There are many treats we can give to our chickens to provide them with a tasty snack while also supplementing their regular diets, but there are other foods we shouldn’t let them have – so which category does mint belong to?
If you have mint growing in your garden or perhaps just have some left after making a meal or a round or mojitos, you might be thinking about feeding it to your flock – so to help you understand if this is ok, in this post, we answer the question, can chickens eat mint?
Can Chickens Eat Mint? The short answer
Before we get to the details of this discussion, let’s start with a simple answer.
Can chickens eat mint? Yes, they can.
If your chickens like eating mint, it won’t do them any harm, and it may even do them some good medicinally or nutritionally.
However, while some people sing the praises of herbs like mint, claiming they can do wonders for chickens’ health and egg-laying productivity, others contend that mint has no real value for their poultry.
So to look at both sides of this debate, let’s jump in and look at feeding mint to chickens in more detail.
Is mint good for chickens?
The first thing we need to know about giving chickens mint is whether it has any nutritional value for them.
Mint is known to contain a good proportion of vitamin C as well as some vitamin B6. It also contains the important minerals calcium, magnesium and iron.
Furthermore, by weight, it is also a good source of dietary fiber, and it contains some protein too.
However, neither chickens nor humans are ever likely to consume enough mint to make the amounts of these nutrients particularly significant, so while it can contribute in some small way to a healthy, balanced diet, the role it plays will only ever be very minor.
But mint is not only consumed for its nutritional value – it has long been used by people for its supposed medicinal properties, so what medicinal benefits might mint bring to chickens?
Since ancient times, mint has been used to treat stomach pains and indigestion (in humans), and there is some evidence that it has certain anti-inflammatory properties as well as the ability to help with muscle relaxation.
Mint is also thought to contain antioxidants, and it also has supposed antibacterial properties, so it may be an effective weapon against harmful microbes.
Some people also claim that mint can help calm chickens down, especially during the egg-laying process.
However, few – if any – of the claimed medicinal properties have been proven, so giving your hens mint on these grounds is more a case of what you believe rather than anything grounded in hard science.
Do chickens like mint?
But even if mint has little effect on chickens nutritional or medicinally, do they even like it?
The answer to this question is that it depends on your chickens, but in general, chickens seem to prefer to eat other foods first if they are available – although they might eat mint if they are hungry and have nothing else to peck at.
That said, chickens have different tastes, just like people, so if you find your birds develop a taste for mint, there’s no reason to deprive them of a tasty treat they enjoy.
Should you feed mint to chickens?
So we’ve established that you can feed mint to your chickens, but are there any strong reasons why you should?
In short, not really – or perhaps maybe.
In the quantities that chickens would eat mint, they won’t be gaining any huge nutritional benefits from it, and the medicinal benefits haven’t been conclusively proven by science.
However, if you believe that mint is good for your chickens – in the same way some people believe mint or certain other herbs are good for us – there’s no reason you shouldn’t slip a bit of mint into your chickens’ feed to see what they make of it.
This might be more in the realms of alternative medicine for chickens, but if you have lots of mint and don’t know what to do with it, there’s no problem with feeding some to your birds because at least it won’t do them any harm.
Beyond this, one other possible advantage is that a bit of mint can vary the taste of the foods they eat.
Like us, chickens can get bored, so by giving them some new flavors to sample, it might give them a little something to help keep their lives interesting and fight the monotony of coop life.
How can you feed mint to your chickens?
You’ve decided you want to give mint to your chickens – but how should you go about it?
If they want it, chickens can eat any part of the mint plant since none of it is toxic to them, so you can just throw it into their run, stalks and all, and see if they like pecking at it.
If this doesn’t work, and you’re determined to get them to “take their medicine” and eat some mint, you might try chopping some up and mixing it in with some other fruit or vegetable treats you give them.
That way, even if they turn their beaks up at mint on its own, they might eat some when it’s mixed with other food.
You can also try mixing a few leaves into their water to give the water a cool, refreshing taste while also delivering some of the supposed goodness mint contains.
However, if you do this, always make sure you provide some un-minty water for those that don’t like it to ensure they don’t become dehydrated – and remove the water with leaves and change it at least once every two days.
Feed treats to chickens in moderation
When supplementing your chickens’ regular feed, treats should never make up more than 10% of their overall diet.
Chickens’ regular feed should make up 90% of what they eat since it is specially formulated to meet all their specific dietary needs.
However, if you feed them too many treats, they may begin to neglect their regular feed in favor of the treats, and as a result, they may miss out on some of the vital nutrients they require.
If we’re talking about mint, though, it would be impossible for this herb to make up more than 10% of a chicken’s overall diet, and even if they eat some, it’s likely to constitute only a tiny fraction of everything they eat.
That said, it’s still worth remembering that mint and all the other treats you give your chickens should never exceed 10%, and if you stick to this rule, you will ensure your birds always receive all the nutrients they require.
Are there any other reasons to grow mint around your birds?
Other than feeding it to chickens, are there any other uses for mint around your birds?
As it turns out, there are, although even these are debated.
Many people claim that mint acts as a natural bug repellent as well as a rodent repellent, but the evidence here is also not conclusive.
However, mint won’t keep them all away, and some will happily ignore it – so you should use mint alongside other anti-bug strategies you have rather than instead of them.
Similarly, some rodents might not like the smell of mint, but others just won’t care. So while it might help keep some rats or mice away from your chicken coop, you shouldn’t rely on this method alone.
However, there is one thing mint is great for and that’s providing shade for your chickens.
Mint is an extremely hardy perennial plant that grows quickly when the weather starts to warm up in spring.
This means that by the time the hottest months of summer arrive, your free-ranging chickens will have somewhere to shelter from the rays of the sun.
Since mint won’t harm your chickens, you don’t need to worry about them pecking at it – and as mint is almost indestructible, it will just grow back if they dig it all up.
And just to clear up one more thing – if chickens eat mint, does it make the eggs taste minty?
No, it doesn’t. Or at least it shouldn’t. It’s possible that if you insisted on feeding your chickens a huge amount of mint all the time, it may have some effect on their eggs.
However, most chickens will consume no more than a few mint leaves each week, so if you don’t want minty eggs, you’ve probably got nothing to worry about.
Chickens can eat mint if they like it and you want to feed it to them
If your chickens like mint and you want to give it to them, there’s nothing to stop you since it won’t do them any harm – and there is a possibility that it may even have some benefits for their health.
The scientific evidence for this is not particularly strong, however, so in the end, it just comes down to personal choice and beliefs.