One of life’s most simple and necessary compounds, H2O, can become very complicated to maintain in a modern poultry broiler house. Water pressure, cleanliness and status of drinker lines are some of the main concerns to have when caring for thousands of birds.
According to Dr. Jacquie Jacob of the University of Kentucky, most poultry prefer water a little more acidic than normal but below six on the pH scale will harm chicken’s performance. When looking at the bird’s water supply be advised that cloudy, reddish brown or blue colors can signs of contaminate.
Bacteria and fungi are inevitably going to enter the water due from bird usage. The University of Georgia suggests that preforming regular high-pressure flushing will “remove residual contaminants and limit bacteria growth.” During droughts or after high rainfall, it is suggested to test water quality to check for changes. Sanitizing regularly also prevents high levels of bacteria, but it is important to read the instructions provided on the cleaning product as to not damage the water system pipes and equipment.
Jacob warns that the best solution for high levels of bacteria is to locate an alternative water source. “Any disinfectant is likely to fail at some time and expose the birds to high levels of bacteria,” Jacob said.
To ensure all the birds in all spaces get continuous, quality water, regular checks are required. The cleanliness of the water can affect the pressure because bacteria or other foreign pollution can clog pipes. Hardness of water or the amount of dissolved minerals in water, can cause build up which is difficult for soaps and disinfectants to effectively clean, according to Jacob.
UGA states that “the (water) system should be able to provide enough water for bird consumption and to meet evaporative cooling system requirements on the hottest day of the year with market age birds.”
Regular water system inspections are necessary to ensure all the birds are receiving water, even the ones farthest away from the source. Jess Campbell, Dennis Brothers, Jim Donald and Gene Simpson of the National Poultry Technology Center at Auburn University say that the pressure of the water is most critical in the summer when water consumption is high. Thousands of dollars can be lost in just a few days if water supply is limited by the system’s equipment being inadequate. According to the NPTC, undersized water meters and undersized main plumbing lines are two of the main culprits for lack of water pressure. The problem can be confirmed by either the water supplier or meter manufacturer. Clogged filters and regulators and kinked drinker supply hoses can also negatively affect the water. The good news about filters is that they are easy to fix, just replace them, the bad news is that they are easily forgotten. Regulators have the same problem as filters, and should be inspected once a year at a minimum. As far as the kinked drinker supply an issue, the NPTC suggests that even high quality hoses can become kinked and will need regular checks.
All these things do add up but the cost of maintenance is far less in the long run than losing birds or at the very least pounds of poultry due to water not reaching all areas of the farm.
Cutting right to the source or at least the source from the bird’s point of view, the drinker lines have special requirements to ensure birds of all sizes get their fill. The NPTC said that the chicks are of most concern when it comes to contaminated nipple drinkers because they cannot break the drinker pins free if they are stuck or clogged. It is important to ensure that each bird has the correct size nipple drinker.
To prevent waste and improve efficiency, Michael Czarick and Dr. Brian Fairchild with the University of Georgia’s Cooperative Extensions Service, state that high pressure water should be preserved for mature chickens and not chicks.
Air can get trapped in the lines and prevent chickens from getting water. This can be prevented with air vents/standpipes and no high points in the lines for air to get trapped in.
UGA emphasizes that the drinker lines should be at the chicken’s eye level so the birds only have to slightly lift their heads to get water.
“Un-level drinker lines can lead to air locks and reduce drinking opportunities for birds,” Czarick and Fairchild say. “This could result in restricting access for birds in areas where the drinker system is too high and result in water wastage where it is too low.”