Lemon balm (Melissa officsi) is a perennial herb native to the Mediterranean, Western Asia and south-central Europe. It can be grown in zones 3-7, which makes it a favourite for gardeners in North America. As part of the fragrant mint family it’s known to be an invasive. I’ve had both spearmint and peppermint in my garden for years and they haven’t lived up to their reputation of taking over their plot. On the other hand, I regret introducing lemon balm because it thrives in a variety of soil conditions and has spread throughout my ornamentals. They have tough roots and produce many seeds so be careful where you plant it. I would suggest a contained pot on a patio rather than directly in the ground.
I’ve previously posted on the health benefits of mint for chickens and thought I should give lemon balm its due.
It’s been used in traditional medicine for improving cognition, reducing stress and anxiety, as an anti-inflammatory, antioxidant and insect repellent. It contains a number of beneficial properties including polyphenols (beneficial plant compounds), essential oils, flavonoids and tannins. I’ve used it dried or fresh for tea.
Uses Of Lemon Balm For Chickens
Immune System: 0.2% lemon balm extract* added in the drinking water improved antioxidant and antibiotic status.
Broiler Production: extract given in the later stages of growth only (i.e. not young chicks) improved feed conversion, energy, protein intake, higher relative weight of leg and breast muscles and polyunsaturated fatty acids.
Insect Repellent: Similar to other mints, lemon balm has effectively been used to repel insects (including mosquitoes).
Bedding Additive: Dried and crushed lemon balm can be added to bedding in the nest boxes to improve the fragrance of your coop.
In my experience my flock avoids strong tasting/smelling herbs and I am not sure if they would eat fresh lemon balm. I would recommend adding the extract* to their drinking water or drying it to be used in the coop. Lots of folks look for ornamentals or herbs to plant around their coop and I would suggest this one. It attracts beneficial pollinators; is a companion plant for tomatoes, brassicas and other herbs; and releases the fragrance of lemons when you touch it.
*200 g of dried lemon balm per litre of drinking water infused for 10 minutes, then cooled to 40°C and strained.
Credit: Journal of Poultry Science; Poultry DVM. Featured photo: Getty Images
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