Elderberry (Sambucus nigra
) is a large shrub or small tree which is known for its abundant clusters of dark blue-purple berries and showy white flowers. Elderberries have been used for centuries by many different cultures for its antiviral properties, and use with treatment of flu and flu-like symptoms. Elderberry contains several chemical components of importance, with a high content of antiviral flavonoid anthocyanins. It is also rich in cyanidin, kaempferol, myricetin, dihydromyricetin, and quercetin derivatives.
The Chemistry of Elderberries Infographic by CompoundChem.com
Elderberry is thought to contain chemicals useful for preventing and treating avian influenza virus and infectious bronchitis virus (IBV) in chickens. A research study conducted on chickens in 2014 revealed evidence that elderberry berry and seed extract can inhibit IBV early in the course of the infection.
Elderberry flowers have traditionally been used for treatment of skin inflammations in humans, and used topically in creams and ointments. Lisa from Fresh Eggs Daily blog claims that she elderberry blossoms are an edible flower safe to be given to chickens.
The authors of The Practical Herbalist blog claim they feed their chickens elderberry supplements when "the cold autumn weather comes in." They recommend to, "Add a few dried elderberries to the feed dish when conditions grow damp or if your bird starts to look listless."
Caution - Potential Toxicity
Elderberry leaves, stems, roots and immature fruit are capable of producing large amounts of cyanide (a deadly toxin). Also, chickens should not be given large quantities of the berries to snack on either---as even when mature, S. nigra
contains an assortment of active ingredients, which if ingested in large quantities, can be toxic to poultry.