If you own chickens, it goes without saying that you probably have a serious interest in keeping them as healthy as possible.
For the well-being of the birds themselves, of course, but also so they can stay productive for your purposes, whether you want eggs or meat.
Accordingly, anything you can do to increase their overall health and do so safely with minimal risk of side effects is in your best interest.
Lately, one really hot topic concerning the health of chickens is in supplementing their diet with apple cider vinegar.
Some chicken keepers claim it’s fantastic, others say it is bunk. What’s the truth? Spoiler alert: it definitely has legitimate advantages!
Keep reading and I’ll tell you about 9 of them…
1. Safely Cleaning Up the Chicken Coop
The first and, in my mind, best use for apple cider vinegar is one of the most mundane. However, it’s no less useful!
Apple cider vinegar is my very favorite cleaning agent when the time comes to clean up, disinfect and deodorize the chicken coop.
That’s because it’s completely safe to use for the purpose, and leaves no harmful residues that can poison my birds or, just as importantly, hurt me!
Yes, intense ACV fumes could sting the eyes and crinkle the nose a little bit, but nothing more than that.
On the other hand, it has been proven to have legitimate bacteria-killing properties and this makes it a wonderful, natural and safe cleaner for the coop.
Scrub it down with ACV, rinse well with water, let it dry thoroughly and you are good to go.
2. Jump-starting Egg Production in Young Hens
One of the most commonly reported benefits concerning apple cider vinegar with chickens is as a boost to the egg-laying productivity of hens.
I’ll tell you, frankly, this is somewhat overstated in my experience, but that being said, there’s evidence to suggest that apple cider vinegar provides a definitive jumpstart, if you will, to the egg production of young hens.
If you supplement the water of young hens that are around 26 or 27 weeks old with apple cider vinegar, you’ll find that they start laying eggs earlier and they will lay them more often.
However, this benefit is not realized in chickens that are younger or older by very much.
This isn’t conjecture, either: a study published in the 2005 edition of Poultry International confirmed it!
If you want to get your hens off on the right start this is a great use for apple cider vinegar.
3. Digestive Aid
Apple cider vinegar is also a remarkably good digestive aid for chickens, one that will help keep their intestinal tract healthy and allow them to make maximum use of nutrients they get from all other sources.
Intern, this makes it great for improving the overall health of chickens.
All the foods that they eat, whether we provide them or not, have a nutritional value but there are only getting full value from it if they can extract all the nutrients from the food.
So in a way, ACV is sort of a catalyst that ensures your chickens make the best possible use of the minerals and vitamins in their diet.
These effects are most pronounced in the first month of life, but that’s okay because these are some of the most critical weeks of a chicken’s life when it comes to determining their overall health.
And, once again, although this benefit is contentious, we can finally put it to rest thanks to a study published in the Journal of Veterinary and Medical Science in 2021.
4. Probiotic Booster
Another gut health benefit, and one that is touted for people as well as chickens, is ACV’s tendency to improve the balance of beneficial gut flora.
This is a benefit with many far-reaching implications…
Yes, chickens need healthy gut bacteria in order to maximize digestion in the uptake of nutrients, but a healthy gut ecosystem also helps to prevent various illnesses.
In short, whenever there is an imbalance of good gut bacteria, that often allows room for bad bacteria, parasites and other harmful microorganisms to run amok.
This in turn will put stress on chickens which will usually reduce their appetite in conjunction with reducing the value of nutrition that they can extract from the food.
This leads to a sort of vicious cycle where chickens can no longer get the resources they need to fight off the imbalance.
Putting a little bit of apple cider vinegar in their water a couple of times a week can help keep their gut flora properly balanced and healthy which is essential for their overall health.
5. Coccidiosis Prevention
Coccidiosis is one of the worst and nastiest parasitic diseases that chickens can catch. It is caused by nasty little critters called protozoa, which are single-celled eukaryotes.
I’ll skip the science lecture and only tell you what you need to know, but I warn you that it is pretty gruesome: Coccidiosis results in severe diarrhea, diarrhea which often turns bloody as the infestation progresses.
If chicks or young chickens contract the disease, it’s typically fatal.
Those birds that survive may be so ravaged by it that their digestive tract is never the same and they will be affected permanently.
Seriously bad news, and the scourge, literally, of many flocks. The good news is that, believe it or not, apple cider vinegar has proven to be a highly effective preventative!
This is actually been intensely studied on multiple occasions, and chickens that receive ACV in their drinking water routinely show far less susceptibility and fewer signs of parasite transmission in their feces.
If you give your chickens apple cider vinegar for no other reason, do it to spare them this terrible fate!
Check out the Polish Journal of Veterinary Sciences for info, but also be aware that ACV is not a silver bullet against this disease.
6. Boosted Immune System Performance
Chickens that get apple cider vinegar regularly in their water so increased immune system performance overall, and generally lower harmful bacteria counts during routine testing.
This means lower rates and severity of illness, and healthier, faster-growing chickens overall.
This is obviously a benefit no matter why you are keeping chickens and what breed they are!
Now, this isn’t to say that apple cider vinegar is a total replacement for medications or it is the wonder cure that so many people have made it out to be; it isn’t, but it is an all-natural, safe and well understood supplement that can boost the wellness of your chickens dramatically overall.
And, not for nothing, it can do this literally for pennies! Your chickens deserve it, and so do you.
7. Promotes Drinking
This is another contentious advantage of supplementing the diet of your chickens with ACV.
In fact, this is one benefit that I can’t find any real scientific evidence for. However, there’s too much anecdotal evidence for me to ignore.
And as far as I’m concerned, once you start piling up enough consistent anecdotes from people who actually own and care for chickens, I think it is safe to say that they are on to something.
It seems that apple cider vinegar actually promotes hydration in chickens by causing them to drink water more often when you add it to their water.
Some people claim that this is because chickens like the taste of apple cider vinegar, but I think it’s just too hard to say considering how diluted it typically is when you put it in their waterer.
That being said, tons of chicken keepers I know consistently report that their chickens drink more water more often.
Proper hydration is likewise essential to good health, especially during hot weather!
As far as I’m concerned, that is a real benefit, not a fringe one! Just another way that your chickens can benefit from ACV.
8. Less Offensive Poop Odor
For some of us, this might be one of the most significant benefits for our flock, and our sanity, offered by apple cider vinegar.
Long story short, the combination of a healthier gut, coccidiosis prevention, and the neutralization of harmful bacteria means that the poop your chickens constantly crank out will be less smelly overall.
I know; it sounds too good to be true, and to be clear it will never smell like roses, but once again, it seems like the chicken keeper collective is on to something here.
I looked high and low and was unable to find proper, vetted scientific verification of this benefit, but I did find loads and loads of chicken keepers just like you and me, many with plenty of experience, that would attest to a reduction in fecal odor from their flock.
Now, if you wanted to get really technical, you might chalk this up to the net health improvements I listed above, improvements that might be gained in other ways besides apple cider vinegar.
But where I’m from, if you administer something, get benefits from that, and those benefits have secondary benefits, we’d say that the thing you administered was responsible!
Accordingly, as far as I’m concerned, apple cider vinegar will help keep things just a little bit fresher in your yard.
9. Overall Parasite Reduction
So, we already know that apple cider vinegar helps to get rid of the nasty little protozoan critters that cause coccidiosis. Those are parasites, so why are we here again?
Well, once more I’ve seen plenty of stories from vetted, experienced chicken keepers who report that regular administrations of ACV help to keep their chickens safe from parasites generally, not just from the ones that cause coccidiosis.
Here we’re talking about things like intestinal worms, various mites and things like that. Why is this?
Again it’s a little bit hard to say because we don’t have hard scientific evidence. But once again, I’ve heard from enough people that I feel confident saying as much myself.
Maybe all of the net, known health improvements that can be attributed to apple cider vinegar make chickens simply more resistant to parasite infestation overall.
Maybe there is an as-of-yet unknown direct correlation to the reduction of other parasites thanks to ACV.
Whatever the case, once again it seems that we have this stuff to thank for keeping our chickens happy and healthy.
Caution: Too Much Apple Cider Vinegar Can be Harmful
As with most things that are beneficial, too much of a good thing can be harmful. This is definitely the case for apple cider vinegar.
Apple cider vinegar is potently acidic, and accordingly you need to make sure that your chickens are only getting it in the appropriate doses or else it will cause harm.
The best and easiest way to administer this to your chickens is in their water, and generally you’ll only want to use between 15ml and 20ml per liter of water.
If you don’t want to bust out the pipettes, that’s about four to five tablespoons per gallon.
Giving your chickens too much apple cider vinegar can actually make them sick by disrupting their gut flora, and in the case of your girls that lay eggs, it can result in soft or even entirely absent eggshells! A little will do, don’t worry.
Another thing to consider is that you don’t want to add a strong solution to their waterer: it could potentially degrade plastic, or react negatively with metal causing corrosion or leaching harmful elements into the water itself.
Tom has lived and worked on farms and homesteads from the Carolinas to Kentucky and beyond. He is passionate about helping people prepare for tough times by embracing lifestyles of self-sufficiency.