Apple cider vinegar (ACV) is a folk remedy that is said to improve overall wellness and cure a variety of human diseases from arthritis to mental exhaustion. ACV is also said to improve overall poultry health and there are now many sources on the Internet that promote adding ACV to your chicken's water.
Below are two typical examples that explain the supposed benefits of ACV:
"Apple Cider Vinegar has been given to chickens for many years since it has numerous health benefits and supports the immune system. It is particularly good at times of stress when the immune system is low. ACV is full of vitamins, minerals and trace elements. It helps lower the pH level in the stomach, helping digestion and making it less friendly for harmful pathogens. ACV detoxifies the blood and helps remove mucous from with the body. This is particularly useful since chickens are particularly prone to respiratory problems and ACV can be of benefit in helping birds clear their airways..."
"Apple Cider vinegar is rich in vitamins, minerals and trace elements found in apples, especially potassium. It will normalize pH levels in the stomach, improve digestion and the assimilation of nutrients. A few more benefits of oral apple cider vinegar are:
- Reduces intestinal and fecal odor.
- Aids in digestion.
- Helps break down minerals and fats.
- Assists the animal to assimilate protein.
- Assists the animal to convert food better.
- It lowers the pH of the digestive tract which will make the environment less welcoming to pathogens and, therefore, reduce common infections and increase resistance to disease."
The Human Evidence
Because ACV has been so widely touted, we decided to dig in a little on this topic to see if we could learn more about ACV. In particular, we were interested in finding any research that might support these claims and data that would allow us to make dosing recommendations to readers of this blog and to users of the BriteTap poultry waterer.
Unfortunately, the claims made about ACV are not well documented. This is true both of consumption by both humans and poultry. Let's take a cursory look at some of the human evidence first....
A 2007 study on 11 humans who took 2 tablespoons per day of ACV showed that their blood sugar levels dropped by 4-6%. This indicates that ACV might be helpful in treating diabetes. However, the study should be looked at as one that suggests that further research should be conducted, not one that firmly establishes the benefits of ACV.
A study of people who ate salads dressed with oil and vinegar showed six days a week had lower rates of heart disease than those that didn't. However, it wasn't clear that the vinegar was the reason.
Other human studies suggest potentially conflicting results of using ACV. One study associated consumption of ACV with lower rates of throat cancer. However, a second study associated ACV consumption with higher rates of bladder cancer.
For more information about the above mentioned studies, check out the article on Apple Cider Vinegar at WebMD.
The Impact of Acidified Water on Poultry
As far as we can tell, there have been no specific studies documenting the impact of adding ACV to poultry water.
What research does exist, documents the impact of adding an acid such as acetic acid (found in ACV), lactic acid, or formic acid to water. Below is a summary of some of these studies:
- A study by J.A. Byrd and others on adding various acids to poultry water published in the the March 2001 issue of Poultry Science1 showed that adding acetic acid (the acid found in vinegar) to poultry waterer 8 hours prior to slaughter, lowered levels of salmonella and Campylobacter bacteria in the animals crop. For commercial meat producers, lowering the bacteria level in a bird's intestinal tract is of benefit because this would lower the potential for food contamination during processing. However, such a benefit is normally not sought by backyard poultry enthusiasts. The study did not attempt to measure any other impact of acetic acid on poultry and so no other conclusion can be drawn.
- A Study by P. Chaveerach published in the May 2002 issue of Poultry Science2 showed that when added to water, acetic acid (such as that found in vinegar) could kill Campylobacter. However, the study was conducted by placing bacteria, water and acetic acid in a test bottles and then measuring the growth or decline of the Campylobacter over time. The study did not measure whether transmission rates of Campylobacter could be reduced using acidified water in real world conditions where the bacteria might also be spread via fecal contamination of feed or bedding. Nor did the study measure the impact of using a cleaner watering system such as the BriteTap on reducing overall transmission rates. As a result, the study has little practical application for backyard chicken keepers.
- A study done by L.F. Kubena published in the February 2005 issue of Poultry Science3 showed contradictory evidence to that published by J.A Byrd (see above). The Kubena study indicated no impact of water/acid treatment on Salmonella in the intestinal tract of chickens. However, the study noted that the test conditions differed between the two studies. Specifically, the chickens in the Kubena study were fed minimal amounts of feed (food deprivation) for nine days as part of a forced molt. This difference may have accounted for the different results shown in the two studies. In our opinion, not much can be extrapolated to the experience of backyard poultry keepers from the Kubena study.
|I could use a drink right now. How about you girls?|
At present, we don't understand the benefits or the risks of adding ACV to poultry water. It's possible that ACV might improve poultry health in one regard and diminish it in another. (Such was the case with the human study that showed ACV potentially lowering rates of throat cancer while raising rates of bladder cancer.)
One thing that is certain.....
The broad claims made about ACV on the Internet are grossly exaggerated and are not supported by sufficient evidence. Specific claims about ACV's ability to lower pathogens in the gut are misleading in our opinion because the claim implies that you can improve your flocks's health by adding ACV to the water. In fact, the only research on this matter relates to lowering bacteria levels prior to slaughter to reduce contamination during processing. We don't believe this is a benefit most backyard chicken owners are seeking.
Here are our recommendations:
- Leave the ACV in your kitchen cabinet and supply your birds with plenty of clean water.
- Change water daily to make sure its fresh.
- Use a waterer like the BriteTap chicken waterer since it completely shields your chicken's water from known contaminants such as dirt and droppings.
- In the summer, add some ice cubes to the water supply to keep the water cool. This encourages birds to drink more and thus keeps them hydrated.
|Chickens drink from special valves located on the bottom of the BriteTap Waterer.|
Posting sponsored by ChickenWaterer.com, makers of the BriteTap automatic poultry waterer. The BriteTap waterer shields water from dirt and poop. The water stays clean and there are no messy pans for you to wash out.
(1) Poultry Science. March 2001. Effect of Lactic Acid Administration in the Drinking Water During Preslaughter Feed Withdrawal on Salmonella and Campylobacter Contamination of Broilers.
(2) Poultry Science. May 2002. In Vitro Study on the Effect of Organic Acids on Campylobacter jejuni/coli Populations in Mixtures of Water and Feed.
(3) Poultry Science. February 2005. Effects of Drinking Water Treatment on Susceptibility of Laying Hensto Salmonella enteritidis During Forced Molt.