Tuesday, January 3, 2012

The Holistic Trinity - Apple Cider Vinegar, Garlic and Diatomaceous Earth

I firmly believe in an ounce of prevention.  In fact, wasn't it Benjamin Franklin who said 'An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure' ?  He was a smart man - and I bet he wasn't even talking about chickens !

But he was right, it's far easier (and cheaper) to keep your chickens' immune systems strong and healthy and give them the best chance at fighting off illness and infections themselves than to try and treat something after they have contracted it.  Being the ultimate prey animal and being part of a pecking order that preys on the weaker members of the flock, chickens work very hard to hide signs of any illness or injury, so often by the time you see any symptoms, it is too late to treat whatever is wrong.

Because of this, in addition to the custom feed mix  I give the girls, I also supplement their diet with what I call the 'Holistic Trinity' of healthy chickens: Apple Cider Vinegar, Garlic and Diatomaceous Earth.

Of course there are naysayers.  Some of this is hard to prove and of course I am not a vet or a scientist, nor have many studies been done on holistic poultry health, but I CAN tell you this: in all my years of raising chickens, I have NEVER had any issues with mites or lice. I have never wormed my chickens with anything commercial or chemical and they have never had worms. I have never had a single chicken with respiratory problems, coccidia or any other disease. So you be the judge.


First in the Trinity is APPLE CIDER VINEGAR. It's great for their immune systems, guards against bad bacteria and maintains digestive health in the intestines by lowering the pH levels and is an overall health booster.

It increases calcium (as well as other minerals) absorption so your chickens will get more 'bang for the buck' from the layer feed and eggshells or oyster shell you provide them. ACV also acts as an antiseptic by killing the germs that cause respiratory problems - which chickens are extremely susceptible to - in the throat and promotes healthy mucous flow.

Doseage: Add apple cider vinegar (raw,organic ACV with the 'mother' is best, Bragg's brand for example) to your waterer a once or twice a week, or alternatively one straight week every month. 

The ratio is 1 Tablespoon ACV per gallon of water. The ACV is also thought to taste good to your flock and encourages chickens to drink more.  Be sure and use a plastic or stoneware waterer: the ACV will rust the metal and galvanized waterers.

The ACV will also help keep your chickens' water free of harmful bacteria and algae. The optimal range for your flock's drinking water is a ph of 4. That creates the most unfriendly environment for bad bacteria.  

You can also make your own Apple Cider Vinegar with the mother...[read more]



Second in the Trinity is GARLIC.   Garlic boosts immune systems, increases respiratory health and it is also thought that mites, lice, ticks and other parasites are not as attracted to the blood of animals who eat a lot of garlic. Garlic is also a natural wormer and reduces the smell of chicken manure in flocks fed garlic regularly.  I don't find that the garlic taints the taste of our eggs in the least bit.

Garlic can be added to your chickens' diet in a couple of different ways.  You can float whole cloves in your waterer (mashed up a bit), replacing them every few days.  You can offer crushed fresh cloves in a small dish free-choice. Or you can add garlic powder to their feed.  I have tried all three and find it easiest to just add the powder to their feed (2% ratio), but every once in awhile I also give them a bowl of the fresh garlic.

Small chicks should also be offered crushed fresh garlic, free-choice, early on so they develop a taste for it.   A splash of apple cider vinegar in their water is also a great health booster for chicks.

Although garlic is in the allum family which also contains the potentially toxic onion, the levels of the toxin thiosulphate in garlic is only 1/15th that found in onions, and powdered garlic contains even less after being processed, so I feel very comfortable adding garlic to our chickens' daily feed.

This is a direct quote from Thomas Labs, which has done extensive research on the subject of feeding garlic to chickens:

"The first problem with the perception that garlic may be toxic is that garlic is in the onion family and we have all been warned that onions are toxic to animals, and by that logic garlic must be as toxic also. The second problem with garlic is that when studies were conducted to see just how toxic it may be (these studies were done in the 30's), the amount of garlic given to the animals (dogs and cats in this case) was excessive, in some studies 6 times (or six whole cloves) the amount of garlic was fed - equal to a whole bulb of raw garlic; this amount of garlic fed every day would probably be toxic to humans as well. Since these studies, people have linked garlic and onions as being the same level of toxic and until recently (in the early 2000's) no one made an effort to take another look at garlic or it's true levels of toxicity. 

A small dose of onions can be toxic to animals due to their high concentrations of thiosulphate, and even though garlic is in the onion family it simply does not have the same levels of thiosulphate, in fact it has 1/15 the level, and this is in it's raw, whole form. When garlic is further processed for consumption as a powder supplement, mixed with other supplements and minerals (as in the case of Brewer's Yeast and Garlic), and given at appropriate doses, then the thiosulphates are negligible at best. The fact is that garlic is not toxic when taken at low levels and is often included as an ingredient in many commercially available natural pet foods. As with anything in life the levels or doses you take of something is the deciding factor on how toxic it will be. No one would doubt the fact that taking a once a day multi-vitamin is a good thing for your body, but what if you took that once a day vitamin 50 times a day, you would end up with toxic levels of vitamins in your body. 

Specific to our product Brewers Yeast & Garlic, there is 400mg of garlic per teaspoon, which equates to about 5% total ingredient in the mix, or approx .4 percent per teaspoon. This level is on par with levels that are added to commercially available animal feed. I know your forte is chickens and such, but there is little research for dosing in birds. You practical experience and excellent results will have to be the testimony for how well it works and how non toxic it is in your application." 


The third in the Trinity is DIATOMACEOUS EARTH (DE).  DE is an all natural silica-based crushed fossil that kills hard-shelled insects.  It kills fleas, ticks, flies, aphids,  earwigs, silverfish, crickets, millipedes, centipedes and digestive worms while being completely safe for chickens.   

DE sprinkled in the nesting boxes and coop floor helps control parasites, and sprinkled around the feeders controls flies and ants in the summer.  Only food-grade DE should be used around the chickens, because they will inevitably end up eating some.  

I also add DE to their daily feed in a 2% ratio to help guard against internal worms.  DE, according to an article in Poultry Science, increases shell weight and thickness, increases egg production and increases hen body weight. 

Note: DE does also kill good bugs and can cause lung aggravation if the dust is inhaled, so take care where and how you sprinkle it.  

You should wear a dust mask while sprinkling your coop floor, nesting boxes, around the feeders, in the dust bath area, etc.  to prevent lung and throat irritation. 

I find that one good way to disperse the DE is from a plastic shaker bottle, like the kind Parmesan cheese comes in.  I keep a full bottle in the run and sprinkle it liberally, especially in the summer when the flies get bad.

Bonus health tips!  Plain yogurt with live cultures and black strap molasses are also good to give your chickens on occasion as both have health benefits for your flock.  A once weekly serving of yogurt will help keep the good bacteria levels high in your chickens' digestive systems and molasses contains lots of minerals including iron and copper, manganese and potassium, as well as calcium.  Molasses helps flush toxins out of the chickens' systems.  

Yogurt can cause diarrhea so it should only be given in small amounts and conversely, probiotic powder can be added to their feed in place of the yogurt to help boost the good bacteria in their intestines.

And there you have your Holistic Trinity plus something for intestinal health.  The holistic secrets to raising healthy chickens. 


Supplemental reading/sources:

Apple Cider Vinegar Reference Articles:

Garlic Reference Articles:

Diatomaceous Earth Reference Articles:


  1. I give my girls yogurt every day and always put ACV in their water. Is that a problem?

    Thanks for the great articles....love your blog!


    1. Yogurt can give them diarrhea but otherwise its not a problem but not necessary every day. Once a week on both is fine..but you're certainly not hurting them by doing it every day. Although I would put out plain water for them also in case they want a break from the ACV water.

      Thanks for liking the blog Cindy !

    2. Thank you Lisa!
      Yogurt is their favorite in the morning. I'll look out for diarrhea...so far so good.

      Also, with the D Earth can you dust them with it if you see external parasites?


  2. Yes, most definitely. You can dust them as a preventative or dust each one if you see mites. Just be sure and cover their eyes and mouth. You don't want them breathing the dust in - it can cause respiratory problems.

  3. Adding the 2% of garlic and the 2% of DE is that by weight or volume?

    1. I believe it is by volume, but honestly I just kind of 'guesstimate'. It says on the back of the DE bag - I don't happen to have the container anymore b/c I pour it into a different container. And the garlic, more is only going to be more beneficial, so its not an exacting measurement.

    2. Adding the 2% of garlic and the 2% of DE... can you give us some better measurements??? I'm not good at guessing.

  4. This might be a dumb question, but is there any garlic flavor to your eggs?

    1. Not a dumb question at all. I add garlic powder to their feed every day and have never noticed a garlic taste. Of course, most of our eggs are used for breakfast, and there are worst things than garlic tasting scrambled eggs ! But seriously I have never noticed the taste of anything the chickens eat translate to the taste of the eggs.

  5. Great tips. I've heard lots of tips using DE but steered cleared once I learned they can be hard on honeybees. We have 5 Hives. As bees have no business or desire to mess around in the coop, it seems like it may work in this situation. What do you think?

    1. Yes DE will kill bees and other beneficial bugs, so I only use the DE around the coop and run not in our garden areas you should be fine.

  6. Mrs. Barnum October 10,2012 6:05PM

    I have both chickens and ducks. Will the DE hurt the ducks at all. ur blog is very interesting. Thank you

    1. Hi there. Won't hurt them at all. We have both also. Ducks don't get mites and lice like chickens can but the DE won't hurt and it does have overall health benefits also.

  7. How do you give them the molasses?

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  11. Great info! I'd love to have you stop by and share your post on The Creative HomeAcre Hop today!

  12. So the DE won't hurt their lungs in the nests? I don't see how it won't hurt them in this way. Scared of that stuff!!

    1. Breathing the dust can possibly lead to respiratory issues with prolonged exposure just as any dust can. It's recommended that humans wear a mask when applying the dust, and don't apply it when the chickens are in the area, but in once its been sprinkled around, there is pretty low risk of inhaling the dust. To me, the tradeoff of possibly dealing with lice or mites is worse. Mites are very hard to get rid on once the chickens contract them and they can cause anemia or even death.

  13. Thanks for joining in with us over at the Creative HomeAcre blog hop. I'm sure this post will be invaluable advice to other flock keepers. Look forward to seeing you again this weekend at http://mumtopia.blogspot.com/2013/05/bloghop19thmay.html

  14. Thank you so much for this, I'll be getting my chicks soon and keep combing the 'net for valuable information. This will go in the very front of my "Chicken Bible"

  15. I Love all your info! We just got our baby chicks today! How much garlic & acv should the babies get & how soon? Thanks!

    1. I just put a few drops of ACV into the baby chicks water maybe every other day and garlic, I sprinkle a bit of powder over their food, just a dusting. and offer them some fresh minced garlic once a week or so.

  16. Lisa,

    I just realized, using a new hatchery to get chicks this year, that I would not be getting the "Quik-Chick" for water. I read your chick care and saw a pedilyte list, but did not see where you talked about using it. I read this post and am wondering what you used for the first couple weeks for new chicks? Especially if they have been shipped. The 75 chicks don't come until Thursday, so I have time to figure this out. I prefer organic solutions, so am wondering if the Bragg's, garlic, etc is an alternative to the electrolytes?

    Thanks for any specific use recommendations.

    1. Hi there. Plain pedialyte or Sav-a-Chick is comparable to the Quik-Chick. I would just give them some sugar water the first few days and if they seem fine after that, then switch to the Braggs ACV. If, when you get them, one seems lethargic, then think about adding some pedialyte. The garlic and Braggs isn't really an alternative to electrolytes, but I think also important to their overall health and immune system.

  17. Great post! We give our girls Azomite for their immune systems and will try adding the ACV. Bragg's has terrific products.

  18. Will regular Apple Cider Vinegar Work in place of the Organic Braggs

    1. As long as it's real apple cider vinegar and not just colored white vinegar.

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  20. I have read that some people mix sand and DE together in a small pan and let their chickens use this for a dust bath? Will they not breath this in if dusting themselves?? any advice?

  21. Hi there, Love your information. I would love to start adding the Garlic and DE to my chickens feeding program, however I don't understand how to calculate the 2% ratio you are suggesting. Can you help? I currently free feed my hens in a large hanging feeder that holds approximately 6 lbs of feed. It lasts for about a week or so. Thank you!!!

    1. Well since you know the feeder holds 6 pounds, 5% of 6 pounds is about a third of a pound or so. So you could weigh it out like that. Or 6 pounds is 96 ounces and 5% of that is about 5 ounces. So that's easily measured out as well. I have a scoop that I've measured out for my 50lb bags of feed that I use as a guide. So once you weigh it out once, find a container or use a plastic scoop and mark how full to fill it with a marker and you can then just scoop and add.

  22. Thank you for the info. It seems a little complicated to have to calculate it out exact. Would it be ok to just put some in a pan and assume that 1) They will even eat it on their own and 2) Is it possible for them to over eat it? I'm disabled and my husband has to deal with the feed and if it's too complicated, he will avoid doing it, so the easier the better. I'm not totally sure on the exact amount that the feeding actually holds, but it's around three 2# coffee cans worth. Also, your suggestion was for a 2% ratio of DE and Garlic, so that would mean the 5% is too much and I'd need to cut it down to like 2 oz then? Is that about right? Sorry for all the questions, math is NOT my strong point. :)

    1. Oh sorry, yes I meant 2% not 5%. I understand what you're saying but once you measure it out once, just find a little scoop or cup measure and mark how much to use so that will be easy. If you're using 3 coffee cans, then figure each coffee can is 30% of the total so a third of the can is 10%.So you want roughly 1/5th of a can. Fill up the can and the pour it out into 5 little piles and then find something that will fit one of the piles - it doesn't have to be exact, I assume thier bodies will just pass whatever they don't need. They won't eat it plain tho you do have to mix it in.

  23. I'm buying feed in a 50lb bag and then dumping it into a large Rubbermaid container. I'm thinking that may be easier then trying to measure out for each time we fill the feeder. How much are you using for a 50lb bag? Is it about 1 cup of each (DE and Garlic)? I'm thinking that might be way easier and then just stiring it each time to coat the pellets.

    1. That's about right. I do the same, 50lb bag into a rubbermaid and then I mix everything in - and then divide it into smaller covered pails to feed out of (I leave one in a corner of the run). Here are the exact measurements I use:

      1 50lb. Bag Layer Crumble
      1 Large Canister Old-Fashioned Oats (grocery-store size canister)
      2 Cups Cracked Corn
      4 Cups Shelled Sunflower Seeds
      1/4 Bag Omega Ultra Egg
      1-1/2 Cups Thomas Labs Brewers Yeast and Garlic Powder
      1-1/2 Cups Probiotic Powder
      1-1/2 Cups food-grade Diatomaceous Earth
      1 Cup Sea Kelp
      Handful of mixed dried herbs

    2. Wow! That is the Breakfast of Champions. I use pellets as there seems to be less waste involved. I'm gonna give it a try. Thanks so much for all your info.

  24. Couple of questions. I'd rather make a mash and add ACV to that once a week. How much would you say would be okay for a dozen chickens? About a tablespoon? Garlic: I read you suggested 2 %, any idea about how much that would come to for about 5 lbs of feed? 1 tb about?

    1. Sure you could do that. I would do the same about a tablespoon per gallon of mash. And for the garlic in 5 lbs of feed...I use about a cup and a half for 50 lbs of feed, so 10% of that....maybe a few tablespoons. Less than 1/4 cup. I would just sprinkle some I guess!

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Thank you for your kind comments and joining along with Fresh Eggs Daily as we live our wonderful, natural country farm life.

Lisa of Fresh Eggs Daily