pH levels and Mineral Absorption by John Vance
In a perfect world, any supplemental minerals we give our birds would be 100% absorbed and utilized. Unfortunately, this is not the case. Studies show that "in general" optimal mineral absorption occurs when pH levels are at or near 7.
I say in general, because not every mineral has maximum absorption at the same pH level, but in general, 7 is the target pH level we should strive for if we desire optimal mineral absorption by our birds. In contrast, when pH levels fall to around 4, mineral absorption (availability) can drop by nearly 50%. For some minerals, a pH level of 4 reduces absorption by 75%, so knowledge of this information can be used to your benefit.
I have included a list of substance pH levels for several of the ingredients common to pigeon fanciers, below. This list, shows that pure water would have the preferred pH level of 7. However, for pigeon fanciers, there is no pure water option.
What do I mean by that? Pure water would be distilled water and yes, we could use distilled water to deliver our minerals. However, once distilled water is exposed to the air, it starts to absorb CO2 which lowers the pH level of the water to about 5.6.
Substance pH (scale 0 - 14)
Fortunately, when you add minerals to the water, you raise the pH level, so adding the minerals to your water, helps the absorption process. Along those lines, soft water would have lower pH and hard water (more mineral content) would have a higher pH.
How then, can we use this information to better our supplement delivery mechanisms? Basically, I am suggesting that you not use acidic substances when supplementing with minerals. Give minerals on the days you are not putting lemon juice, apple cider vinegar, vitamin C or any other acid increasing ingredients in your water. For those of you that give your minerals in the grit, there really is nothing else you can do except to know that on some days your birds will absorb more mineral and on other days less depending on what else you are giving your birds. Also, I would apply the same general rules when supplementing with vitamins.
There is so much pressure these days to acidify your bird's drinking water. Primalac contains Citric acid and they recommend daily usage, Chisholm Trail recommends regular use of their acid pak. Many fanciers recommend apple cider vinegar in the water. Some say use Lemon juice or honey before a race. Acidified Copper Sulfate (in the water) is suggested as a preventative for canker and also as a floor dressing.
Because they help deter gram negative pathogens, pundits regularly recommend the use of acidic products for your birds. However, it seems no one is warning against the dangers of creating a long term acidic condition in the gastro-intestinal tract of your birds. Though gram negative pathogens find "acid conditions" hostile, so also to a lesser extent do friendly bacteria.
On the other hand, acidic environments are beneficial to fungi and yeast colony (like Candida) growth, both of which can bring about poor health in the mouth, crop, and intestine areas of our birds. Not only that, but yeast directly compete with the friendly bacteria and fungi passed in the droppings will experience explosive growth in that rich media; leading to respiratory problems for the fancier as well as the birds.
The usage of acidic ingredients can be beneficial and I am not recommending that you discontinue the use of these products. They are an inexpensive, readily available means of control and are always preferable to antibiotics as the first line of defense. I only desire to point out that a little of something may often be a good thing, but to much of a good thing (as in this case) may bring undesired consequences.
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