Friday, July 6, 2012

Hot Weather, Acidosis and a Homemade Electrolyte Recipe


Did you know that the effects of heat on chickens is cumulative and that a sudden increase in temperature is more dangerous than a gradual climb? Temperatures between 65-75F 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, causes them to lose CO2 (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.  This imbalance in the body 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 think 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 prevent Acidosis.

Skip the ACV: 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 also changes the chickens' Ph levels in their bodies and could possibly increase their chances of developing Acidosis.  I suggest in the summer only adding ACV to your water once a week and try to add it on the cooler days if possible. 

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, horses and other animals. Even mix into a little fruit juice for yourself or your kids.

47 comments:

  1. On the Homemade Electrolyte Recipe you have, do you add that to their waterer or just put that in a container by itself?

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  2. Full strength if a bird seems in great distress, otherwise I would use this recipe per gallon of plain water.

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  3. Ok...I have been putting big ice chunks in their water every couple of hours and it is in the shade but it is really humid and will be getting back up close to 100 again today and those silly chickens keep going back in the coop! When i go out there they are panting. Hopefully the breeze will kick up soon! I am going to make some of this up and put it in their waterer. Should I do this once a day or each time I refill their water or what? Thank you!

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    1. I would add some more each time I refilled the waters. I would also shut them out of the coop. Put a basket or box filled with straw or shavings next to the coop for them to lay their eggs in where its cooler.

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    2. Ok...thank you for the great info! Unfortunately mine haven't starting laying yet so probably no need for the outside nesting box. They turned 4 months old on June 27th so I'm hoping they will start laying soon! =)

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  4. Thanks for the advice. I've been stressed on behalf of my girls. Other than providing ample shade, is there anything else one can do to cool them off?

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    1. Fans, electrolytes in the water, peas and other treats frozen into ice cubes in their water. Frozen water bottles in the water, shallow pans of water for them to stand in...

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  5. Thanks so much for sharing this recipe! It's been super hot here in Kansas, with temps over a hundred for nearly 15 days now. I'm struggling to keep my girls cool, every little bit helps! I'll make this tonight and get them some relief, thanks! :)

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  6. Thanks for the info. I am sharing it with my sister-in-law. She has already lost a chicken this year to the heat. So far my girl seem to be OK. I keep cool water out and they are free range so they stay in the shade. They also stand in there water bowls. I had to laugh the first time I saw it.

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  7. Very timely info-thanks! Not sure where I was supposed to put my favorite breed, so I will add it here. I just love my Rhodies & my Buffs!!! Very personable and great layers too!

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  8. thanks for this info,have learned so much from this site,hope to be able to raise some chickens in the future.

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  9. Thank you soooo much!!!! We have had sustained temps from 103-107 for over 2 weeks....I built my coop 3 ft. off the ground,and put chicken wire on back and 2 sides.They go under there for shade and "predator protection" (hawks). I keep a 3 gallon waterer (homemade) under there,and I have been freezing gallon milk jugs,putting one in twice a day.They have done well with this, but I am concerned about their electrolytes too,so I will add the recipe.

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  10. thanks Lisa! I had fans on all night along with adding electrolytes to the water. Counting down the days to cooler weather!

    June Gibbs

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  11. Lisa,you are a life saver.Thanks a bunch for this recipe-going now to make.
    Sandra Miller

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  12. Thanks so much. I was paying a dollar per packet of electrolyte solution to mix with 1 gallon of water. This will save me a lot of money. Just made up a batch for them.

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  13. I'm wondering if the av-a-chic powder that I received with my baby chicks is something similar...it says its a mix of vitamins and electrolytes so maybe I could use that as well?

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  14. I'm wondering if the av-a-chic powder that I received with my baby chicks is something similar...it says its a mix of vitamins and electrolytes so maybe I could use that as well?

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  15. THANK YOU for this recipe!!! and...for anyone else trying to keep chickens cool...we installed a $25 misting system that we got from Tractor Supply...it only uses 0.9 gallons of water per hour, drops the temp by 15 to 20 degrees (we tested it with a thermometer) and the chickens LOVE it!!! The CATS even lay under it!! it has proven to be a great investment for ALL the animals (and humans too...lol)!

    Going to mix the recipe and give it to the girls now!

    kelley

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  16. Can I make this up and keep it in my refrigerator for future use? I was thinking about making a large batch of this up and then storing it and just pulling it out as needed during the next few days.

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    1. I am thinking it should be made as needed since the Sav-A-Chick says to only keep for the day..but not sure. It certainly won't go bad, I'm just wondering if it will lose some nutrient over time.

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  17. Oh another question can I use this for my rabbit and dogs as well?

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  18. Who knew a homemade electrolyte recipe would be that simple?!!
    I was wondering if Gatorade or Poweraid would be ok to offer to our chickens, because like another member wrote from Kansas, we've had 100+ temps (averaging 106)In The Shade!for over 2 weeks straight here in sw NE, and the air is dry because we haven't had rain for just as long.
    Shellie Werich
    smw4211966@sbcglobal.net

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  19. Sure Gatorade or Poweraid would be fine. Anything to replenish what they're losing from the heat.

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  20. Thank you so much for the recipe..I'm sure it will help..I whipped a couple of batches for all their waters..I lost a couple of my older hens last week to heat..wished I had the recipe then. Thank you for posting it..Jeannie Mussatto

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  21. Thanks so much for the info. We're new to this, and I'm sure our Ameraucaunas will appreciate your advice.

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  22. i added it to my gallon waterer yesterday and my chicks drank like crazy also added a frozen bottle in with it to make water cold. Thanks for sharing. We are also in kansas and its crazy hot

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  23. Thank you for the information. 1st year for chickens for me, I need all the help I can get! I am in Georgia, and its hot here too! Thanks again!

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  24. Thank you for the information. I just wanted to make a small correction. Raising the acidity actually lowers the ph. A high ph is alkaline, a low ph is acidic. Not nitpicking... just don't want anyone to get confused and do the wrong thing.

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    1. Yes you are correct, but ACV is an alkaline solution that actually raises ph levels.

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    2. ACV - Apple Cider Vinegar? I'm pretty sure it's acidic. The electrolyte solution would be alkaline, but ACV, I think it's on the acid side of things.

      I've been giving my girls some kombucha in their water and they love it. (Fermented tea)

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    3. ACV is an acidic solution but does seem to have an alkalizing effect (i.e., raises pH levels).

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  25. Coconut water is nature's gatorade- high in nutrients, replaces electrolytes and tastes delicious for chickens and people. :) and it's very natural option... Due to the cost I would probably only use it on birds in crisis, but it is VERY effective!
    I've also heard you can use molasses instead of sugar to increase the mineral content and not use regular white sugar which isn't really good for anyone! :)
    Thank you so much for sharing the info! :)

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    1. Hello, yes molasses is very high in nutrients and in fact the base of Nutri-Drench, an effective commercial vitamin supplement, but molasses can cause diarrhea so I would stick to sugar at times when diarrhea can so easily dehydrate the birds.

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  26. My hens love this! Thank you, it makes me happy to do something to help my poor girls survive the heat.

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  27. Thank you.... I'm going to share this important info!

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  28. Excellent post! And it just so happens to be my pick for this week's Barn Hop feature at The Prairie Homestead. Great job! It will be featured in tomorrow's Barn Hop post. :)

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    1. Thanks so much Jill. I love your blog and facebook page. And anything to help spread to word about keeping our chickens cool.

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  29. I freeze the gatorade and then put it in their water.
    ~Di

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  30. As for the frozen ice or gatorade, they love playing with it.
    http://dianagibbs.typepad.com/stampin_with_di/2012/08/more-chick-news.html

    ~Di

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  31. Mine love cold watermelon! Juicy and refreshing.

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  32. I thought watermellon makes the kidneys work extra hard to flush water out of the body. Might not be a good idea in hot weather.

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    1. Never heard that one. Watermelon is pretty much a hot weather staple around here because of its high water content. I would like to see some scientific or other study on that.

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    2. Lisa, I found this: http://creditboards.com/forums/index.php?showtopic=442104
      Still not sure that it explains why watermelon is considered a diuretic. Makes for an interesting read though, as a start.

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    3. It is interesting but to me it shows even more so why watermelon is so good in the heat. Water-based plus nutrients....Plus this is just some forum, who knows the credentials of the commenters. But interesting none the less. I think the word diuretic is being misused here maybe?

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  33. I am looking for natural electrolytes for a feline. I am poor and my baby needs them!

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Lisa of Fresh Eggs Daily
www.facebook.com/FreshEggsDaily