Thursday, September 6, 2012

11 Uses for Vinegar Around the Coop

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by Jennifer Sartell

The other day I was at the grocery store. I hate grocery shopping, so I always make a list so I can get what I need and get out of there as fast as possible. Sometimes I feel like grocery shopping is like bumper boats with shopping carts, only you have to be polite and not ram the other people. And as I write this, I realize I am turning into my father, ha!

In this shopping venture, vinegar, had once again made it's way to the list. As I made my way down the "salad dressing" aisle, it occurred to me that we buy an absurd amount of vinegar. I mean we use it for everything; fabric softener, washing windows, spraying down the shower, cleaning the coffee pot, killing weeds, removing soap scum, pickling, cooking...and the list goes on.

Lately, the need for an abundance of vinegar stems mainly from canning season, but also from my current mission to eliminate chemical cleaning products from our home. I've been looking up a lot of recipes for homemade alternatives and nine times out of ten, any given ingredient list starts with vinegar. So how is it that one magic potion will do everything from kill unwanted weeds, to a nurture a healthy respiratory system?

According to The Vinegar Institute, vinegar, as described in the dictionary is "a sour liquid obtained by acetic fermentation of dilute alcoholic liquids." ...Oh yeah, that's what I thought too...heh.

After reading a bit more I found that in short, vinegar is the result of two fermentation processes. The first is fermentation to alcohol, then the second is from alcohol to acid. The type of vinegar, be it white distilled, red wine, malt, balsamic, apple cider, etc. is determined by what is fermented.

Apple cider vinegar in particular has been praised for its health benefits. I remember my grandmother drinking it diluted when she had a respiratory infection. She used to say "it cuts the cold" and she claimed that it cleared the sinuses. I remember there was always a bottle of Braggs in her pantry. 

Because we buy so much vinegar I started to wonder if making vinegar was a difficult process. Turns out, it's not! For those of you who are interested, there are some great articles in Mother Earth News that break down some of the steps to making your own vinegar. I am making a note to divulge into these further. Here's a few to get you started.   

Make RAW Apple Cider Vinegar (ACV) WITH the Mother for Pennies a Gallon! by the Chicken Chick
How to Make Homemade Vinegar
Apple Vinegar from Peels and Cores by Winifred Bird

Whether you buy it at the store or make it yourself, there's no doubt that vinegar is the chicken keepers best friend. Here are 13 ways I use vinegar to make my life with chickens even better! 

1. Adding Vinegar to The Chicken's Water
Like Grandma's cold remedy, vinegar is healthy for chicken's respiratory systems as well. It thins phlegm and has antibiotic properties. The highly acetic atmosphere that vinegar lends, makes an uncomfortable environment for bacteria. It also helps create a healthy digestive system, boosts immunity, and helps fight dehydration during hot spells. I add a couple tablespoons to our waterers every few days. A note of caution: Do not use vinegar in metal containers, it breaks down the metal and can leach chemicals into the drinking water.  

2. Cleaning Eggs
Want your eggs to look purdy? Give them a 10 second dip in warm vinegar. It really brings out the color in an egg shell. It also helps remove stains and loosens dirt and grime. (For more on washing eggs with vinegar, read my Iron Oak Farm post How To Wash Eggs...Again.)
3. Conditioning Rinse for Bath Time
As I describe in my post Chicken Bath 101, giving chickens a nice bubble bath every so often is a healthy practice. Adding some vinegar to the rinse water cuts soap residue, conditions the skins and feathers and discourages bug infestations.

4. Removing Mineral Build Up on Waterers
We have well water with plenty of rust and calcium. These minerals cause rings on the chicken's water dishes. As the water evaporates the mineral scum coats the dishes and dries like stone. The rough porous surface of the crusty mineral is a great place for bacteria to settle. To remove it, I simply add a little white vinegar to the dishes, swish it around, and let it set for a few minutes. After, the dish will easily wipe clean with soap and water. 

5. De-buggin the Nesting Boxes and Coop
After we clean our coop, I like to spray the nest boxes and coop walls, surfaces etc. with white vinegar. It discourages mites, lice and other creepy crawlies. It also helps deodorize and disinfect. It will dissolves dried egg yolk in the case that someone broke open an egg in the box, and it has mild bleaching properties.

6. Foot Soak
Vinegar helps soften dead skin around the feet. It will also discourage fungus under toenails and clean small cuts caused by scratching in rough terrain. A diluted mixture of vinegar and warm water can be applied as a compress for about 3 minutes or you can stand the chicken in a shallow tub. Then scrub your chicken's feet with a stiff bristle brush, rinse and apply a light coat of Vaseline to sooth and prevent bugs.  

7. Loosens Grime from Difficult Areas.
Vinegar also helps to clean difficult areas like intricate fencing or cages, perches, or cracks and crevasses that may be soiled. It also helps clean the rims of waterers.  It's a good idea to spray down any cages that have held quarantined birds, or if you use a reusable brooder box, wipe it down with vinegar to disinfect after the chicks go outside. 

8. Conditioning Spray
There are many poultry sprays and dusts out there meant to combat mites, lice and other nasties. These sprays can contain some pretty harsh chemicals. If you have a major infestation, you might be forced to consider those. But my philosophy is to use an ounce of prevention. A bi-weekly regimen of diluted vinegar sprayed near the vent, the legs, and under the wings, alternating with diomateous earth dustings has helped to control mites and bugs with our flock.    

9. Cleaning the Incubator
After the chicks have hatched many times the incubator is left a stinky, sticky mess. Vinegar cuts hatching odors, disinfectants and prevents mold and mildew. I also use rubbing alcohol near the motor on a cotton swab because it evaporates quickly. (For more on caring for incubators check out my 4 part Incubation Series)

10. Easter Egg Dye
I know Easter is far from anyone's mind right now but like egg dyes, I've started dying our wool from our Angora goats and vinegar is the source of acid that sets the dye in the fiber. As I was writing this, dye and vinegar are fresh in my mind (and nose for that matter), so I couldn't leave out this colorful spring time use. (For beautiful examples of naturally dyed Easter Eggs read Jennifer Burke's post A Very Colorful Celebration.)

11. Pickled Eggs
One of my favorite and delicious ways to use vinegar is in Pickled Eggs! These tangy, sweet gems are delicious with beets! And if you can them, its a great way to preserve an abundance of eggs.

Do you use vinegar around your coop? Share it with the Community and let us know how you use this versatile ingredient by leaving a comment below, on the Community Chicken's Facebook page, or visit us at Iron Oak Farm.

Don't Forget, Enter the Coop Story Giveaway!

Do you have a chicken coop? I'd love to feature it in a Community Chickens post! Fill out the 10-question form by clicking here and submit at least five photos of your coop to my email address at The photos can include the building process, a visual tour of the different elements, or anything else you'd like to share! If I choose your coop story, you will be featured on the Community Chickens website, and you will receive one of Iron Oak Farm's handmade Oak Leaf Key Chains, valued at $23! Feel free to elaborate on any of the questions. I will feature one coop per month. The more information you provide, the better your chances of winning! For more information, read my post A Coop Story Giveaway.     


  1. Great post! I do use vinegar in many of the same ways. Apple cider vinegar for the chickens water and white vinegar for most everything else including feeders and waterers and our coop. I use this Orange Peel and Vinegar spray in the coop AND our kitchen.

  2. Oooh Lisa! That's a great link! Thanks for sharing!

  3. This comment has been removed by the author.

  4. My rooster lost his crow when he came down with a respiratory infection. While waiting for my delivery of Oxine (another great organic addition in your arsenal) I used diluted apple cider vinegar in a cheap, garden store weed sprayer (that had never been used with chemicals) to spray the coop, area, and I sprayed it in his face so he'd breathe it in. Within a week, his infection was gone and his crow was back.

  5. Jennifer,

    Thanks for another wonderful post. (Love your ice cream recipe.)

    I encountered a problem adding vinegar to the chickens’ water. I had been adding Braggs apple cider vinegar to my Little Giant galvanized waterer, and after about 4 months, I noticed that my waterer was getting a residue. I thoroughly cleaned it, but it continued to get worse and worse. I finally figured out that it was rust! The vinegar had eaten through the galvanized coating and had rusted my brand new waterer! I replaced it with another galvanized waterer (goodbye $35.00) but have discontinued adding vinegar to their waterer and instead I give it to them in a glass bowl.

    It makes me sad when I think of my poor chickens drinking water that had some dissolved galvanized steel in it. They seem fine, but it certainly didn’t do them any good.

    I agree that vinegar is a good addition to our chickens’ diet, but if you add it to their waterer, make sure it is the plastic type and not galvanized steel.


  6. Jackson,
    That's a great point! I use it in our plastic bowls so I never even thought about that being a problem. Since this posted, I've had a couple people tell me the same thing happened to them.

  7. Would it be safe to use the white vinegar to clean my rabbit hutches too. I already use it for cleaning the chicken coops.

  8. I would think it would be safe for rabbits. I've cleaned our rabbit's water bottles and bowls with vinegar. If you're uncertain maybe start with a diluted mixture and let the hutch air out before returning the bunnies.

  9. Thanks for the fabulous blog post and for the link to my blog post,Jennifer! I have been making my own raw, apple cider vinegar with the mother for months and I can tell you, it's simple! You already have Bragg's on-hand, so all you need is some apple peels and a nice, warm place to keep your concoction for a few weeks. In this summer's heat, I could whip up a batch in approximately two weeks just by keeping the jars of apples in my garage! Any colder than 80°F and it will take forever, if it works at all.

    I'm dying to try the pickled eggs recipe with my quail eggs! Thanks again!

    Kathy Mormino
    The Chicken Chick

  10. I'm really curious about the vinegar spray directly on the chickens to help control mites. That's a new one to me. Could you please elaborate? What time of day do you spray them? The easiest for us would be after they've gone to roost b/c they're more docile, but I wouldn't want to breathe vinegar fumes all night myself! Do you fully saturate these areas, or just mist them? What dilution do you use? Thank you for your advice!

  11. Hi Riversana, great question :) We have a spray bottle that holds about 8 cups of water, I give a medium glug that would probably amount to 3 Tbsp. then mist the chickens at night, like you said, at this time they're easier to handle. The vinegar smell evaporates surprisingly quickly. I use vinegar all over our home as a cleaner, hair conditioner, nail soak. I spray it directly in our hamper each time it is emptied, and the smell is usually gone after about 10 minutes. I feel like I would rather them smell vinegar than be doused in some of the chemical alternatives. If you don't feel comfortable, DE is very effective and doesn't have an odor. Hope this helps. :)

  12. I use vinegar for cleaning around the house too, but I didn't know if the smell would disapate as quickly if it's under a wing! But then, you're diluting it much more than I imagined as well. So! I'm off to find something equivalent and the chickens will be sprayed tonight! Thanks again!

  13. I let them dust off in a shallow pan of wood ashes,never had a problem w/ fleas/paresites,ever.
    ron in maine

  14. Why not be safe and use a bleach/water dilution for cleaning things such as feeder and water bowls? Just make sure it's air-dried before putting back into use. As for their water bowl, i'll stick to a clove of garlic every now and then.

  15. I agree with some of the recommendations made in this article. However, there is absolutely no evidence that adding vinegar to your chickens water does anything to improve their health. After seeing this type of advice on the Internet, I did a more careful search and found that the only known benefit of acidifying the chickens water was to reduce bacteria in the crop prior to slaughter. This is not something most backyard chicken owners care about. See the following blog post on the known research on this topic:

  16. Thanks so much for this post. I use vinegar for most of my household cleaning and just assumed it would be the best thing to use to clean their water, feeder etc. I had not considered adding it to their water, cleaning their coop with it or spraying them directly. Very help!

  17. Diana Gibson: I use and sell these Green Cleaners by Shaklee .... Get Clean... A 16oz. bottle of Basic H2 provides 48 gals of all purpose cleaner for approx. $11 Im pretty sure that is cheaper than a vinegar solution and provides a much more diverse use. Please let me know if anyone is interested in using/trying or if you have any questions. I use the whole line of Get Clean products and love them!

  18. Apple cider vinegar is great for people - I didn't know it was good for chickens, too. Thanks for the article!

  19. Can you use the vinegar on turkeys?

    1. We use it to clean the turkey coop all the time. :)

  20. White distilled vinegar is just that....distilled. It can be made from any kind of vinegar. It is the equivalent of white rice, white flour etc. It has had every valuable thing removed but the acid. It has no nutritive value. That is why it is used in cleaning products, no residue. If you watch what you eat this is one of the things that you should remove from your diet. If you like pickles....use a whole vinegar. Unless you don't care. That is up to the individual. Just wanted to say....consumer beware.

  21. I am just starting to add apple cider vinegar to my water and I had no idea that you could use vinegar in so many ways. I have just created a link to this article from my facebook page,

  22. I would like to start adding vinegar to my storage tanks I collect rain water in. I have 1 300 gal, 1 100 gal and 3 50 gal barrels. What ratio of vinegar would I use in those and how long before I would need to add more?
    Thanks a bunch,

  23. Is Braggs Apple Cider Vinegar safe to add to Duck and Geese waters? I have several ducks and geese in addition to chickens and was wondering if it would be safe for them. Thanks

  24. My nest box is made of wood. If I sprayed it down with vinegar and water, would it break-down the wood and destroy my nest box? Thanks!

  25. I've started making my own ACV (thanks, Chicken Chick) and use it in H2O and as a coop cleaning spray, but see that you prefer white vinegar for the latter. What's the difference? Thanks!

    1. Hi there.
      You can definitely use homemade apple cider vinegar. I haven't gotten around to making my own yet so I buy the White because it's cheaper.

  26. If you use white vinegar, look for the kind that is distilled from grains. If it doesn't say distilled from grains, it is probably distilled from a petroleum product. Yuck.

  27. well as I live on crete its very hot over here in summer ,as I never use vinegar before I shall try and see what happen thank u great comment .

  28. Great post - I hope you don't mind that I "pinned" it!

  29. we use Vinegar the plastic water keeps the green stuff out here in FL

  30. What makes chickens want to roost & poop in their nests & how do I stop them from doing this as they have a lot of roosting poles..

  31. i use a product called GSE from health food store in all water dish 4 drops gallon for all birds i have

  32. Holes have appeared in my coop floor. Large rocks over holes doesn't work, neither does a large container over them, so they appear somewhere else. I have prepared a hot sauce concoction which I am pouring down each hole. It smells very very hot and spicy. Smells like it might take the quills off a skunk. Tonight I will attack, its been aging all day. I never use any commercial poisons near my chickens or garden. Pam

  33. How did you have time for such a project? Did you and Doug work out a system? Did you build by the light of the moon? I am dying to know!

    Great job,chicken coops for sale by the way. I've never built anything either but I'm pretty sure my first attempt at something wouldn't be so useful and fabulous looking

  34. What is the proportion .. vinegar to water for spray to control mites.


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