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The flower essences movement began in 1930, when Edward Bach, a prominent English homeopathic physician and bacteriologist, walked away from his thriving practice to develop a new healing system. Bach sensed vast, untapped healing energies coursing through flowers, energies that could be extracted through a process he devised.
Between 1930 and 1936, Bach lived in various parts of rural Britain, testing local flowers and perfecting his new medicines. In all, he created and proved 38 Bach flower essences, or remedies, and a five-flower blend he named Rescue Remedy, many of which can be used on your chickens.
Petal to the Mettle
Bach Flower Remedies are still manufactured across the world and are marketed as natural, nontoxic, self-chosen, self-administered, over-the-counter remedies. It’s impossible to overdose using flower essences. They cause no side effects. They’re inexpensive. And, according to many, they’re surprisingly effective.
What isn’t simple is explaining why they work. Practitioners say that water has the ability to hold an etheric imprint of a flower’s vital life force energy and that each species emits a different energy. This life force, they say, the active ingredient in flower essences, has the ability to alter faulty mental and emotional states and physical symptoms caused by stress.
Is it New Age mystical gobbledygook? Depending on your viewpoint, maybe so. Buy a bottle of Bach Rescue Remedy, and see for yourself. For the next few weeks, whenever you’re stressed, drop two drops under your tongue. See how you feel 15 or 20 minutes later.
The same flower essences are used in the same dosages for treating the same quirks, foibles, behavior problems and emotion-based illnesses displayed by any animal, including humans and chickens. To choose which remedies to use, consult a dosing reference; buy a book or check out a reputable website online. If you aren’t intuitive, read the descriptions and choose whichever essences sound best for you or your birds. If you are intuitive, honor your hunches. Select two to five (no more) single essences to combine. Note: In mixtures, Rescue Remedy counts as a single essence.
You can purchase flower essences at vitamin shops, food co-ops and some pharmacies, or order them directly from manufacturers and distributors. The bottles are tiny. Bach remedies come in 1⁄8- and 1⁄4-ounce glass dropper bottles. A 1⁄4-ounce bottle holds 175 drops, so at two to four drops per dose, they go a long way. Stored in a cool, dark place, away from electromagnetic devices such as television sets, microwave ovens and computers, commercially prepared tinctures remain potent for decades.
From these single essence stock bottles, you’ll need to make a dosage bottle. To do that, you’ll need a brown, amber or blue, 1-ounce dropper bottle, which you can purchase from a local pharmacy or online from a flower essence supplier; you can also simply reuse an empty, sterilized herbal tincture bottle. You’ll also need a small, sanitizable funnel; brandy, liquid vegetable glycerin or cider vinegar; and spring, distilled or bottled water — just not straight out of the tap.
To sterilize your dropper bottle, remove the cap and boil it with the bottle and funnel in a glass or enamel-coated pan for 10 minutes. Drain and allow everything to air dry on a clean paper towel.
To prepare the dosage bottle, drop two to four drops of each essence into the clean, dry dosage bottle. Fill it nearly to the brim with water. Add 1 tablespoon of brandy, cider vinegar or glycerin as a preservative. Cap the bottle, and then hammer the bottle against your palm about 100 times to mix it up. That’s it.
A standard dose is two to four drops from the dosage bottle, given four times a day. Most bird owners recommend two drops. Essences can be administered much more frequently, even minutes apart, to address emergencies. Giving more drops at a time doesn’t increase the medicine’s potency nor does adding more drops of stock bottle essence to the dosage bottle; just administer the standard essence more frequently.
Flower essences work quickly when administered as first aid in emergency situations, such as when a chicken has been mauled by a dog and left stunned and battered. For chronic problems, flower essences are generally given no more than five days in a row. If an essence or combination of essences hasn’t worked in that amount of time, they’re probably the wrong essences.
There are several ways to dose a chicken.
- Drop two drops of essence in its mouth or on the tip of its beak. Don’t let the dropper touch skin — its or yours. If it does, when you’re finished, re-sterilize the dropper.
- Add the dose to a smidge of water, and place it in the chicken’s mouth with a disposable syringe.
- Add the dose to the chickens’ water dispenser. If an essence isn’t needed, it won’t have any effect, so it’s safe to add it to water fonts shared by other chickens.
- Add the dose to a cup of water and sponge it on, apply it as a compress to an injury or lightly spritz a chicken using a mister bottle.
- Place the dose on a favorite treat, and feed it to your hen from your hand.
- Massage drops on its comb, wattles, legs, feet or any other exposed skin. You can also add essences to unscented cream, oil or lotion and rub it in.
- You can even dose hostile roosters or hens by squeezing two drops of flower essence into a water-filled household sprayer and shaking and then squirting the chicken from a distance.
Not all of the 38 Bach remedies apply to chicken maladies, but many do. First and foremost is Rescue Remedy, sold under slightly different names by other manufacturers but always a combination of cherry plum, clematis, impatiens, rockrose and star of Bethlehem. Bach created Rescue Remedy to deal with emergencies and crises, when there is no time to stop and select individual remedies. It’s recommended for shock or trauma of any kind and is known to help wounds heal more quickly. It’s said to help egg-bound hens relax and pass stuck eggs.
Here are some of the other popular Bach flower remedies and their indications.
- Aspen is perfect for fearful chickens. It helps restore natural breathing and reduces muscle tension. It’s great for chickens that panic when handled for wing clipping or parasite dusting and can quickly comfort a bird you find cowering or trembling, with a frightened look in its eyes.
- Centaury helps chickens at the bottom of the pecking order deal with bossy, pecky hens in the flock. It’s also indicated for tired and weak chickens recovering from illness or injury. It combines especially well with olive as a strengthener for convalescing chickens.
- Cherry Plum, a component in Rescue Remedy, can sooth flighty chickens prior to, during and after shipping or shows, when they may go berserk when taken into new environments or handled by strangers, or for any other bird in a frenzied state.
- Gentian can strengthen a lethargic and depressed chicken recovering from injury or illness, especially one that has given up and refuse to eat. Gorse is another remedy in this situation, as it boosts endurance and vitality.
- Holly is the remedy for prickly hens that pecks your hand when collecting eggs or an ornery rooster that chases your kids.
- Oak is the prime remedy for sick chickens fighting to survive and for exhausted, worn-out hens you might rescue from a battery hen situation. It combines well with olive when treating cases of illness and exhaustion.
- Olive remedies deep emotional and physical fatigue. It restores strength and the ability to heal. It’s especially useful for treating predator-mauled chickens that are on the verge of giving up.
- Rockrose, another component in Rescue Remedy, is the best single remedy for chickens in the throes of deep panic and terror. It, or Rescue Remedy, is your first line of defense for treating survivors of a recent predator attack.
- Star of Bethlehem is yet another component of Rescue Remedy used to restore mental, emotional and physical calmness. It eases the shock associated with intense emotional or physical pain.
- Walnut helps chickens adapt to change, be it adapting to a new home or a new coop or changes in diet or routine. It’s especially useful before or after long journeys caused by shipping or participation in shows.
- Wild Rose boosts life force and imparts the will to live in critical situations when a chicken appears to be giving up and its body is cold. It’s the remedy of choice for chronically sad, bored or apathetic chickens and for use during long-term debilitating illnesses.
If you investigate only one natural healing modality for yourself, your family, your pets or your chickens, make it flower essences. The system is easy to learn, and with flower essences, you can do no harm. Get a bottle of Rescue Remedy, and use it a few drops at a time direct from the stock bottle. Try it when you’re nervous, when your dog trembles during thunderstorms or the flock pecks your favorite, but low-in-the-pecking-order, hen. You might be surprised.
In 2007, Complementary Health Practice Review published the results of a double-blind clinical trial of Rescue Remedy conducted by researchers at the Miami School of Nursing in conjunction with The Sirkin Creative Living Center. Researchers gave 111 individuals between the ages of 18 and 49 a standard dose of Rescue Remedy or a placebo, administering the Spielberger State-Trait Anxiety Inventory, a standard means to evaluate anxiety, before and after the use of Rescue Remedy or a placebo. Their findings: “Statistical analyses indicated that only the high-state anxiety treatment subgroup demonstrated a statistically significant difference between pretest and posttest scores. The results suggest that BFE Rescue Remedy may be effective in reducing high levels of situational anxiety.”
Seeds of Wisdom
- Bach Flower Remedies for Animals (1999) by Helen Graham and Gregory Vlamis
- The Bach Center
- Bach Flowers (Bach’s original business)
- Bach Flower Education
- “Choosing Flower Essences – an Assessment Guide“
Your Best Vet
The information in the Holistic Henhouse column is not intended or implied to be a substitute for professional veterinarian advice, diagnosis or treatment. Natural and holistic care has its place in the coop, but don’t forget about your vet. There may be times when the care you are administering just doesn’t seem to be working and you should consult a professional.
This story originally appeared in the September/October 2017 issue of Chickens magazine.