Drinking Water – Chlorine

Abidec and CytaconHot on the heels of our article on fluoride in water, we have received a query about chlorinated water from Robert Nawarauckas, a budgerigar breeder in Scotland.

Robert’s query:

After visiting and discussing the birds diet, I was alarmed at the suggestion by my friend that chlorine in the water kills most, if not all, vitamin supplements that we administer in water. This to include Cytacon, Abidec and I imagine others.

This was passed on to him by a pharmacist.

Your views please.

For the correct answer, I wrote to Dr Gloria Havenhand of Chesterfield, Derbyshire, UK. Gloria is known throughout the hobby and is fully qualified to answer. She is married to top budgerigar breeder Don Havenhand.

Here is Gloria’s answer in full:

As we all know, most councils add chlorine to our drinking water – and if the council says it is okay – it is okay is it not?

Mainly, chlorine is added to stop harmful bacteria growing at a rate of knots in our water supply.

Remember, our drinking water is mostly recycled sewage water!

Chlorine is the “chariot of carnage” for bacteria like E.coli – but do remember that if chlorine can affect one organism, it is as likely to affect another, and another, in some way or other.

Remember all of you – chlorine gas was pumped into the faces and lungs of your great grandfathers in the First World War (1914–1918). It killed and maligned thousands on the battlefield by destroying lung and throat membranes within a few short breaths!

Chlorine is a halogen – in the same group as fluorine, bromine and iodine. These are never naturally found in nature! They can be killers above a dose of 1,000 parts in 1 million in humans and less than 100 parts per million in birds and small mammals.

They have highly unpleasant and suffocating fumes, can burn flesh and are certainly toxic. That is why they decimate bacteria!

DDT, the disaster chlorine-based pesticide of the 1960’s, was eventually banned in 1973 in the USA – it was cumulative in muscle and hence the meat and fish we all ate. DDT caused hormonal and central nervous disruption in humans and a multitude of animals sledging down the food chain. Guess what – DDT is back again today and used against the malarial parasite.

It is difficult to sit easy about any chemical – it has the habit of déjà vu!

So, where does this leave us with chlorine and the question of its effect on vitamins?

Take heed that chlorine slays most of the good bacteria in our intestines and probably that in birds too!

Bacteria spearhead the production of vitamins like vitamin B12 and vitamin K within the intestine. This is why we have so many ads on TV for Bifidobacteria and Lactobacilli – good bacteria which elbow out the nasty pathogens our gut develops when slaked with chlorine, fluorine and antibiotics of any description!

You all apply and dose ill birds with antibiotics, slaying vitamins and good bacteria at a swipe!

So you choose.

Propolis essenceLess is more – I would advise.

This is why so many bird fanciers use bee propolis essence – the natural antibacterial from the beehive – essential to apply to feather problems externally and immune boost internally and which has no detected effect on vitamin and nutritional absorption.

Vitamin absorption and use by date are singularly time based – so a daily supplement is okay – but is just waiting around the intestinal bend to be devastated in its form!

Use you head and your heart.

Further Reading:


Filed Under: FeedingHealth



About the Author: Gerald Binks began breeding budgerigars when he was 12 years old and is now arguably the most knowledgeable budgerigar fancier in the world. He has bred his fair share of Best in Show birds, judged in no less than 20 countries, founded the World Budgerigar Association, and has published two of the three classic books on the hobby. His stud in the UK attracts fanciers from near and far and is always high on the list for those wishing to purchase BA23 quality budgerigars.

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  1. Camelle Lamb says:

    About the use of chlorine in the drinking water to kill the bacteria, I fully agree with Gloria that we should be more careful with what we do – and natural products would be better to consider more often.

    I recall my friends dog used to go along & drink some swimming pool water. After a while, he became very ill as it had badly affected his internal organs & they almost lost him.

    So imagine the impact on our little birds having it!

    It has been a habit over here (& possibly in the UK), to wash the soaked seed used for soft food in bleach.
    Indeed, I went to an aviary some years back & was almost knocked over with the fumes from the dish.

    Even if this was washed off later, I’m sure it would have been absorbed by the seed and eventually affected the birds.

    These are just my views but I feel they make sense.

    I am going to find out if I can obtain the bee propolis essence over here in Australia.

    Thank you,
    Camelle Lamb, Australia

  2. This is very interesting reading.

    I never washed or soaked seed in bleach, as recommended by some top fanciers, as I was worried about the possible absorption of chlorine into the kernel. I just rinse regularly in clean cold tap water.

    Regarding the bee propolis essence, this is the first time I have heard of this product. I am familiar with and feed bee pollen to my birds and can testify to the benefits.

    Would I be correct in assuming that the bee propolis essence is used in a similar manner to giving organic cider vinegar in the water, or not?

    Also, what dosage and at what periods, would propolis be given?

    I would be most interested to hear any feedback.

    BorderCanaryFancier, Ireland

  3. Dr Gloria Havenhand says:

    Re BorderCanaryFancier:

    Cider vinegar goes back centuries in folk lore – in fact Hippocrates (circa 400 BC), the father of modern medicine, hallowed the use of two primary foods – honey and cider vinegar. Cider vinegar has a raft of historical remedies – as a cure for arthritis, infections, digestive aid, anti ageing etc. – and who knows – if it works for them – let it be.

    Nutritionally, cider vinegar only has traces of minerals like calcium, iron, sodium, copper and phosphorus – but its tart taste (not just in cider vinegar, but in many fruits) is due to malic acid. Malic acid can be helpful in fighting fungal and bacterial infections – but is not just confined to cider vinegar – malic acid is ubiquitous in nature.

    Propolis however, is the product of the beehive – cannot be made by man – and is not a product of fermentation, as cider vinegar.

    Propolis originates from the gums and resins from tree bark and buds – our forest of Christmas trees here, perfumes our valley with aromatic resins all through the year – and I am sure most of you use pine disinfectant around your house against bacteria and other pathogens. This disinfectant is from pine tree resins.

    Propolis is tree resin mixed and pummelled together with the bee’s own saliva and antibacterial secretions.

    Bees paint all the inside of their hives with it – trouble is, there is only one colour – brown! So let’s think laterally – does frankincense and myrrh ring any bells? These are both resins from trees (just like Propolis) and have definitive antibacterial and antifungal properties – after all, trees defend themselves by oozing thick gummy tears of resin when damaged or attacked or eaten by grazing animals!

    That is why the three Wise Men offered frankincense and myrrh resins to protect the infant Jesus from infection – wisdom from the sages two thousand years ago and much better than a cuddly toy!

    So Propolis is the bee’s survival pack against all manner of infections – making the beehive the most sterile place on the planet.

    Used throughout most wars – used topically on skin to heal and slay infection – and internally to boost the immune system with its bioflavonoids and terpenes which help the body to resist persistent infection.

    For budgerigars, simply add 2-3 drops of Propolis essence to 1 pint (i.e. 0.57 Litres or 1.2 US Pints) of drinking water and apply the essence directly onto a multitude of feather problems. Use every alternate week.

    Propolis cream is soothing for you too – especially on cuts and nips from budgerigar beaks – no fancier should be without this wonderful product.

    Propolis and cider vinegar all have their part to play – and remember to use your own wit and wisdom from your own practical experience – that’s modern folklore in action.


  4. William Simson says:

    I am the chief cleaner/feeder/waterer and “banker” to my daughter Paige’s (PES1) birds (she is 9).

    I use 2 litre bottles of “Tesco value still water” at about 15p a bottle!

    They come to the shop in plastic wrapped packs of 8 and are so easy to store/stack.

    We use tap water for washing and flushing the toilet – in my opinion it’s all it’s good for.

    We use this bottled water for all our and the birds drinking needs.

    Being ready contained in 2 litre bottles that are easily ‘scrunched’ when empty for recycling – they are ready made for adding your measure of abidec/cytacon/soluvite or other medications then just fill your drinkers and so handy for the aviary – you can screw on the drip drinker from a large rabbit bottle onto the Tesco water bottle.

    ALSO VERY IMPORTANT:- Make your tea with this bottled water – it’s marvelous! No chemical taste, a wee bit of build up on the inside of the kettle though, but worth it!

    I’m used to it, having been brought up on the farm where we had to put marbles into the kettle to keep the element from furring up with calcium/lime (the water came from the hill where the old lime kilns were – and the odd dead sheep!).

  5. BorderCanaryFancier says:

    Thank you very much indeed, Dr Havenhand, for taking the time to pen a very informative and well detailed reply, very much appreciated.

  6. Thank you very much Gerald.

    I read the comments of Camelle Lamb, Border Canary Fancier, Dr.Gloria Havenhand and W.Simson and I have one question:

    In my country (Pakistan) we still have clean water supply problems – especially in villages & remote areas – and most of the population / farmers are using ‘saltish water’ or underground water through hand pumps.

    In these circumstances, what would you advise or suggest to the bird keepers and breeders including budgerigars.

    I’d be grateful for your opinions.

    Best Regards
    Habib Ur Rehman, Pakistan

  7. Arif Raza says:

    Thanks Mr. Gerald and others for sharing your valuable knowledge to save our expensive birds.

    I live in Karachi, Pakistan and would like to clarify whether you are saying that Propolis is better than Iodine Tincture to clean the water of bacteria?

    I use 6 drops in of Iodine Tincture per 1 litre of water.

    Best Regards
    Arif Raza
    Karachi, Pakistan

  8. Gerald S Binks says:


    I would suggest that continual saltish water would not be good, as it will flush out the quality feeding that you are giving them and small birds may be evident in the aviary.

    In your situation, I would boil all water from such sources, but make sure that (after it is cold) you are giving a multi-vitamin solution containing vitamins A, B group, C, D, and E.

    Vitamins, in moderation, should be given for the first week of every month all year round, followed by fresh clean (again boiled) water for the three weeks in between.

    Remember to give the right dosage – twice as much is NOT twice as good and indeed can be harmful.


  9. Gerald S Binks says:


    Regarding Propolis and iodine: There is no connection at all.

    Giving iodine as you are doing, in the amount you quote, will certainly damage them.

    Some very minute traces of iodine are all that is needed – but very occasionally.

    Iodine has a great effect on the thyroid gland and of course seaweed contains iodine – which is a safer way of giving it to budgerigars.

    Budgerigars do need some iodine source, and iodine blocks that are sold may help a bit, but personally I prefer to get ground seaweed granules which are available through most horse trading companies / suppliers of feeds etc.


  10. Dear Gerald

    Thank you very much.

    I would like to inform you, that they are using the “boiling water” method and, as I have personally observed, the birds are fit but too slim and long.

    I have noted your advice and I shall forward your message to all concerned and will update you in due course regarding the results.

    Best Regards
    Habib Ur Rehman – Pakistan

  11. Delia Smith says:

    Very informative article, thank you. For those who have chlorinated tap water, why not de-chlorinate it with Sodium Thiosulphate? Delicate tropical fish thrive and breed in this water and my blood pressure no longer rises like after bathing in chlorinated water. Granted it is a chemical from a lab, but then so are most of the vitamins and other supplements we give our budgies.


    It is important to use hard charcoal. Normal black charcoal breaks easily in the water.

    Raw charcoal is dirty and not suited for boiling. Wash them under running water. You can use a scrub brush to help in the process. Do not use any detergent. It will destroy the beneficial effects of the charcoal and will spoil the water.

    Sterilize it in boiling water. Use a large uncovered pot. Boil for about 10 minutes.

    Put the charcoal into a colander to squeeze out the water and let it cool down. Gently submerge the charcoal in a container poured with tap water or well water. Use about 100 grams of charcoal for every 1 liter of water.

    In order to prevent dust from entering, cover it with a dishcloth and let it sit for 1 – 2 days. It is recommended to use a container made of stainless steel, porcelain enamel, ceramic, clay jars or glass.

    Pour this water into a vessel and use it or put it in the container as a drinking water. This is your sterilized water. Refill the container containing the charcoal with water to make more purified water. You can repeat this process for one week.

    Clean the dirt off the charcoal once a week. The method is: boil, let it cool down, and dry it for one week. To use the charcoal again, simply start from number 1 method. It is best to prepare two sets of charcoal and rotate them weekly. In this way, the charcoal can be used for 6 months but take note that the mineral amount of the charcoal will gradually deplete after 10 days of use and advising to conserve efficiency.

    I’m following tips given by Junji Takano is a Japanese health researcher.

    Thank you.
    Habib Ur Rehman – Pakistan

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