There’s Something in the Water—Optimizing Hen Health

There’s Something in the Water—Optimizing Hen Health

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.

Scratch and Peck non-gmo raw apple cider vinegarAn 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.

GarlicGarlic’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.


  1. Pat May 13, 2017 at 7:50 pm - Reply

    Are you adding the acv and the garlic to the same water source?

    • Scratch and Peck Feeds May 15, 2017 at 10:55 am - Reply

      Hi Pat,

      In our research we have only seen ACV and garlic added separately, not to the same water source.

  2. Brenda June 4, 2017 at 2:14 pm - Reply

    Is it okay to use the garlic during the hot months when you aren’t using the apple cider vinegar in the water?

  3. Victoria Baker July 3, 2017 at 9:56 am - Reply

    I have just today heard that using ACV in chickens’ water during high heat may not be good for them. Can anyone verify this and tell me why?

    • Scratch and Peck Feeds July 5, 2017 at 11:29 am - Reply

      Hi Victoria,

      If you’re in an area that has high heat, you do want to be moderate with the amount of ACV you give you chickens. The ACV can help increase calcium absorption, but it can also affect a chicken’s pH levels, which in turn can increase their body temperature. Limiting ACV to one tablespoon per week in their water feeder during high heat is still a safe amount, though.

      • Victoria Baker July 7, 2017 at 11:16 pm - Reply

        Thank you for your help. I normally put 1 Tablespoon per gallon in their waterer (I have a 3-gal and a 5-gal) whenever I refill, which is once a week or more often in summer. Do you think that sounds ok? Or should I add less?

        • Scratch and Peck Feeds July 10, 2017 at 8:19 am - Reply

          Hi Victoria, we would recommend only adding the ACV once a week during the hot summer months (1 Tbsp/gallon of water, like you’re doing).

  4. Victoria Baker July 12, 2017 at 11:53 am - Reply

    Thank you, I appreciate your help. p.s. The oyster shell in the form you sell it has become almost impossible to find– you’re the only seller I have found. I offer my chickens 3 sources of supplemental calcium, their own shells, the chunky oyster shell, and the slender slivers of the outer layers of the oyster shell like you sell. Some of my chooks will really only tank up on your product and their shells thinned when I didn’t have this type anymore when it became no longer readily available. I’m glad I was able to find it. So, thank you for continuing to carry this superior product.

  5. Taylor February 26, 2018 at 11:28 am - Reply

    Hi there! thank you for all the great information and the excellent products. Is ACV and Garlic safe for Ducks to consume as well? I will have a mixed flock this year so want to understand what is safe for both. thank you!

    • Scratch and Peck Feeds February 26, 2018 at 11:37 am - Reply

      Hi Taylor, you are welcome, and great question! Yes, ducks can have garlic and ACV as well. If you use our feeds for your mixed flock, it’s balanced with the proper amount of niacin for ducks, so you won’t need to add anything to the feed to accommodate for your mixed flock.

  6. Kelly Pearsall March 13, 2018 at 4:37 pm - Reply

    Can you feed ducks slivers of fresh garlic?
    Maybe a sliver a day instead of their water?

    • Scratch and Peck Feeds March 14, 2018 at 1:13 pm - Reply

      You can feed ducks (and chickens) fresh garlic in very small doses. If you are going to feed them fresh garlic, we’d recommend crushing or mincing it, rather than giving it in slices. A little goes a long way, and they need to become accustomed to the flavor as well.

  7. haziel March 21, 2018 at 6:28 am - Reply

    sir can i ask if how many week acv is recomended to be supplemented on broiler. thanks

    • Scratch and Peck Feeds March 21, 2018 at 10:25 am - Reply

      Hello, broilers can also be supplemented with 1 tablespoon of ACV per gallon of water in their waterers. Once a week is a good amount.

  8. Geoffrey April 2, 2018 at 8:37 am - Reply

    Do you even recommend the ACV and garlic for just hatched chicks? Also anything else you give just hatched chicks? Thank You

    • Scratch and Peck Feeds April 2, 2018 at 8:44 am - Reply

      Hi Geoffrey, we don’t recommend garlic for just hatched chicks. The garlic can be too strong for their little systems, so they need time to develop more before providing them with those supplements. The ACV can be started within a few days of hatching.

  9. Kari April 5, 2018 at 10:18 pm - Reply

    If I add ACV to my chicks water and you mention their container should not have metal, does that mean a nipple feeder would not work?

    • Scratch and Peck Feeds April 10, 2018 at 9:35 am - Reply

      Hi Kari, metal can have a reaction to the ACV, so if any part of your waterer is metal, we recommend not using ACV. If your feeder is only plastic, though, using ACV will be okay.

  10. Jill Day April 11, 2018 at 12:11 pm - Reply

    If I were to leave THREE waters out (one with ACV, One with Garlic, one with plain water) will my flock naturally go for the plain water or will they like the taste of the other (increasing the garlic amount a little at a time, of course)? Thank you

    • Scratch and Peck Feeds April 12, 2018 at 7:40 am - Reply

      Hi Jill, thanks for reaching out! That is a great question, and one we don’t have a definite answer for. Since you would be using such a minute amount of ACV and garlic, there will only be a slight change in flavor, so your chickens may not even notice. But it also depends on the chicken — some simply have different preferences. We say give it a go — put out one of each waterer and see what happens. And let us know — we’d love to hear the outcome!

  11. Melissa April 11, 2018 at 6:04 pm - Reply

    What is a good age to introduce ACV and Garlic to chicks? It seems that their developing immune systems could benefit from the probiotics as early as possible but you mentioned it may be too strong for their little systems… until when?

    • Lindsey McGuirk April 12, 2018 at 9:30 am - Reply

      Hi Melissa, thanks for getting in touch! We want to make a correction to our recommendations for ACV and garlic — ACV can be provided to chicks within a few days of hatching. Garlic can be too much for their little systems, though. We’d recommend holding off on feeding them raw garlic until they are old enough to start eating whole grains (rather than the cracked grains of the Naturally Free Organic Starter) — around the 8 week point.

  12. Fantu Kidane/Hage Farms PLC May 9, 2018 at 9:56 pm - Reply

    I have a c.ommercial farm with 9,460 layers & want to give a test to the natural means, i.e., the venegar & garlic to cleans & protect them from internal & external parasites.
    Thank you for your kind advise>

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