Saturday, March 30, 2013

BriteTap Chicken Waterer Easter Egg Contest

To celebrate Easter we decided to create our own version of an Easter egg hunt. 

Two lucky winners will receive a BriteTap Chicken Waterer  in a random drawing of those who are able to locate all of the below listed objects in our Easter Egg Hunt Photo. It works like "I Spy" or "Where's Waldo" if you are familiar with those games. Find the five objects hidden among the others and you're entered into the drawing.

Click below to view a larger version of this photo:
View Easter Egg Hunt Photo

Find These 5 Objects In the Photo

  1. "Clean Water Made Simple" - The BriteTap waterer is designed to keep your chicken's water sparkling clean. It's also easy to set up and maintain. Find our motto "Clean Water Made Simple" in the photo.
  2. BriteTap Combo Pack - A BriteTap Chicken waterer attached to a two-gallon insulated water supply tank. The BriteTap Combo pack can provide as many as 16 chickens with a two-day supply of water.
  3. Poultry Valve - The BriteTap waterer completely shields your chicken's water from dirt and droppings. Chickens drink from special valves located on the bottom of the BriteTap waterer. Find a valve in the photo.
  4. Plastic Nut - The BriteTap waterer easily attaches to  Igloo®  and Rubbermaid® brand water coolers. Just unscrew the cooler's spigot and replace it with the BriteTap waterer. The BriteTap waterer attaches to your cooler with a plastic nut included with your kit.
  5. Clean-Out Plug - Want to clean or sanitize your BriteTap waterer? No problem, just remove one of the two clean-out plugs located on the left and right sides.  Find one of these clean-out plugs in the photo.
How the Easter Egg Contest Works
  1. Scan the photo and try to find each of the five objects.
  2. Using the grid, identify the location of each object. For example, If we asked you to find the red tomato in the picture, it would be located at grid position K11.
  3. To enter, just send us an email ( with the grid position of each object. Remember to include your name and telephone number in the email.
  4. If you've correctly identified the location of all 5 objects you'll be entered into the drawing. Two lucky winners will be selected from those who find all the objects.
  5. You have until Monday, April 8, 2013 to enter.  Winners will be announced on April 21, 2013.
  6. Want to double your chances of winning? Like us on Facebook and we'll enter your name a second time if you found all five objects.
Happy Hunting!

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Apple Cider Vinegar & Chicken Water (Part 1)

A customer (Scott from Oregon) recently contacted us to ask whether adding apple cider vinegar would clog or damage the metal poultry nipples (valves) on the BriteTap chicken waterer.  

The BriteTap chicken waterer. Chickens drink from poultry nipples
located on the bottom. These valves are made of plastic and steel. 

Scott normally gives his chickens water with 2 tablespoons per gallon ACV in the water. The dilution sounded pretty minimal and our first reaction was that this probably would not be an issue. We told Scott we would look into this further.  

In a series of articles planned for this web site, we'll describe experiments we are conducting to determine a safe and effective dose of ACV that can be used in the poultry nipple watering systems such as the BriteTap chicken waterer.

pH and the Measure of Acidity

In chemistry, pH is a way of measuring the acidity or alkalinity of a particular liquid. The scale is measured in numbers from  0.0 to 14.0.  Highly acidic liquids such as battery acid have a pH of 0.0. Highly alkaline liquids such as Lye have a pH of 14.0.  Pure water has a pH of 7.0. This is right in the center of the scale and so pH 7.0 is often referred to as "pH Neutral." In other words, neither acidic nor alkaline.  

Since we are going to explore acidifying water, we think it's helpful to know the pH of some familiar foods products as a way of gaining some perspective on the subject of pH. To that end, below are pH levels for some common acidic liquids:
  • Lemon Juice - pH 2.0
  • Coke Classic -pH  2.5
  • Pure Vinegar - pH 2.5
  • Orange Juice - pH 3.8
  • Tomato Juice - pH 4.3
  • Milk - pH 6.0
  • Pure Water - pH 7.0 (pH neutral)
How We Did the Test

When Scott first asked about adding 2 Tablespoons of Vinegar to a gallon of water it didn't strike us as a high dilution. But there's nothing like doing an actual test to determine the truth.  So that's what we did and what we learned surprised us.

To conduct the test, we purchased Bragg Apple Cider vinegar from our local grocery store. Bragg is an all natural brand that is favored by backyard chicken owners that add vinegar to their chicken's water.  Bragg vinegar is somewhat cloudy because it contains the "mother of vinegar." This is a somewhat slimy substance made up of various strains of bacteria that are cause apple juice to ferment into vinegar.  The "mother" is believed to be particularly healthy and so Bragg is a frequent choice by chicken owners.

To conduct the test, we used a 5 milliliter medicine syringe like the one shown below to accurately add the Bragg vinegar to a quart of water.  

We tested each dilution using pH test papers sold by a company called MicroEssentials. When these test papers are dipped in the vinegar and water solution, the color of the paper test strip changes depending on the acidity of the liquid.  You then compare the color of the test strip with the chart on the test paper dispenser and find a color that closely matches the color of the test strip. You then read off the pH.

We purchased test strips that measure pH in half-step increments to get the most accurate reading we could. The below table shows the color for each half step of pH beginning with pH 0 (red) through slightly acidic pH 6.0 (dark green).

Test Results 

Below is a table that shows the results of our test. Specifically, the pH of various dilutions of apple cider vinegar in water. We've calculated the dilution rate in teaspoons per gallon, tablespoons per gallon and milliliters per liter of water to make the math easy for anyone who is interested in planning on adding vinegar to their flock's water supply.

Our customer Scott normally adds 2 Tablespoons of vinegar per gallon of water. As it turns out, this results in a solution that's much more acidic than we would have guessed -- about 3.5. 

Potential Impact On Metal In Poultry Nipple Valves

According to the U.S. Department of Energy Fundamental Handbook Chemistry, the corrosion rate of iron and steel are independent of pH in a range from pH 3.0 to pH 10. In other words, the pH doesn't impact the rate of metal corrosion for a very broad range along the pH scale. 

However, once the pH falls below 3.0, the corrosion rate increases dramatically (see below table). 

A dilution rate of 2 tablespoons vinegar per gallon of water (3.5 pH) is right on the border of being highly corrosive to iron and steel. In theory this is still OK, but theory and practice can be different. In the real world, customers may use vinegar that's more acidic than the batch we tested, or more likely, customers may make measuring errors when adding the vinegar to water that would drive the pH below 3.5.  The resulting mixture might be highly corrosive to the metal in their poultry valve waterers.

As a side note I would mention that the Department of Energy conducted these tests because they wanted to understand the impact of pH on metal used in the construction of nuclear power plants. I have no reason to question the accuracy of their findings.

Current Recommendation

Given what we know right now, recommends that backyard chicken owners using poultry nipple waterers and adding apple cider vinegar to their flock's water, keep the dilution rate to 1 teaspoon ACV per gallon. That would correspond to a pH of about 5.0 -- well, within the theoretical safe zone and a rate that would allow some measuring sloppiness without consequence.

Next Steps

To validate this recommendation, we plan to place poultry nipples in a various dilutions of vinegar (pH from 3.0 to 7.0) and observe what happens over time.  We'll post the results of this test in a future article.  

We also plan to test the impact of vinegar (acid pH) on micro-organisms that live in water because Chicken owners who use apple cider vinegar often site it's ability to control algae as one of the reasons for adding it to their flock's water supply. Stay tuned....

Posting sponsored by, 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. 

Monday, March 18, 2013

How To Make A Chicken Dust Bath

How To Make A Chicken Dust Bath

A dust bath is an important part of chicken hygiene. Bathing in dust reduces mites and other parasites that can afflict chickens. 

According to Dr. Pete Meyers an ornithologist and Senior V.P at the National Audubon Society, the dust act as an abrasive that assist the birds when preening, "For birds, taking a dust bath is much like rubbing your hands with sand to get grit and grime off. The abrasive dust helps the birds remove parasites."*

Although, chickens will naturally find a sunny spot where they can dig themselves a dust bath, that location may not be particularly convenient for you. For example, your chickens may decide to install a dust bath in the middle of your vegetable garden. Alternatively, they might create one near their feeder or waterer. That means dust on, or in, your chicken's feed and water. 

Although owners of the BriteTap chicken waterer don't have to worry about the water itself becoming contaminated because the BriteTap waterer fully shields the water, the exterior of the waterer can get dusty and it makes for an unsightly presentation. Consequently, we recommend building a dust bath in a location that's a distance away from your feeder and waterer, in a convenient spot for both you and your chickens. Don't worry, this project is easy and cheap.

Roadrunner in the dust bath we built for her and the other girls.

Build Your Own Dust Bath

You can make a dust bath out of a cat litter box or many other types of plastic containers. We like Rubbermaid brand Roughneck containers because they are readily available, inexpensive, and come with a plastic cover. The cover is a nice feature because it allows you to cover up the dust bath on rainy days. That way your dust doesn't turn into mud, or worse yet, harden into a substance akin to concrete.  

Roughneck containers come in a variety of sizes, but the best is probably the squat 10 gallon container that measures 24" long x 16" wide and 9" deep.  

  • Whatever container you choose, make sure its large enough for you chickens to bath in comfortably. 
  • Drill a dozen 1/4" holes in various places along the bottom. That way if water does get into your dust bath it has a way to drain into the soil under the container.
  • Then dig a 3 inch deep hole for the your container in the place where you want to place your dust bath and set the container into this hole. The shallow hole will anchor the bin in place and make it easier for your birds to get in and out of the dust bath.
  • Fill with dust.

Dust Recipe

If you are lucky enough to have loamy soil, use this as the primary ingredient for dust bath. If you are like us and have garden soil that's rich in clay, we recommend buying some inexpensive garden soil or top soil at your local garden center.  Then add to this any or all of the below ingredients.  The objective is to make your dust bath as dusty as possible.

  • Garden Soil - As mentioned above, this should be primary ingredient in your dust bath. 
  • Ashes - Ashes from your fireplace or charcoal barbecue grill are extremely fine and make an excellent dust. However, only add fireplace ashes if you burn real wood. Man made fire logs can contain petro-chemicals and other additives that may not be healthy for birds. 
  • Peat Moss
  • Sand
  • Food Grade Diatomaceous Earth - This is a controversial addition to the dust bath. Diatomaceous Earth (DE) is a naturally occurring sedimentary rock formed from fossilized diatoms (algae with hard shells). The rock is ground into a fine powder and sold as a natural pesticide. It is claimed that DE kills insects because it is relatively sharp and punctures an insects hard outer body surface. This causes the insect to dehydrate and die. However, recent research suggests that DE may be less effective against insects when used in the real world than what has been claimed in the past. Additionally, DE is an irritant and humans need to be careful not to breathe DE or get it in your eyes. It goes without saying that, breathing DE is not going to be good for your chickens either, so if you decide to use it, go sparingly - 1/2 cup in your dust bath will be plenty. Also, be sure to get DE that is labeled as "food grade."
Diatomaceous earth viewed under a microscope. Note the razor sharp edges that are claimed to be particularly effective against insects. Photo courtesy the Wikipedia.

BriteTap Chicken Waterer

Posting sponsored by, 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.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Influencing Egg Yolk Color

Egg yolks range in color from pale yellow to a deep orange yellow in color.  In this article, we'll describe what determines egg yolk color and how backyard chicken keepers can influence the yolk color of their laying flocks with natural food supplements.

The Chemistry of Egg Color

Egg color is a function of the chickens diet.  Specifically, the amount and type of carotenoids the chicken consumes.  Carotenoids are organic pigments found in plants, algae and some bacteria. Their color ranges from pale yellow, through bright orange to red.  Lutein and zeaxanthin caretonoids are yellow in color. Common natural sources of these include corn, alfalfa and leafy green vegetables like kale and spinach. Citranaxanthin, lycopene and capsanthin carotenoids are red in color. Common natural sources of these include tomatoes, chillies and red peppers. 

When consumed by chickens, these carotenoids impact the color of the chickens skin and also the color of the chicken's egg yolks.  So diets that differ in the mixture of these various carotenoids will produce a range of yolk colors. For example, diet that is high in wheat will produce eggs that are very pale because they are lower in yellow carotenoids (specifically zeaxanthin) than a diet that is rich in corn or other ingredients that are high in yellow carotenoids.

Does Egg Color Matter?

Yes, and no.  From the perspective of nutrition, yolk color is not an indicator of the protein, carbohydrate or other macro-nutrient levels in eggs. So egg yolk color doesn't matter if all you consider is the eggs nutritional value. 

However, food color does impact our enjoyment of food. Importantly, our perception of food quality is also greatly influenced by its color. 

In the United States, most consumers prefer bright yellow eggs to pale ones and the commercial egg industry is well aware of this.  Egg yolk color is monitored and, in some cases, the chickens are fed supplements in order to change the color of the yolks to make them more palatable. For example, the chemical company BASF sells Lucantin(R) red and Lucantin(R) yellow to shift the color of the eggs to make them more yellow or more orange respectively.

A Roche Color Yolk Fan Provides Commercial Egg Farmers with A Way of Accurately
Measuring Egg Yolk Color

Backyard Flocks - Yellow With Envy

If you feed your flock a commercial feed pellet, the color of the your flock's eggs will be fairly consistent throughout the year.  Eggs from birds that free-range will show a greater range in egg color based on the plants and bugs they consume during any given season and the degree to which they are supplementing their diet.

If your birds consume primarily commercial feed, it's possible to change the color of their yolks using the same strategy as commercial producers but without the chemicals.
You can do this by supplementing your flocks normal diet with natural foods that are high in various carotenoids.
If you like deep yellow eggs, provide your flock with lots of leafy greens or marigold petals.  For example, kale is a staple in our winter garden and we definitely notice a change in egg color when our girls are getting kale scraps. If you prefer darker eggs that are orange-colored, give your chickens carrot peels, less-than-perfect tomatoes, and peppers.

Article sponsored by, makers of the BriteTap chicken waterer. The BriteTap waterer keeps your chicken's water completely clean. No poop-filled pans of water to clean.