Saturday, July 7, 2012

Homemade Electrolyte Recipe, Hot Weather and Acidosis

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by Lisa Fresh Eggs Daily Farm Girl

Did you know that the effect of heat on chickens is cumulative and that a sudden increase in temperature is more dangerous than a gradual climb? Temperatures between 65 F and 75 F are optimal; anything higher starts to cause stress to their bodies. The added blood flow to their combs, wattles and skin reduces the flow to their vital organs.   

Chickens combat the heat in part by panting. Their panting to keep cool increases their respiratory and heart rate. This leads to expelling carbon dioxide at a much faster rate than normal, which upsets the pH balance in their bodies and can lead to acidosis, a potentially fatal condition.

Acidosis produces symptoms including purplish combs, droopy wings, a disheveled appearance and a refusal to eat or drink. This eventually leads to coma or death.

Now, I'm not a vet or scientist and would never pretend to be, but I do read and research a lot. I subscribe to every chicken magazine published and own most of the well-known chicken care books. It's important to me to provide all our animals the best care I can and even our local vet doesn't treat chickens, so it's up to me to figure it out for the most part.

Acidosis has recently appeared on my radar because of the oppressive heat here in the South this summer, and I wanted to make you all aware of it as well.

Adding baking soda (in a 2% ratio) to your chickens' water can help counteract the acidity and prevent acidosis.

I am a huge proponent of adding Apple Cider Vinegar to my chickens' water several times a week. The ACV has health benefits and also increases calcium absorption, which is especially important during the summer months, when the hens' feed intake goes down and they aren't ingesting as much calcium as they normally do.

But the ACV could possibly increase the chances of hens developing acidosis. I suggest in the summer only adding ACV to your water once a week. 

A far better water additive during times of extreme heat is the baking soda or, even better, electrolytes such as LifeLytes, plain Pedialyte or Vitamins & Electrolytes to replace some of the minerals and nutrients lost.

Here is a simple Homemade Electrolyte Recipe that is easy to mix up in a pinch:
1 cup water
2 teaspoons sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon baking soda

Use full strength on severely ailing chickens, otherwise mix into their drinking water as needed, a cup per gallon of water.

Replacing the electrolytes lost during times of oppressive heat could mean the difference between life and death to your chickens.

You can also add this electrolyte mix to water for your dogs, cats, rabbits, horses and other animals. Even mix some into a little fruit juice for yourself or your kids.

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  1. thanks so much for this recipe - whipping up a batch now!

  2. Invaluable information... thank you so much for sharing it! I'll make up a batch today as well.

  3. Great information. Live in deep South. Heat is oppressive.

  4. Since this week alone I have lost 7 adolescent chickens to the heat, I am going to use this recipe TODAY!!

  5. wow, thank you! didn't think about backing off on my ACV, ouch!

  6. You've got the chemistry backwards: panting causes the chicken to blow off more CO2 (which is acidic), increasing the pH, causing alkalosis, not acidosis. The ACV would actually lower the pH (make it more acidic), which would be good!

    This study by U of Illinois Extension suggests that providing carbonated water can help regulate the chickens' pH levels when they are experiencing heat stress.

    You could also mist them, or dig a shallow hole in a deep shady area and fill it with water. When it soaks in, the moist soil will be cool.

  7. twobirds, thanks for the correction! I saw the same thing but when I read your comment I knew it had been handled. I give my birds ACV at least once a day when it's above 100 degrees F. They need it badly.
    I hadn't thought about carbonated water. That's interesting....
    We have cement retaining walls in the outside fenced-in area for our hens - it supports the screening as well as keeping rainwater out. The girls love to get up against that cement in the heat. Its insulating properties makes it cooler than the ambient air.

  8. Just curious why you would use a processed iodized salt instead of one that maintains its original mineral content like sel gris or celtic sea salt. That's what we use to make a homemade electrolyte replenisher.

  9. Any salt is going to be beneficial. Most people don't keep sel gris on hand. This is meant to be an easy quick remedy for overheated chickens.

  10. Twobird your link doesn't work, but anyway, I could have the chemistry wrong, I said I'm not a vet or scientiest, but the bottom line is that electrolytes and NOT ACV are beneficial in hot weather. Also, misters are NOT recommended. This was confirmed by My Pet Chicken recently. They prevent a hen from naturally regulating their body temperature.

  11. Also ACV is NOT an acidic medium. It actually lowers acidity.

  12. k . . . the link can be copied and pasted into your address bar.

    If you're going to post chemistry, you should make sure it's correct, otherwise, don't post it. People who read stuff on the internet assume that it's accurate (and repost it, perpetuating the inaccuracy).

    Can't locate any information on about misting (could you post the link?), but LSU Ag Center Poultry Expert recommends it (May, 2012):

    Also says "you should consult your veterinarian before using any heat stress supplements such as electrolytes."

    I don't understand why you say that "ACV is not an acidic medium", and "lowers acidity". Checking various internet sources, it looks like the pH runs between 2.8 - 3.25, which is highly acidic. Can you post an authoritative source that explains how (very acidic) ACV could make systemic pH LESS acid? Maybe you mean it lowers pH? That means it's getting more acidic.

    Not trying to be argumentative, just trying to understand what you're saying.

  13. And if "ACV lowers acidity", how could continuing to give it to chickens in the summer put them at risk for acidosis, as you say in your post?

  14. Non distilled Apple Cyder Vinegar goes into the body as an acid, cleansing the organs and blood but is then converted to an alkaline ash before leaving the body, thereby increasing the ph and lowering the acidity.
    Yes, using a good sea salt would be better than processed salt as well as using raw sugar or honey rather than processed sugar. But like the author stated, this is a good emergency electrolyte recipe. Many of us no longer have the processed foods like the salt in the house, so the sea salt is the natural choice.
    The baking soda raises the ph and helps keep the body alkaline. An alkaline body cannot get cancer or most other diseases. Alkaline and hydration are one in the same as is acidity and dehydration - they are two sides to the same coin.
    Blessings to you and your birds and thank you for this post.

  15. The ACV staed in the article is the non distilled kind that is still with the mother. Foxfire, twobirds are you talking about the distilled kind that is found on a super market shelf?

  16. Thank you so much for sharing. As a Chicken Newbie who lives in South Florida... this information is PRICELESS! I am off to hook my ladies up with a cool cocktail now!
    Also like the above poster asked ... Distilled Okay?

  17. I just want to say Thanks a bunch, I'll try it, my hens are acting stressed since we've been in the high 90' with 100% humidity, I've been reading about all the things that have come up one by one, (first year with chickens and ducks), your about the first one that has answered my question and given a recipe to help me with my flock of over-heated chickens, for all the people who want to make an issue of it (twobirds) don't do it, call your vet but don't be mean, at least she is trying to help and giving info from experience, again "Thanks a Bunch Farm Girl"


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