Do Chickens Really Need Apple Cider Vinegar?

Many poultry-keepers swear by the benefits of apple cider vinegar, but the truth is, your chickens don't need it (and it may cause more harm than good).

by Ana Hotaling
PHOTO: Andy M./Pixabay

Over the past year, we’ve all encountered shortages when we’ve gone grocery shopping. The scarcity of such high-demand items as toilet paper, liquid soap and paper towels makes perfect sense during a global emergency.

Other items, however? I’m still mystified as to why milk-chocolate chips have vanished from every single market near me.

Also impossible to find is red wine vinegar. I’ve literally stood in front of the empty aisle section, wondering where all the red wine vinegar went. Are people making more salads during the pandemic, perhaps? I brought up how perplexed I was by this at a recent poultry-group online chat. Little did I expect the commotion that would follow.

Apparently, every single poultry keeper this side of the Mississippi has been searching for apple cider vinegar (ACV). My fellow flock owners bewailed their failure at procuring this absolute necessity. Several recounted their fruitless attempts to order a bottle/jug/gallon of this liquid gold via online shopping services.

One woman tried unsuccessfully to buy just a cupful from her neighbor.

Soon everyone was expressing their concerns that the health of their flock would be severely compromised without ACV. Almost everyone, that is. I simply kept my mouth shut. Not only do I have close to a gallon of ACV in my pantry, it’s strictly for human consumption.

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I never have given my chickens ACV and never will. Here is why.

Read more: These are the 5 nutrients essential to a healthy flock.

Feeds Have All You Need

Commercial feeds are scientifically formulated to provide your chickens with the exact nutritional requirements they require at the different ages and stages of their lives. Decades of dedicated research have resulted in feed formulas featuring the proper balance of minerals, vitamins, proteins, carbohydrates, and fats for your birds to thrive.

Supplements such as ACV can throw off the nutritional balance offered by these complete feeds and potentially interfere in the digestion and absorption of essential nutrients. For optimal health, offer your birds a complete feed plus plenty of fresh water.

GI Jolts

Apple cider vinegar is highly acidic. Undiluted, it serves as a powerful herbicide, killing weeds in a matter of days. Even when it is diluted, its acidity can irritate the delicate tissues of your chickens’ entire gastrointestinal tract.

Additionally, ACV can cause a feeling of fullness and a loss of appetite, which may prevent your flocks from eating the amount of nutritional feed they need for the day. The tannins in ACV can also strip the protective mucus from your birds’ gastrointestinal lining, resulting in your flock experiencing sore throats, nausea and diarrhea.

Read more: Want to save on the feed bill? These 7 tips will help you feed your chickens for less.


Many owners of chickens swear by apple cider vinegar. A splash of it in a poultry waterer can prevent coccidiosis, serve as an electrolyte during stressful times, reduce the smell of fecal matter, and prevent common infections … at least that’s what the popular belief is.

However, there are no scientific studies to support these or any other common concepts. While ACV is a popular culinary additive, adding a sour tang to salad dressings, sauces, and other human foods, there’s no evidence that it does anything of a medical nature when ingested … by people or by poultry.

“There is no proof of any kind that apple cider vinegar provides any health benefits for your chickens,” noted Dr. Richard Fulton, a Michigan State University poultry-science professor and Diplomate of the American College of Veterinary Pathologists. “Other than add a nice flavor to their water.”

This doesn’t mean that you should completely ditch your apple cider vinegar. The addition of ACV to your poultry’s drinking water does seem to prevent the build-up of algae in plastic waterers.

That’s definitely a positive … just not the kind that would cause a panic should your market be out of stock.

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