Chicken keepers know that taking care of your flock is truly a full-time job. Even when you allow your chickens to free-range, you’ve got to make sure they have water, stay disease-free, and don’t get into anything that might be harmful for them.
All this on top of ensuring that they get all of the nutrients and supplements they need to stay healthy, and especially produce plenty of high-quality eggs.
One supplement that can help in all of those regards is simple, wholesome apple cider vinegar.
But too much can be harmful. So how much apple cider vinegar should you give to your chickens?
One tablespoon per gallon of water is a good ratio for giving apple cider vinegar to your chickens. This ratio ensures it will get maximum benefit with very little risk of getting too much.
This isn’t just internet hype: apple cider vinegar really can do a lot for your chickens, but it’s imperative that you give it to them in the correct ratio if you want to avoid harm while still getting maximum benefit.
Keep reading and I’ll tell you what you need to know…
What Will Apple Cider Vinegar Do For My Birds?
Apple cider vinegar has a surprisingly good array of benefits for chickens. For starters, it gives it chickens a little bit of extra nutrition in the form of vitamins and minerals that they need.
It’s a particularly good source of calcium which, as you know, is essential for laying hens.
If you want lots of eggs with thick and healthy eggshells, this is a wonderful supplement for your hard-working girls.
It is also a proven immune-system booster, as numerous studies have shown.
The organic kind of ACV also has beneficial bacteria and yeasts (a visible cloudy sediment know as “the mother”) which can improve the gut ecosystem of your chickens.
This will allow your birds them to make better use of nutrients they get from all sources, not just the vinegar, and that will translate into better health and vitality overall.
Even better, ACV has similarly proven antimicrobial and antiparasitic (specifically coccidiosis) properties, and can keep germs out of the water and also help keep your chickens safe against worms and other parasites that might take up residence in their stomach or intestinal tract.
Some owners even swear that it seems to have a deterrent effect against mites, fleas and external parasites.
Lastly, thanks to all these gut benefits, it is known to significantly reduce the odor of your chickens’ droppings.
This will certainly make you happier, and it can also keep your chickens happier by keeping the coop and other areas they inhabit just a little bit nicer.
Lots of benefits for something that is so cheap and widely available!
Caution: Don’t Add ACV to Plastic Waterers
There’s one thing you need to know. I caution you against adding apple cider vinegar to any plastic water container, whatever kind it is.
Apple cider vinegar is pretty acidic, and that can cause problems with plastic by potentially softening and deforming the plastic or even leaching harmful chemicals out of it and into the water.
Although the ACV is going to be seriously diluted by the water, this cannot be ruled out and especially in conjunction with sunlight it might be enough to significantly weaken the structural integrity of the container.
I know plenty of chicken owners have done this and reported no problems whatsoever, but this is one thing I’m wary of, and I think you should be too.
Apple Cider Vinegar Ratio Per Gallon of Water
The formula for adding apple cider vinegar to your chickens’ water is super simple and easy to remember:
Add one tablespoon of ACV to every gallon of water in the chickens’ water supply. Stir well, and you’re all set.
You’ll probably notice that your chickens are more than happy to drink up when you add a little bit of vinegar.
I think it’s got something to do with the taste, but everyone that I know reports that their chickens are even more eager to get at their water once they start adding the vinegar to it.
In any case, that’s only a good thing for you…
What if Your Chickens Have Their Own Water Supply?
You’ll need to do a little bit of math if your chickens have a small, individual water supply; in case they’re in quarantine or if you keep them in separate cages or crates for whatever reason.
For smaller quantities of water, the ratio is about 3 ml per liter of water. Alternately, that’s a little less than one teaspoon per liter.
You can also mix up a larger batch as described in the preceding section, and then fill or dip the smaller waterers out of that if you want to be sure.
Remember: The Ratio of ACV to Water is Important!
Something I must impress upon you is that the ratio of apple cider vinegar to water is critically important if you want to keep your chickens healthy and avoid hurting them.
Don’t make the mistake of adding apple cider vinegar to your chickens’ water based on its capacity, and not the actual amount of water already in it. If you do that, one of two things will happen.
Either the apple cider vinegar will be diluted even further, reducing the benefits for your chickens, or you’ll have way too much apple cider vinegar in the water which is where it will start to cause injury.
Similarly, some people add apple cider vinegar to the water based on the number of chickens that they have, and not the amount of water in the water.
This, I think, is a mistake: if you aren’t adding ACV to a given quantity of water, your chickens will likewise be getting too much or too little depending on how much water there is.
Yes, if you have more chickens you’ll need to have more water on hand and freely available, but you should add the apple cider vinegar to a known quantity of water in the prescribed ratio, too.
Be Cautious of Giving Your Chickens Too Much Apple Cider Vinegar
Even though it contains lots of calcium, too much apple cider vinegar can have the opposite effect on eggshells because it is so acidic.
This can lead to thin, deformed or even entirely absent eggshells and that can cause potentially fatal complications for the poor hen.
That’s bad enough, but you also have to contend with the disruption of gut flora and potentially crop problems too.
As with so many things, the right amount is helpful, but too much is harmful or even deadly! Never give your chickens straight apple cider vinegar, and don’t make the solution too strong.
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.