Essential Oils for Layers and Chickens: The natural approach (backed by science) to flock health and productivity.

Essential Oils for Layers and Chickens: The natural approach (backed by science) to flock health and productivity.

With permission of Ms. Sue Sengerde Rose Hill Farm

Around the world, there is growing concern about antibiotic-resistant strains of bacteria and the generation of superbugs resulting from the overuse of antibiotics, both in the medical and livestock fields. The mathematics of the situation for livestock is fairly simple. The more animals you cram into tight spaces, under stress, with minimal inputs to maximize profits, the more likely you are to experience disease and health problems in the animals.

This is why many people are turning to keeping and raising their own chickens as a way to ensure high quality eggs and/or meat, and better welfare for the animals involved. But small-scale production does not eliminate the risks inherent in raising poultry, which include exposure to pathogens such as E. coli, Salmonella and Listeria, to name a few.

Wouldn’t it be great if there was a natural way to treat these potentially deadly pathogens?

It turns out that researchers have been asking this question as well. Studies have focused on the use of plant-based essential oils in chicken production. The goal is to determine if these compounds can work effectively to improve productivity while eliminating the risk of developing chemical resistance.

My curiosity was piqued because I had read a few articles about the use of herbs and essential oils for chickens and wanted to dig into the topic to make sure it wasn’t just about making the coop smell fresher! As I dove into the research, I realized that essential oils can be an indispensable tool for small farmers to improve their flocks and increase the quality of their meat and eggs.

If you’ve ever wondered if essential oils are really worth it, keep reading! I’ve put together some of the latest research findings that may help you shed light on this intriguing approach to chicken management.

Which essential oils are safe for chickens?

There are at least 20 essential oils currently used in chicken (poultry) production that are considered safe. According to a 2017 review published in the Annals of Animal Science, these essential oils are used for many different purposes that may include improving growth rates, better feed conversion, improved immunity and health, and as cleaning agents (2). Essential oils can also be used in many different applications, for example as a feed additive, drinking water additive, topical treatment (e.g., against lice or mites), or as cleaning agents for incubators, poultry houses, and butchering facilities.

The 20 most used essential oils in the production of poultry, hens and chickens

Essential oil
Botanical name


Matricaria chamomilla


Cinnamomum zeylanicum

Clou de girofle

Syzygium aromaticum


Eucalyptus sp.


Foeniculum vulgare


Allium sativum


Zingiber officinale


Lavandula angustifolia


Melissa officinalis


Artemisia vulgaris


Allium cepa


Citrus sinensis


Origanum vulgare

Menthe poivrée

Mentha piperita


Rosmarinus officinalis


Salvia officinalis


Satureja montana

Arbre à thé

Melaleuca alternifolia


Curcuma longa


Thymus vulgaris

Source : Utilisation d’huiles essentielles dans la production de poulets de chair – une étude

Ann. Anim. Sci., Vol. 17, No. 2 (2017) 317-335 DOI : 10.1515/aoas-2016-0046

How much should you use?

Always be sure to follow the dosages recommended by experienced practitioners, or start small if you are experimenting with essential oils on your own. If in doubt, consult a veterinarian or animal health professional. The information in this article is intended to inform you of the latest scientific advances in essential oils, and is not intended to diagnose or treat poultry, livestock or people.

Always remember that with essential oils, a small amount of oil is very effective. This means that adding more essential oils or increasing the concentration of the final solution may NOT result in better performance or health for your birds.

This is especially true when essential oils are used as feed additives. While small amounts can aid digestion and improve feed conversion rates for weight gain, excessive amounts can irritate sensitive mucous membranes of birds, especially chicks, and can lead to the opposite result (i.e., decreased feed intake and utilization) (3).

Never apply undiluted essential oils to a hen or to a surface with which the bird will be in direct contact. Essential oils should always be diluted for maximum effectiveness. As a general rule, the essential oil should be between 0.5 and 2% of the final mixture, although dilutions as low as 0.02% may still have biological activity in some of the oils (2).

Typically, the essential oil is mixed with a small amount of neutral carrier oil, such as olive oil, sunflower oil, or canola oil, and then further diluted with water or other liquids to significantly reduce the concentration of the essential oil.

The most important message to remember here is that essential oils work best in small amounts. Tiny amounts. This means diluting the essential oil in a carrier oil first, then using that dilution in drinking water or food. Essential oils are too potent to be used directly.

The biological activity of essential oils

Quality essential oils are reactive in the body and are as effective or more effective than many antibiotics and drugs when applied to poultry production (1). For this reason, the poultry industry has become interested in using essential oils as an alternative to other chemical interventions that often have serious side effects, such as the development of antibiotic-resistant bacterial strains.

Pathogenic organisms, yeasts, fungi, bacteria and parasites are unlikely to develop resistance to plant-based essential oils (2). Because these compounds are considered safe and natural, there is no withdrawal period for their use in poultry (2). However, some essential oils (especially those from garlic and onion) affect the flavor of meat and eggs and may require a rest period if these flavors are deemed undesirable.

How are essential oils used for chickens?

Essential oils can be used to specifically target pathogens such as bacteria, viruses and parasites in poultry. This is amazing news for the small-scale producer!

In fact, essential oils can be used effectively against some of the most feared pathogens in chicken production, such as E. coli, Listeria, Salmonella, Streptococcus, and coccidiosis (caused by one of the seven Eimeria pathogen species).

The table below provides a visual representation of essential oils that are biologically active against pathogens that affect chickens, based on the tables in the 2017 review article (2).

Unlike drugs or antibiotics, essential oils can be used to control molds, fungi, bacteria, and viruses without requiring a withdrawal period prior to meat or egg use (2, 3).

Twelve main poultry pathogens treatable by essential oils (the table has kept the names of the pathogens and EOs in English)


Essential oils
Aspergillus niger

Eucalyptus, oregano

Bacillus cereus

Rosemary; Sage

Bacillus subtilis

Oregano; Rosemary; Sage; Thyme

Candida albicans (yeast)

Eucalyptus; Garlic; Oregano; Thyme


Oregano; Thyme

Enterobacter cloacae

Eucalyptus; Garlic; Oregano; Thyme

Enterobacter faecalis


E. coli

Oregano; Peppermint; Rosemary; Thyme

Listeria monocytogenes

Oregano; peppermint; rosemary; thyme

Pseudomonas aeruginosa

Peppermint; Thyme

Salmonella sp.

Eucalyptus; garlic; oregano; peppermint; rosemary; sage; tea tree; thyme.

Staphylococcus aureus

Eucalyptus; garlic; oregano; peppermint; rosemary; sage; tea tree; thyme.

Sources: (1) (2); Rosemary; Sage; Thyme


Image par Gerd Altmann

And the science says…

Essential oils for chickens are not only used to make your coop smell fresh or to provide relaxing aromatherapy for your laying hens. These oils have been shown experimentally to improve flock performance, productivity and health.

A 2013 controlled study showed that a combination of essential oils (which included eucalyptus, thyme, and lemon) administered in drinking water at 0.05% essential oils significantly reduced salmonella contamination of bird crops. This resulted in less cross-contamination during the slaughter and butchering processes as well.

A 2014 study showed that the addition of 0.5 g of thyme essential oil per kg of feed significantly boosted immunoglobulin A (IgA) in poultry. IgA is an important molecule in the immune system that helps ward off disease. Thus, thyme helps boost the chicken immune system and reduce the effects of pathogen exposure.

A 2018 review of essential oil use in poultry reports that thyme essential oil supplementation in the diet reduces fatty acid oxidation in chicken meat and eggs, resulting in longer shelf life. Thyme, oregano, rosemary and sage essential oils all show this antioxidant effect when used in poultry feed, either as feed or drinking water additives. To put it more clearly: this means that by feeding thyme oil to chickens in their feed or water, the resulting poultry products have a longer shelf life.

The same 2018 review also noted multiple studies that showed improved weight gain and feed conversion ratios when essential oils were included in broiler diets (3). The mechanism for this change is thought to involve improved digestive enzyme activity and stabilization of the gut microflora.

Essential oils, including thyme and peppermint, but also others such as eucalyptus, tea tree and citrus, are used to disinfect poultry houses and equipment. These oils improve the quality of meat and egg products by minimizing pathogen contamination (2, 3).

A 2019 study using a mixture of oregano essential oil and thyme oil showed that broilers significantly increased their weight on day 28 of the study compared to the control group, with final weight being 4.5% higher in treated birds. This study showed a significant change in gut microorganisms, and another follow-up study from 2020 showed significant changes in cecal microorganisms. These changes affect the way hens digest feed and lead to improvements in growth.

The sweet smell of success

Essential oils offer an attractive alternative to the use of antibiotics and harsh chemicals in meat and egg production. All of the articles I’ve read call for more research into the factors that improve the success rate of essential oils and determine appropriate application rates.

Too often, small-scale producers are excluded from industry advances because of the cost of implementing changes. However, essential oils are within the reach of any scale of chicken production and offer hope for improved animal care along with improved productivity. This is a win for both the hens and the farmers.

It is in this vision of progress that Poules en Ville and DCL Animal Nutrition have joined their efforts to offer you a new line of products based on essential oils. The Chick’N Swell range offers a perfect solution to support and maintain the best health of your poultry.

Essential oils used in poultry production







Tea tree


Aspergillus niger

Références :

Source : Utilisation des huiles essentielles dans la production de poulets de chair – une revue Ann. Anim. Sci., Vol. 17, No. 2 (2017) 317-335 DOI : 10.1515/aoas-2016-0046
Source : Utilisation des huiles essentielles dans la nutrition des volailles : Une nouvelle approche J. Adv. Vet. Anim. Res., 1(4) : 156-162 DOI : 10.5455/javar.2014.a36
Liste des micro-organismes : normale, pathogène%20dans%20la%20 volaille%2C%20surtout%20les%20brocheurs.,malaise%2C%20maladie%2C%20et%20mortalité.éventail,ou%20septicémie%20et%20mortalité.&text=Listeriose%20chez%20les%20oiseaux%20causée%20par%20la%20bactérie%20Listeria%20monocytogenes.
Traduction et adaptation de Louise Arbour

Avec autorisation de traduction de Mme Sue Senger de Rose Hill Farm

Essential Oils for Chickens: The (Science-Backed) Natural Approach For Flock Health and Productivity



Poules en Ville’s mission is to educate the population on the safe keeping of laying hens in urban areas through training, conferences, webinars, and the author of the book: Des Poules dans ma Cour. Poules en Ville sells products such as a pre-assembled hen house, automatic door, products and accessories. Poules en Ville assists, accompanies and supports citizens in legalizing and supervising the keeping of chickens in their cities.

Chick’N Swell™ offers a line of natural essential oil products specifically developed for the maintenance of overall good health in chickens.

Moisturizes and helps maintain overall good health
Supports immunity
Contributes to the quality of eggshells
Promotes digestive health

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