No problem! In this article, you'll discover why it's sometimes necessary to give your flock electrolytes and how you can make them easily and inexpensively, from items you're likely to have in your kitchen store cupboard.
For humans, you'll probably have heard of electrolytes in the context of sports or illness.
It's taken as a drink which replaces salts the body loses when we exercise hard, or when we've been ill and sweated a lot, or lost liquid through vomiting, for example.
Electrolytes help the body rehydrate by replacing in particular the sodium, potassium and bicarbonate which cells and organs need to function healthily.
These drinks are sold commercially : Gatorade is one you've probably heard of.
But commercially produced sports drinks tend to have added ingredients like flavouring and colouring, which if possible are best avoided.
Electrolyte drinks do basically the same for poultry as for humans. They help to rehydrate and re-balance the cells and organs whenever chickens need it.
And sometimes, they can literally be a life-saver.
Chickens are creatures of habit, and very easily stressed if their routine changes. They're also easily stressed by things like :
If you notice changes in your flock's behaviour - panting, spreading their wings, cowering, not eating or drinking, poor egg production, lethargy, for example - it's time to bring out the electrolytes.
There are various recipes around the internet. This one has all the necessary ingredients, no matter the reason your flock needs it.
Using ordinary tap water is fine, but coconut water contains some potassium so I use that if I have it in stock. I never have a gallon of it, though, so if I'm using coconut water I just make half or one quarter of this amount.
To 4.5 litres (one gallon) of water, add :
Potassium chloride is commonly added to electrolyte drinks, and is available in health food shops. But it can be expensive.
Salt substitutes like Lo-Salt (which is inexpensive, and readily available in supermarkets worldwide) contain around 66% potassium chloride, so you can use this instead. Put it on your shopping list next time you head out to the supermarket, so it's always available in your store cupboard.
If you can't find it, try a health food shop for pure potassium chloride, and keep it in your flock's first aid kit (you do have one, don't you?). If all else fails you can buy it from Amazon (you can buy anything from Amazon, these days!).
Coconut water (as I mentioned above) also contains potassium, although at a much lower level - around 5%.
If you don't have the ingredients in stock and need an electrolyte drink quickly, you can use a commercial sports drink like Gatorade. Don't do this for longer than absolutely necessary, though - the salt and sugar levels are higher than chickens need.
You can also keep a stash of electrolyte powder in your flock's first aid kit. It's a more expensive option, but perhaps more convenient.
If you're going to go down this route, keep a brand which contains vitamin powders as well, so that if something like wry neck hits your flock you're ready. These two brands (in the USA and UK respectively - search for something similar in other parts of the world) are very reliable.
I don't just offer advice from something I happen to have read on the internet - there's too much incorrect information out there. So where I suggest remedies for your flock, I do my research thoroughly.
Here are a couple of the resources I've used when looking at the issue of using electrolyte drinks for chickens. Click on the links to go to the articles, which will open in a new page.
Deyhim et al: The effect of heat stress and drinking water sale supplements on plasma electrolytes and aldosterone concentration in broiler chickens. Pub. US National Library of Medicine, 1995.
Smith, M.O. and Teeter, R.G.: Potassium balance of the 5 to 8 week old broiler exposed to constant heat. Pub. National Center for Biotechnology Information.
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