I am a huge fan of Essential Oils to help ease common ailments without having to submit to using man made pharmaceuticals or antibiotics. Oils can pack a big punch in a very small package. Best of all? They are natural! But, can you use them with your feathered flock?
In short, yes. A recent comment from one of my blog readers asked about my use of Essential Oils with backyard poultry. The question was posed specifically referring to the prevention of Avian Flu. Some professionals say the verdict is still out on this one but Essential Oils are increasingly being investigated.
By naturally raising levels of immunity it makes sense that herbal oils such as Oregano Essential Oil can’t hurt. I have used both VetRx and Oregano Essential Oil with my birds with no adverse reactions.
Various articles lured me into reading non-specific uses of Essential Oils on or near chickens. It almost appeared as if they were afraid to commit to any outlined use of Essential Oils with their birds. Especially when it came to internal use. Some articles went so far as to acclaim success but only when used as a complementary treatment to vaccination.
Dilute, Dilute, Dilute
With that said, I am not a vet. The use of Essential Oils on my flock has been in very diluted forms. I have no documentation to substantiate that my results are a 100% direct reflection of Essential Oil use. So, as vague as any of that may sound…I still believe Essential Oils have worked well in keeping my birds healthy.
Let us start with VetRx Poultry in a 2 fl oz bottle or 59 ml. As a store bought veterinary aid, I know this product is safe. It makes sense to assume the ingredients it contains are also safe in the right concentrations. The ingredients list SD-Alcohol 408 (3.3%), Camphor (2.0%), Canadian Balsam, Oil Origanum, Oil Rosemary, blended in a Corn Oil base. The bottle says it is safe for internal or external use and is 100% natural. Simple right?
I bet you are wondering if Essential Oils are the same as what is in VetRx? After all, VetRx does list Oil Origanum (Oil Oregano) and Oil Rosemary. Well, let me break it down for you.
Camphor is stated as an ingredient at 2.0% of the total volume which means all of the other ingredients listed afterward are at a much smaller percentage of the total volume. This alone gives you a good idea that safe topical application and internal usage of herbal oils for your flock must be drastically diluted. For now, I’ll just figure my calculations on 2% by volume as the maximum concentration.
Given the total volume of 59 ml, the amount of Oil Origanum, aka Oil Oregano, in this bottle should be 1.8 ml or less. For those of you familiar with Essential Oils, this would be the equivalent to nearly 38 drops. This would be WAY too strong! There must be some problem with my figures, right? Not necessarily.
What you need to know is Oil Oregano and Oregano Essential Oil are two very different products. For example, Oil Oregano can be created by steeping a cup or two of fresh Oregano in a cup of carrier oil such as olive oil or vegetable oil (corn oil in this case). The result would be a cup of carrier oil which contains fairly diluted constituents of oregano dispersed throughout.
With Essential Oils, the concentration of oregano properties far exceeds that of Oil Oregano. It takes nearly 1000-1500 pounds of oregano to create 1-2 cups of Oregano Essential Oil…which ironically enough isn’t even an oil.
Essential oils are the pure essence of a plant with absolutely nothing else diluting it down; no carrier oils, no plant fibers, just pure plant extracts which have been steam distilled. This is what makes Essential Oils both extremely effective and potentially dangerous for your flock. They are super concentrated!
Considering the two means of creating both Oil of Oregano and Oregano Essential Oil it’s plain to see that a pure Essential Oil is many times stronger. It is easy to conclude that what is in VetRx is entirely different and beyond comparison to an Essential Oil.
Personally, I have safely used 1 drop of Oregano Essential Oil per 3 gallons of drinking water in their daily water fount. This was furnished throughout the winter with no apparent illness displayed by my birds. I’ve also provided this water to my younger birds, 4 weeks of age or more, as they transitioned from their brooder to the coop.
I have also included Oregano Essential Oil in a topical first aid ointment by combining it with homemade Balm of Giliad to heal a bumblefoot infection (post core removal). Additional Oregano as dried or fresh herbs have also been added to their diet either sprinkled over their food or cooked in scrambled egg treats.
Essence Oils and Chicken Health
Various other herbs and Essential Oils may also be a healthful addition to your coop provided they are diluted sufficiently. Of these I have only tried oregano but I hope to incorporate more of these great oils into my coop as my experience grows.
- Oregano – Immune support, powerful anti-viral, anti-bacterial, anti-parasitic, anti-inflammatory and anti-fungal. Some have even noted its possible use for prevention of avian flu.
- Marjoram – May help stimulate egg laying, can help relieve joint and body discomfort
- Lavender – May help reduce flock stress when added to the coop aromatics, a natural relaxant, great for topical use on burns or scratches
- Basil – May reduce mucus and help with lung or throat infection
- Thyme – Noted to be a great anti-inflammatory, anti-bacterial and anti-fungal, good for use in illness recovery
- Rosemary – Assists with respiratory and various infectious diseases such as throat or lung infection
I don’t expect anyone to instantly run out and install an Essential Oil diffuser inside their coop in order to use Lavender essential oil. The logistics of hooking up a diffuser would be a nightmare at best. However, diffusing via a spray bottle or by simply adding a few drops to a cloth hanging near the center of the coop would be absolutely feasible.
If you decide to add Essential Oils to your flock’s healthcare repertoire, use caution and common sense. Start out in very small amounts with a high dilution ratio. A good ratio would be 1 drop of Essential Oil per teaspoon of carrier oil such as vegetable, olive or coconut oil for topical application. 1 drop per gallon of water (maximum concentration) for drinking water. At any sign of adverse reaction, withdrawal the essential oils immediately or reduce the concentration by half. Avoid the eyes and delicate vent areas of your birds as irritation can occur.
Again, these are only suggestions based on my personal experience. If you are still uncertain, stick with VetRx Poultry. The box includes great directions and their dilution ratio is so large it can be used straight from the bottle for external or internal use.
For more information on essential oils and to find out what I’ve been up to on the farm, visit Dirt On My Plate.