While we reluctantly trudge forward into early Summer, and are making headway with a new chicken yard, our chickens are craving green food. I’ve amped up my foraging efforts to find prolific patches of vitamin-rich sources of nutrition that I can easily pull up and carry over to their current pens.
Tiny pinkish-purple flowers resembling snapdragons are once again spreading around the farm. Purple Deadnettle (Lamium purpureum) trips me up every year! I confuse it with Lyreleaf Sage, but the chickens love it all the same. With its square stem, it’s actually in the mint family; not even related to nettle. It looks a lot like stinging nettle, but thankfully doesn’t sting (thus the “dead” in the deadnettle categorization).
Purple deadnettle is also one that I confuse with Henbit deadnettle (Lamium amplexicaule), but henbit blooms at a different time of year – Winter, I think. Some similarities in color, yes, but to the trained eye, completely different. Purple deadnettle has a triangular shaped leaf whose stalk is attached to the stem’s leaf blade. Henbit deadnettle leaves are small and are scalloped along the leaf edge, and attach directly to the stem. Purple deadnettle has tubular pink flowers and purple- or red-veined leaves near the top; henbit flowers are dark pink and more orchid like.
Only the young leaves of the purple deadnettle are edible. Deadnettle is thought to be an energy booster, and has been brewed as a tea for a fever reducer and mild diuretic.
The chickens happily eat these up, and hummingbirds and honeybees love it too!