Or maybe you have a sick chick or chicken who's in need of a quick boost, and you've heard that an electrolyte drink will help – but you don't know how to go about making it.
In this article, you'll discover...
What exactly is an electrolyte drink?
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 minerals 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 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, or lethargy, for example – it's time to bring out the electrolytes.
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There are various recipes available. This one has all the necessary ingredients, no matter the reason your flock needs it.
Make up these dry ingredients first and store in a jar in a cool, dry place. This mixture will keep indefinitely as long as it does not attract moisture.
How much you use will, of course, depend on the size of your flock.
Don't keep the liquid electrolyte drink for longer than a day.
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.
Or buy it now so you don't forget.
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.
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 electrolyte liquid (or 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.
This brand of electrolyte powder is excellent, and despite its name is equally as effective for adults as for baby chicks.
It's important that you don't give electrolytes to poultry unless there is a good reason. Too much salt can be damaging to their system.
A lot of "facts" you'll find on the internet are often people's individual views, based on inaccurate information repeated from poor quality sources.
The information I provide in this article and others is based not just on my own experience, but on evidenced facts from scientific, peer-reviewed research and books from highly respected and experienced poultry keepers such as Gail Damerow.
Some of the trusted sources I have used in this article are these.
1. 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.
2. 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.