This picture contains my greatest passion and my latest passion. Before I start, I should say that it's illegal, both here in the US and in the UK for herbalists to treat animals. However when the animals are yours, one of them is sick and you're concerned for the wellbeing of the others, any herbalist is going to do what they can.
The chickens came to live with us about 6 weeks ago, and soon after, one of them started coughing, sneezing and wheezing. I consulted Doctor Google and discovered the alarming range of diseases that chickens get. I pestered everyone I know who has chickens for more info, I asked at the feed store and I even called out the vet at a cost equivalent to approximately 120 eggs! I didn't want to give the girls antibiotics, partly because I want to eat their eggs, but also because nothing pointed to it being a bacterial infection and I care deeply about overuse of antibiotics. Everything suggested that poor Wheezy (as we rather cruelly named her, my son insisted we change it to Rosie, but it has kind of stuck), had a cold. A pretty standard viral infection.
I give elderberry (amongst other things) to people with viruses, so why not try the same with the chickens? Animals can react differently to plants than humans - for example avocado is poisonous to chickens - so I checked every source I could to make sure they'd be safe and started cautiously. I started giving them a handful of dried berries, soaked overnight in a little water and mixed with handful of scratch most days. It was interesting to notice how the sick chicken seemed particularly keen on them. And this week? Well, I hope I'm not speaking too soon, but Wheezy/Rosie laid an egg this week (and I think may have gifted us with another today), her comb has returned to a nice bright red (from the pale blotchy thing it was a week or two ago) and she's definitely coughing and sneezing less...
Bodies are amazing things, and it's possible she would have simply got better on her own, but I'm keeping on with the elderberries - lots of new evidence backs up their efficacy for viral infections and, apart from anything else they're a good source of Vitamin C. And, as you can see from my picture, my rather picky chicks absolutely love them!