How to Make Apple Cider Vinegar for Chickens (and You!)

Apple cider vinegar for chickens is a great way to keep your flock healthy. Chicken experts advise adding apple cider vinegar to your chickens’ water. Unfiltered apple cider vinegar, with the “mother” still in it, is expensive. But you can make it yourself! Even better … you can use it for your own family.

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What you need:

  • Apples
  • Store-bought apple cider vinegar…the real kind!
  • Wide-mouth mason jars and rings
  • Cheesecloth
  • A warm location
  • Sugar to speed up the process, though this is not necessary

First, cut up your apples.

But here’s a hint; you only need the peels or cores. That’s right … Make your apple pie or dried apples, and save the peels and cores for your vinegar. We used our peeler-corer-slicer, and dehydrated the centers.

Place the apple trimmings in a bowl, with enough room on top to completely cover with water. Fill the bowl with water. You can add sugar to the water to speed up fermentation, if you wish. Place a plate on the bowl, to completely push all of the apples down into the water … preferably a plate that fits well over the top and seal out fruit flies.

Place that bowl in a location that stays around 75 degrees or higher for a week. I used one of my laundry room cupboards, with the door closed.

When the water bubbles out around the plate, you’re ready for the next step. This will be alcoholic at this point.

This step led up to an in-depth discussion with my 11-year-old daughter. She didn’t want to make alcohol, but I explained it was an important step in the vinegar-making process that can’t be skipped. We would not drink the alcohol.

Strain the apples out of the fermented water, and throw them away. Do not give them to your chickens, unless you want drunk chickens. (Really, I don’t know if they’ll even eat them. I didn’t try it.)

Fill wide-mouth jars with the fermented water. You want wide-mouth if possible, to increase airflow to the vinegar. Add a drizzle of existing apple cider vinegar, or part of the “mother” from another batch, to inoculate this water. This adds the necessary aceter bacteria. Use real apple cider vinegar; the clear stuff that comes in gallon jugs is usually flavored distilled vinegar and has no “mother.” I use Braggs ACV.

Cover the jars with cheesecloth or other loose-weave cloth. Secure it in place with the canning ring, or a rubber band. Place the jars in a warm, dark location, like the inside of a cupboard, for 2-4 months. Again, we used our laundry room cupboard.

Fruit flies will try to get in this, so be sure that the cloth is on tight, and the cupboard door is shut to avoid an infestation. While the alcohol turns to vinegar, you will notice that a slimy layer rises to the top. This is the “mother,” and it’s completely normal. It’s actually a cellulose layer that separates during the process. Don’t throw that away. It helps seal off the rest of the vinegar from contamination.

Don’t worry much about bacteria during this stage. Alcohol and vinegar have been used for millennia to protect against bacteria.

The longer you wait, the stronger your vinegar will be. When you are ready, remove the mother and either throw it away or put it in the compost, or use part of it to inoculate a new batch. Strain the vinegar from the solids that have sunk to the bottom.

At this point, you can use the vinegar, seal it up, or even add herbs for flavored vinegar. But do not use this for canning other foods! Safe canning requires a specific acidity, and homemade vinegar recipes often do not reach that acidity.

How to Use Apple Cider Vinegar for Chickens, Coops and Eggs

Apple Cider
  • Add to chicken waterers to improve respiratory health
  • Cleaning eggs
  • Conditioning rinse for chicken baths
  • Removing mineral buildup on waterers
  • Debugging nesting boxes and coops
  • Foot soak
  • Loosens grime in difficult areas
  • Conditioning spray
  • Cleaning the incubator
  • Easter egg dye
  • Though the article recommends it for pickled eggs, do NOT use homemade vinegar for home canning!

Here’s one more recipe:

Apple Cider Vinegar Syrup

Take some homemade apple cider vinegar and pour it in a saucepan. Turn it on to medium or lower. When it starts to simmer, let it keep simmering until it has cooked down into thick syrup. If desired, add some apple juice to this mixture for sweeter syrup, or some spices.

This syrup is excellent on top of apple-cheese blintzes! A family favorite!

Originally published in 2013 and regularly vetted for accuracy. 

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