Dill is one of those polarizing plants: people seem to be in one camp or the other, love it or hate it. I’m one of those in the latter. I enjoy many pungent flavours such as fennel, cilantro and ginger, but dill isn’t one of them. My friend Thomas and I volunteer with the local food recovery program. Every week we sort donations of unsold grocery store produce into people or animal food, and compost. There’s never any question that we’ll have to negotiate who gets the dill.
If you’ve never seen it growing, dill, (Anethum graveolens) an annual herb related to carrots, is a 3’-4’ tall plant with slender hollow stems, soft feathery leaves, and small, yellowish flowers.
Originally from the Mediterranean and southeastern Europe, it has been used as a culinary and medicinal plant for centuries. The leaves and seeds are used both fresh and dried as well as pressed to extract an essential oil.
It is low in calories, but contains vitamins A and C, magnesium, calcium and manganese. It’s considered an antioxidant, and is used as an anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial and antifungal. Dill is also used as a preservative because it inhibits the growth of several harmful bacteria such as Staphylococcus, Streptococcus, E. coli and Pseudomonas.
Specific applications studied in poultry include:
- Immune Booster: Studies have shown that chickens fed dill seeds had improved gut and respiratory health, and reduced cholesterol.
- Insecticide: Controls pests that infest stored grains such as grain moths, weevils and mould mites.
Using herbs for your backyard flock is not a science, but rather trial and error. It’s easy to grow or buy dill and offer the leaves and seeds to your birds in either fresh or dried form, place dried leaves in their nest boxes or hang stems upside down from the roost bars or rafters of your coop. It is believed to act both as a calming sedative and to improve respiratory health.
I wouldn’t recommend the use of essential oil as it is more potent than other forms.
Credits: Poultry DVM, Featured photo: Gardening Know How