots is an effective way to contain them.
I often toss wheelbarrow loads of my garden waste or donations from the local food recovery program into the compost bin in my chicken pen. I find that my birds usually avoid strong smelling herbs and doubt they would willingly choose to eat mint.
Uses For Chickens
- Coop Deodorizer: I use mint as part of an herbal mix for their nest boxes. Other pungent smelling plants I use include: rosemary, oregano, thyme, calendula and chamomile flowers, lemon balm and lavender, which I cut into small pieces and dry in paper bags. They can be stored in glass jars and sprinkled into the shavings of the nest boxes to freshen up the coop.
- Anti-parasitic: Strong smelling mint is known to repel insects and rodents. Peppermint oil is used against internal parasites and can kill the larvae of several species of mosquitoes.
- Egg Quality: Feeding laying hens dry or fresh peppermint leaves has been proven to increase egg weight, egg production, egg mass, and feed intake.
- Anticoccidial: Peppermint oil was found to be somewhat effective at reducing the number of Eimeria spp. which causes coccidiosis in chickens.
- Antiviral: Peppermint oil has also shown to be of benefit against Newcastle Disease in chickens.
- Antibacterial: A study demonstrated that fogging with peppermint oil improved hygiene standards in broiler houses. Staphylococcus bacterial counts were reduced in the air and on wall and drinker surfaces in rooms treated with essential oils.
Even if you don’t use mint as a medicinal, it’s an easy to grow perennial that you can plant around your coop and pen that smells great and will deter insects and rodents (if your flock has access to it protect the roots from their digging). And a side benefit is you can pick a few sprigs and add it to your cooking or make yourself a Mojito.
Credits: Poultry DVM; Poultry Science. Featured Photo: Rooted Revival