Southern Agrarianism and the culture of the Old South

Clean Water for Chickens

Chickens seem to prefer drinking the nastiest water they can find. It is our job to make sure they only have fresh clean water. From my own reading, experience, and talking with others, the best way to do this (unless you are supplying them directly from your own drinking water) is to add hydrogen peroxide to the water tank. Hydrogen Peroxide (H2O2) is a powerful oxidizer that kills (literally by burning) any organic matter in the water. Keep in mind that, ideally, by the time the water gets to the chickens, the hydrogen peroxide will have broken down into water by releasing the extra atom of Oxygen. Our objective is to have clean water – and only clean water – for the chickens. We aren’t trying to feed them hydrogen peroxide.

When using hydrogen peroxide, it is extremely important that it be properly diluted – contact with high concentrations can be quite dangerous, and if it is too low, it will be less than effective. When handling concentrated hydrogen peroxide, you need to be very careful – eye protection and rubber gloves would be a good idea.

The 35% food grade hydrogen peroxide can be found at most health food stores. It needs to be kept refrigerated and away from light. Again, read the warnings and handling instructions carefully.

The recommended concentration is 8 ounces of 35% food grade hydrogen peroxide per 1,000 gallons of water. For my 35 gallon tank, I use 1 1/2 teaspoons in 30 gallons of water (I don’t fill the tank all the way to the top). I have since switched to a metric graduated cylinder to measure, so that comes out to 7.097 ml of 35% food grade hydrogen peroxide.

Hydrogen Peroxide in Agriculture
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  1. Brett Stevens

    Hydrogen peroxide is a favorite sterilizing agent in use around the home as well, although we are using the wimpy 2% solution. I trust it to do no harm unless abused, and for the daily cuts/scrapes/infections, it’s a knockout. It may require multiple applications unlike the anti-bacterial stuff that comes in tubes, but the simplicity of its use makes up for that easily.

  2. Wyandotte

    8 oz. per 1000 gallons of water? How do I figure this out for a one-gallon baby chick waterer? It would be just a few drops, right, but it’s important for small creatures to not get it wrong. I don’t know how to convert liquid measure into drops, do you?

    • Renate Christie

      You make a 3% solution using the 35%. Use demineralised water (distilled water)
      Once you have you 3% solution use 2 drops per cup (250mls).
      One litre – 10 drops
      2 litres – 20 drops and so on.
      I use this for my chicks every morning and since i have been using it I have no more chick deaths. So from own experience I would not stop using it otherwise I would go back to loosing chicks which I don’t want.

      • Stephen Clay McGehee

        Thanks for the info. I’ve never tried adding it to water for chicks. This latest batch of chicks (Buff Orpingtons that just started laying a few weeks ago) is the first in which I didn’t lose a single chick. I use a 30 gallon tank for water for my chickens, and treat it when I fill it. The biggest factor for me, though, has been keeping the plastic tank covered with black plastic to block the light. It has made a huge difference.

  3. Stephen Clay McGehee

    It seems like I’ve seen that information somewhere, but I don’t recall where. If I can find it again, I’ll post it here and add it to the original post. With that small a quantity of water, the amount used is going to be pretty critical.

  4. Elisa Ryde

    I was told 2 drops per gallon. I have the 29% food grade hydrogen peroxide though. Hope that helps. It always drives me crazy when the measurments are so huge! Hard to figure out for a gallon.

  5. Stephen Clay McGehee

    Thank you, Elisa! I was looking for that information for a friend at church but just hadn’t found the time to do a search. I’ll pass that along.

  6. Wyandotte

    Thanx for your info, Elisa, on dosage for just a bit of water.

  7. Debbie

    That works out to 1/4 tsp.per 5 gallons. Be sure it is food grade. the stuff you get at the drug store is not safe for consumption.

  8. Greg

    Thank you all for the valuable information. I am new to chicken raising. I am reading daily to better understand their needs.

  9. Mike

    Would household bleach like Chlorox unscented be a safer way to sanitize water?

    • Stephen Clay McGehee

      That works well, and it is widely used for human drinking water, so it is certainly a good option. The main advantage on Hydrogen Peroxide, as I understand it, is that it does the job and then quickly dissipates into water. The H2O2 oxidizes (burns) whatever is in the water, then turns into H2O itself as it released one Oxygen atom. With bleach, the Chlorine is still present in the water until it eventually is released as a gas. That’s my understanding of it, anyway.

  10. Julie

    so question ….I am assuming that this is to prevent cocci?…..I had my first outbreak ever since doing chicks and chickens and ended up having to treat them…but…if doing this from the get go would have prevented that I will be doing this now. So my question is….washing the waterers I used to treat with…will hydrogen peroxide take care of these items????

    • Stephen Clay McGehee

      The short answer is “I don’t know.” With that said, here’s a bit of background:
      ꔷ Hydrogen Peroxide is a very powerful oxidizer, so if it’s used in sufficient strength, it should kill pretty much anything in the water.
      ꔷ My purpose in using it was to prevent green algae from building up in the tank and the lines, and it did the job. I never had any algae build up, nor any kind of water-related problems.
      ꔷ I no longer use any kind of water treatment. I now focus on keeping light from reaching the water – without light, algae doesn’t grow. I have had zero problems with it.
      That’s not much to go on, but I hope that maybe it helps a little bit.

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