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Article reprinted from Parrot Magazine Vol. 3 – Issue 1 Circa 1996

Apple cider vinegar for parrots?

Yes! Apple cider vinegar has many outstanding qualities that are beneficial to pets in general and birds are no exception. In my book, “A Guide to a Naturally Healthy Bird”, I write about the benefits of using ACV as a supplement in your bird’s diet. To teach you more about ACV and its uses I decided to write an article that would provide you with greater detail.


A little history about vinegar…

Vinegar has been used in one form or another for over 10,000 years. It is used for many purposes and throughout the ages has served as a preservative, condiment, beauty aid, cleaning agent and medicine.

The word vinegar comes from the Latin word ‘vinum’ meaning ‘wine’ and ‘acer’ meaning ‘sour’. These two words eventually became one and it is now vinegar. In 5,000B.C. the Babylonians fermented the fruit of date palms and created date vinegar. The Romans made vinegar from grapes, figs, dates and rye. The armies of Julius Caesar would drink vinegar and water for its antiseptic properties. Hippocrates, the father of medicine, recommended vinegar for his patients that were ill. Vinegar is mentioned in the Bible a number of times in both the Old and New Testaments. Many ancient cultures used vinegar and valued it for its medicinal benefits. It was used for disinfecting wounds and for insect bites and snakebites. Vinegar compresses were useful for healing bruises.


What is ACV and how is it made?


The basis of ACV is sweet apple cider. Sweet apple cider is the juice of the apple. When sweet cider is exposed to the air for a few weeks it ferments into alcohol. This is called hard cider. Once the hard cider ferments (again) into acetic acid, it then becomes vinegar. The process is known as acetous fermentation and it occurs in 2 stages. The process begins when yeast (naturally present on the outer skin of apples) converts the sugar in apples to alcohol. When alcohol and air combine, the oxygen in the air interacts with tiny bacteria called vinegar bacillus. This bacillus occurs naturally in the air and converts alcohol into acetic acid.

The acid content of store-bought ACV is standardized at around 5%.


What are the nutritional benefits of ACV?


Many vitamins, minerals and other nutrients and substances are available in ACV to improve the health of your bird. ACV can provide them with enzymes and important minerals, such as potassium, calcium, magnesium, sulphur, chlorine, phosphorus, iron, silicon and other trace minerals. The vitamins contained in ACV are bioflavonoids (vitamin P), beta-carotene (precursor to vitamin A), vitamin C, E, B1, B2, and B6. Tannins from the crushed cell walls of fresh apples as well as malic acid, tartaric acid, propionic acid, acetic acid and pectin (fibre) are also contained in ACV. Be sure to purchase organic, unfiltered, unpasteurized, naturally fermented ACV for its medicinal features. ACV ranges in colour from a light golden to orange. You’ll know you’ve found the right stuff if you see sediment, referred to as the “mother of vinegar” on the bottom of the bottle. Do NOT buy white distilled vinegar as it has none of the beneficial elements listed above.


Other benefits of ACV…

ACV has the ability to prevent growth of bacteria and mould; therefore, adding it to your bird’s fresh foods as a nutritional supplement has an additional purpose. The acid content of the ACV will help reduce the chance of bacterial and fungal growth on fresh foods during the period of time they are in your bird’s food bowl. However, I don’t recommend that you leave fresh foods out any longer than 4-6 hours with or without the use of ACV.


ACV can also be sprayed on seeds during the sprouting period to prevent the growth of pathogens such as bacteria or fungi. Simply place ACV in a mister bottle and spray your seeds thoroughly with ACV after each rinse with fresh water until the seeds are sprouted. You can rinse the ACV from the sprouts before serving them to your bird; however, if some remains on the sprouts this is fine.


If you use conventionally grown produce, you can remove pesticide residues by spraying the fruits and vegetables with ACV, wait 5 minutes and rinse. To eliminate bacteria from organic and conventional produce, spray with ACV, wait 5 minutes and rinse.


ACV has many healing abilities as well and is known to ameliorate certain symptoms of illness and disease. It works not by curing any specific illness, but by boosting the health of the individual with its nutritional and healthful qualities. I will highlight just a few of ACV’s known potential benefits.


Firstly, ACV may be an effective remedy for arthritis, gout and kidney disease and helpful in alleviating joint pain; the malic acid content of apples dissolves calcium deposits. ACV acts to balance the acid-alkaline pH levels of the body and helps to oxygenate blood.


ACV has been helpful as an aid for digestion, helping to break down minerals, proteins and fats. It also inhibits the growth of unfriendly bacteria in the digestive tract. ACV has detoxifying properties, strengthens the immune system and may ameliorate viral, bacterial and fungal infections. It is used as an antibacterial and anti-inflammatory medicine and has a natural antibiotic effect. Its benefits also include ameliorating respiratory infections and may reduce symptoms, such as watery eyes and nasal discharge. In addition ACV can be helpful in eliminating both internal and external parasite problems.


ACV has been used successfully for dry, itchy skin and feather problems. If applied topically to wounds and burns it will decrease the pain and promote healing. It also controls minor bleeding from cuts and abrasions. Apple pectin, a water-soluble dietary fibre found in apples and ACV, binds to toxins in the body and assists in their removal while it may also help relieve diarrhoea and constipation. And lastly, it may lower cholesterol levels and improve heart health. ACV should not be used internally for those birds that have irritation of the mucous (lining) of the intestinal tract.


NOTE: ACV should be used diluted for application to the skin. Place in a mister bottle and spray to affected areas. (BE SURE YOU DO NOT GET THIS SOLUTION IN YOUR BIRD’S EYES.)


How to use ACV…


I began using ACV as a supplement for my parrots in 1994. It is added to my birds’ mash diet as a condiment just as you would add salad dressing to a salad. Some avian health practitioners recommend that ACV be placed in a bird’s drinking water. I recommend placing it in fresh food because I believe that a bird’s drinking water should be free of additives, with the exception of electrolyte solution or a medicinal product that is used on a short-term basis. The dosage I use approximately 4 tsp for small parrots approximately 6 tsp for medium to large parrots. It can also be given orally diluted in water under the guidance of a vet or avian health practitioner.


ACV can be useful to your bird’s health in conjunction with feeding it a wide variety of foods but should never be looked upon as a panacea. Fresh food ingredients such as fruits, vegetables, grains, legumes and seeds make up the wholeness that will effectively help your bird to achieve optimum health.


Often at times one looks for the magic ingredient that will miraculously make their bird well. Whether it is an antibiotic, grapefruit seed extract, aloe vera or milk thistle…there will always be a single popular or trendy supplement of the moment and this supplement will be promoted as the great healing agent. But if we focus on the part rather than the whole we are not taking a holistic approach to our bird’s health.


No supplement or ingredient will do much good if the diet the bird is eating is substandard. A nutritious diet is the foundation for optimum health and supplements are complementary to such a diet. Briefly stated: ACV can provide your bird with minerals, acids and enzymes for a long and healthy life.All right reserved.


No part of this article may be reproduced in any form or by any means without permission from the author.


Alicia McWatters PhD, CNC

Nutritional Consultant

Holistic Avian Healthcare

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