If you are looking for ways to provide additional nutrients to your chickens, look no further than your kitchen cupboard. Two inexpensive and simple items that can greatly benefit your flock are raw garlic and organic apple cider vinegar (ACV). Similar to the health benefits that humans gain from garlic and ACV, chickens too can reap many rewards from these ingredients, including micronutrients, probiotics and antibacterial goodness.
An Apple a Day
Apple cider vinegar, made from organically grown apples, isn’t pasteurized and retains many of the nourishing components of the fruit. It provides fermentation bacteria that support chickens’ health and development, similar to that of fermented feeds. ACV for chickens can lower the pH in their digestive tract, creating an unfavorable environment for intestinal worms and harmful bacteria. It can also kill dangerous bacteria in the throat that may cause respiratory illnesses. For growing layer hens, organic ACV can increase calcium absorption, which leads to stronger egg shells.
Providing a dose of ACV to your chickens is as simple as adding it to their water. Be sure to start with organic, raw, unfiltered, and unpasteurized vinegar. Bragg’s is a well-known brand, and their Organic Apple Cider Vinegar is widely recognized as a quality product. Mix one to two tablespoons of apple cider vinegar for each gallon of water and use only non-metallic containers. The acidic nature of vinegar can react with metal, so it’s important to use glass or plastic drinking containers for your chickens when adding ACV. Be conservative with using ACV during hot months when hens consume less feed and are therefore taking in less calcium. The acidity in the vinegar can inhibit the calcium absorption necessary to produce eggs with strong shells. Adding ACV to water is best done in cooler months months when hens are not under heat stress.
Clean Inside and Out
Around the coop, ACV can be used on tough-to-clean surfaces, such as the brooders and cages. A few drops placed in corners or sprayed directly on the inside walls can help repel pesky flies and ants. Many backyard homesteaders use ACV to eliminate mold, mildew, dust, and odors from around their coops. Simply add a few teaspoons of raw, organic ACV to a spray bottle of water, spray the dirty surfaces, and wipe with a clean rag. If more elbow grease is needed for a particularly dirty surface, mix apple cider vinegar with coarse sea salt to safely rub off any build-up. Baking soda mixed with a small amount of water also works. Finish with a spray of ACV solution to disinfect.
Garlic’s Immune Boosting Odor Control
Like ACV, garlic is its own wonder of nature when it comes to preventing chicken illnesses. Parasitic worms that interfere with digestion and food absorption cannot process the sulfur contained in garlic. Immune systems can also be boosted from garlic. As a bonus, chickens that regularly feed on garlic may experience reduced odor in their droppings! The recommended ratio of garlic to water is one clove to one quart of water. Mash the garlic glove slightly and drop it into the water. If you are providing the garlic to chicks or to your chickens for the first time, add it to the water in smaller doses so they can acclimate to the flavor, and then slowly increase the amount of garlic over time. The younger you can get your chickens used to the flavor, the sooner they can begin reaping the benefits of garlic.
Because chickens are susceptible to many types of illnesses, incorporating these natural and easy-to-find remedies into their diets is smart preventative care. Raw, organic apple cider vinegar and raw garlic are inexpensive, accessible, simple, and effective means to keeping your hens in optimal health.