Nov 192011

Benefits of Cider Vinegar, Garlic, and Poultry Spice to a Smallholder

moulting chicken at fifesmallholder

As the light shortens and we come into autumn/winter some of my hens moult, and today I gave them some things that I feel will help them to replace their feathers, and maximise their health for the cold months ahead.  Lack of daylight and moulting means less eggs (energy goes into making new feathers), but I don’t mind a drop in egg production over the winter because I think it gives the hens a bit of a rest, and helps them to stay strong over the long dark, cold, damp days till spring.

Winter behaviour of chickens

The hens seem to stay in their sheds more over winter, and particularly during a cold spell when the ground is frozen or covered in snow.  They therefore have less access to minerals and food that they would normally consume whilst out free ranging in the field or woodland.

Cider Vinegar

Apple Cider Vinegar is an age-old product beloved by many traditional chicken keepers to promote all round health and vitality in poultry (and many other animals). 

What does it do?

  • Aids digestion of chickens

 helping to break down minerals and fats and assists the bird to assimilate proteins and convert food better.

  •  Lowers the Ph of the chicken’s digestive tract 

rendering it to be 90% less welcoming to Pathogens.

  •  Provides a natural source of Potassium and other important trace minerals

 Helps to improve fertility and general well-being.

  •  Depresses the growth of Algae in the chicken water drinker

 Use cider vinegar only in a plastic drinker.

  •  Helps clean the plumage of grease and old bloom, when used in baths.

It is therefore excellent for show birds.

  •  Clears respiratory tracts

  • Can also be used to treat minor wounds and skin irritations

At a dose of no more than 1 part to 10.

  • Cleans feeding and drinking equipment 

and is often sprayed into and around housing as a very effective fly and insect deterrent.

  • Will help chickens with stress 

which is one of the main contributors to their immune system lowering and letting in disease

How much cider vinegar do I use?

 Add to the drinking water at the rate of 5ml per litre of clean drinking water.  As a guide I would suggest 10ml of Apple Cider Vinegar per litre of fresh water – be careful not to add to much as it may stop the hens drinking which would be a problem.


“Apple cider vinegar (ACV) is not an alternative to regular worming. It has been shown to improve resistance to internal parasites but is no substitute. Many keepers use ACV to improve resistance to coccidosis in particular.”

What Is Coccidiosis?

Coccidiosis is a common parasitic disease of poultry which affects the digestive tract and is primarily found in chickens and turkeys. If not treated it can lead to death. The symptoms are:
  • Ruffled feathers.
  • Unthriftiness.
  • Head drawn back into shoulders.
  • A chilled appearance.
  • Diarrhoea which may have blood in it.

Causes of coccidiosis

Coccidiosis is caused by a protozoan parasite (coccidia).  Poultry are exposed to the protozoan parasite via their droppings, dirty drinkers and damp litter in their huts.  Coccidia thrives in damp conditions such as damp chicken litter and is found in chicken manure.  Coccidia can also be found in water that is not kept clean and free of chicken droppings.

Stress in chickens

Times of stress for a chicken may include:
  • Moving house
  • Introducing new birds or mixing up the pecking order
  • If snow falls on the ground (a stressful change in environment for chickens)
  • After a fright – e.g. fox or dog attack
  • After injury

What is the difference between cider vinegar I get in the supermarket and others?

The difference is that the ACV sold in the supermarket is filtered and pasturised to preserve the product and kill off bacteria. This also kills off the beneficial ‘good’ bacteria. The equine / animal feed ACV is unpasturised and unfiltered.

What about cider vinegar and worms?

Personally, I believe they help make the gut an unpleasant environment for worms but cannot replace a chemical wormer if you have a confirmed case of worms.  If in any doubt, if you don’t want to use a licensed wormer (Flubenvet) then do get a worm count done. As well as the health implications for your birds when not worming correctly, finding a worm inside an egg is unpleasant for you and your customers.  Check out this link for more info on worms and their treatment.

Poultry Spice 

Give your birds a boost in Spring or after the moult with this natural nutritional supplement plus extra minerals in a spice base. One teaspoonful to be given in the usual wet or dry mash for every 10 fowls. In cold weather a little more of the powder may be given. Specially recommended for improving all round condition and performance. Invaluable for rearing Poultry, Ducks, Geese, Turkeys and Game birds.

Poultry Spice contains minerals, powdered ginger, turmeric, fenugreek and aniseed. Click on the links to find out more about the health benefits of these spices to humans, and hopefully, our feathered friends.


Garlic is supposed to keep the mites and lice away.
Nov 062011
puppy picture

We have updated our puppy page @ fifesmallholder

Smallholding puppies can be found here:

The pups are now 4 weeks old, and have their own facebook page:

More photos on my flickr page:

 November 6, 2011  dog, employment, income, post archive Tagged with: , , , ,
Nov 022011

The relationship between trees and fungi

Its been a good year for mushrooms or fungi, on our smallholding.


woodland mushroom at fife smallholder


What is fungi?

Fungi, together with the bacteria, are the ‘decomposers’ of our environment and they are just as important as the ‘producers’ the green plants. Fungi lack the green pigment chlorophyll, the pigment that is essential in converting sunlight into plant energy, because they don’t have this pigment, fungi have to get their energy from other sources, from organic material produced by other plants.

Fungi are not plants but belong in a kingdom of their own. Their cell walls are made of chitin (a white horny substance more easily recognised as the substance that forms the outer skeletons of crabs!) and instead of using photosynthesis to obtain energy they digest organic matter.

Where will I find fungi?

Many fungi grow only in very specific places, or are associated with particular kinds of trees. i.e. ‘Birch’ polypore or Razorstrop, a bracket fungus.  Fruiting bodies may also be produced in a particular season. Although Autumn (August to November)  is the most fruitful season. In spring for example, there are Saint George’s mushroom so named because the fruiting bodies first appear around the 23rd April, which is St. George’s Day. In Summer  –  giant Puffballs and the edible bracket ‘Chicken of the woods’.

woodland fungi

woodland fungi

The fungi in the picture above is likely to be Honey Fungus.  This is a destructive parasite which can be found on tree stumps, roots and buried branches.  It is recognisable  from the black rhizomes encircling its host which resemble a network of leather bootlaces.  Do not eat raw.  Collect the caps when young, when the gills are white.  Blanch before cooking and then fry slowly.  Honey Fungus has  a strong flavour and firm texture.        

Types of fungi

Fungi can be divided into three groups:

  •  Saprophytes 

are probably the most numerous, performing a vital role in breaking down dead organic matter. Feeding on dead tree trunks, decomposed plant remains in the soil, dead insects, man-made foodstuffs and clothes. e.g. Stinkhorns.

  • Parasites 

Parasitism is the dark side of fungal ecology, these fungi obtain all their nutrients from a living host. In many cases resulting in the death of the poor host. A plant parasite commonly seen locally is the Honey Fungus Armillaria mellea.

  • Symbionts 

These fungi live in close association with the roots of other living plants to their mutual benefit, this symbiotic relationship is known as mycorrhizae (fungus roots).  The fungus benefits by receiving sugars from a plant and the plant obtains phosphates and other nutrients from the fungus.

In particular, this is the type of mushroom I am interested in – the mycorrhizal. They have a symbiotic relationship (friendly exchange) with trees or other plants.  Mushroom mycelium receives carbohydrates and other nutrition from trees while delivering minerals and water. The tree often receives a significant amount of it’s water intake by delivery from the extended mycelial network. Both organisms benefit. More than 90% of all plants form beneficial associations with fungus.

Trees in our woodland

Oak  supports many species including maitake,  chanterelles,  chicken of the woods, honey mushrooms, oysters and many others. 

White, yellow, and other birches can harbor polypores on the wood and chanterelles,  and others on the ground. Mature, scarred, or dying trees usually produce more. 

Beech are where you find chanterelles,  and occasionally oysters.


mushroom found on smallholding

nibbled mushroom

What fungi is in our wood just now?

Bearded Milk Cap: Lactarius pubescens 

All the Lactarius species produce a milky fluid if the gills or the cap is damaged, giving rise to the common name “milk caps”. Cap 3-10cm across, convex with a depressed disc and in rolled margin, becoming flat then shallowly funnel-shaped with an arched margin; pale tan or cinnamon pink, slightly darker at the disc. Found on soil amongst birch, Broadleaved and mixed woodland, parks. Common. Late August to October to autumn.

Jew’s  Ear –  Auricularia auricula- judae

Common, found in the UK  all year round. Soft, floppy, reddish brown ear on branches. Jew’s Ear fungus likes to grow on common elder and false acacia.  It is edible and considered a delicacy in the far east. n.b.  ‘Jews ear’ refer to the legend that Judas hung himself on an Elder  the ‘ear’ being his returned spirit.

 Oyster Mushrooms – Pleurotus ostreatus

In the woods near me there is a semi-rotten beech tree that hosts oyster mushroom mycellium. Every year, after a very cold snap (usually in January) the mycellium runs and its fruiting bodies appear. Behold! Sumptuous oyster mushrooms.

Check out this website for lots more info 

Check out other posts from Fife Smallholder on this topic including the Scottish Wild Mushroom Code.

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