~ June 4th, 2017 ~

Apple Cider Vinegar - Best Practices for Poulty

I am reading more frequently about the application of organic apple cider vinegar (ACV) to the drinking water for poultry. The problem I see with this application is that very broad claims are made, and when examining the details, the application may be misleading and the benefits can be minimal and variable due to the digestive process. Those minimal benefits, to me, does not bear out the cost of the product, for which the same values may be obtained simply feeding your poultry a varied diet to begin with.


Poultry keepers are advised to put ACV in the water a few times a week, with a dose of one tablespoon, but no mention of the volume of water. The application for humans is typically 1:8 ratio, which is 2 tablespoon per 8 ounces of water. We need to factor in the size/weight of poultry, so using Clarke’s rule, I calculate it would be 2 tablespoons per gallon. However, this is based on the aforemetioned dosage ratio for people, which is really ancecdotal, not an accurately measured dosage level that has been studied. My calculation might be a good place to start, but you will have to gauge the effect on your flock.


Apple cider vinegar contains trace elements of calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, sodium, zinc, manganese, selenium, sugars and ash. The highest percentage of ACV is water. Apple cider vinegar is often touted as highly nutritious, but the percentages of these minerals are trace amounts, which makes their addition to the diet too small to really have much of an impact on health.

Probiotics, by definition, are particular live bacteria and yeasts that aid the microflora in the digestive system. The fermentation process of apples starts with bacteria and yeasts, but the final fermented vinegar is composed of acetic acid, formed by the acid-forming bacteria acetobacter. ACV contains acetic acid and malic acid which can aid digestion, but it is not a probiotic by definition. It also has no direct impact on the immune system.

Acetic acid bacteria is an obligate aerobes which means it needs oxygen to survive. This bacteria is not like lactic acid bacteria (anaerobes) which can survive without oxygen. Which means, in the gut where there is very little oxygen, the bacteria will die. This stops any potential probiotic effect. Some studies were conducted of this bacteria in the human gut, mouth, and skin and none of the acetic acid bacteria (Acetobacter, Gluconoacetobacter, Gluconobacter and Komagateibacter) could be found in the microbiome. This suggest these bacteria cannot survive there for very long. It seems ACV is not likely to be a probiotic in the gut.

Acid/Alkaline PH Factor

When we talk about PH factor in the digestive system, it may seem like a complex issue to understand, but in fact is quite straightforward. The biggest point to remember is, is that the body always strives to keep the acid-alkaline condition in balance. Many enzymes and chemical reactions in the body work best at a particular PH. All substances ingested will have effect on the acid or alkaline condition, so the body is continuously balancing the PH for what it needs to function. A small change in the PH can have a profound effect on body function. For best health, the body tries to maintain a slightly alkaline condition.

You can see because it can be a complex juggling the body has to do to maintain PH balance, it would good to have a good reason to manipulate PH through the addition of ACV. Although ACV is an acetic acid, most people may not realize that it actually creates an alkaline condition in the gut upon digestive conversion. It is one of the few acid containing foods, like lemons and limes, which does this.

The Mother

The mother is generally extrapolated to be even more concentrated with probioic value than the ACV. Its mineral content is lower than the ACV, and it primarily consists of cellulose, which is fiber. The mother is too small in density to add much of either value. But, it is true, the mother does hold a higher concentration of phenolic compounds like gallic acid, which will give you some potent antioxidant value, not probiotic

Best Practice

So, what might be the best usage of ACV for our poultry? When ACV finally gets to the stomach and gut, it will start out as an acid and be converted into producing an alkaline condition. When an acid is introduced into the system, the body will try to buffer (balance) that by drawing on alkaline reserves, which could come from calcium containing foods, oyster/egg shell, or herbs IF it is present at the exact same time in the gut. If no plant/shell minerals are available, the kidneys signal the bones to release calcium and magnesium to reestablish alkalinity, while muscles are broken down to produce ammonia, which is strongly alkaline. Over time, this can weaken the bones and body organ functioning. This drawing out of calcium happens only while it is still in acid form in the digestive system. The benefit is if it is drawing from present foods, not the bones or muscles of your bird.

On the other hand, once the ACV is converted to create an alkaline condition in the gut, it might be beneficial to acid-forming foods that are also being digested. For poultry, this most likely would be protein. Most poultry diets are formulated for specific protein levels for a particular age/growth of a bird. If available, protein can be buffered by highly alkaline-forming foods and herb supplements like lemons, pumpkin seed, kelp and watermelon. Or moderately alkaline-forming like leafy greens, root vegetables (especially radishes), and herbs like garlic and cayenne pepper can be helpful. If your poultry are mostly eating grain/high protein foods and alkaline-forming foods are scarce, applications of ACV in the water might be helpful. This usually can happen during winter months, when birds are not ranging or other seasonal food supplements are not so readily available.


An important key to maintaining a healthy acid- alkaline balance for poultry would be to provide a diet with a relative balance of alkaline-forming and acid-forming foods. Most commercially prepared foods are already balanced for this. This would be the simplest way, and to let the bird’s body do its work. An ACV application may help with making the gut temporarily more alkaline and readily available in the gut to balance high protein grain consumption. Absent of that, an ACV application offers minimal benefits because the body will not need it for any kind of use.


Article, Moonlight Mile Herb Farm, Susan Burek.

Mother of Vinegar: Healthy and Probiotic? A Difficult Question Explored, Reginald SmithFebruary 26, 2017

Moonlight Mile Herb Farm © 2017 Susan Burek