Water Quality is in Our Hands

Bird performance can be affected by many factors. Some are obvious to us; heat, humidity, feed availability, cold, etc. Some are not so obvious. Because we don’t see it, water is one of those factors we often forget about. Organisms need food, warmth and water to grow. A water distribution system provides an ideal habitat for microorganisms inside the piping. During brooding and low water use, the water can stagnate, allowing for an explosion in the growth of organisms.

Often, our source water is also providing a myriad of minerals that can build up inside the water lines and seal drinkers shut. This build up, or scale as it is commonly known, can also be an excellent hiding spot for bacteria to grow in, under and around.

Our goal as caregivers of our birds is to reduce the stress on them as much as possible. A stressed bird is more susceptible to disease and less likely to eat and drink at a healthy rate. Add to any stress the unseen factor of a large microbial or mineral load from the water system and you have a bird (or a flock of birds) that will not perform to their optimum level. On top of what may already be in the water, we, as the caregiver, are notorious for adding products to these water systems. Vitamins, electrolytes, antibiotics, vaccines, organic acids such as  vinegar, etc. are all examples of substances we commonly give the birds via the water system. Believe it or not, almost everything we add to these systems can be a source of food or energy for bacteria, fungi, algae, yeasts, etc. Even the acids we put in to lower the pH can provide the ideal environment for fungi, algae and mold.

The standard industry recommendation for clean water lines is to thoroughly clean the water system when the housing is empty and ensure that a water conditioner is in the water system when the housing contains birds.

The following is the recommended program for avian housing: When the house is empty, clean water lines with a water line cleaner designed specifically for poultry housing.

Proper line cleaning can be done two ways:

Method #1 Proportioner Pump
A portable pump called a “proportioner” pump can be used to directly inject product into the water line to create the percentage level needed (Often 2% or 3%). These pumps are put onto the system only for introducing product into the water lines when the facilities are empty. The benefit of these is that the product can be pumped straight from the jug. (These are NOT medicators that are often used in avian housing to intro-duce supplements into the water system.)

Method #2 Sump Pump Method

• Prepare a solution of the product to be used as recommended on the manufacturer’s label. For example, if the recommended percentage of product to be used is 3%, you would prepare this by mixing approximately 1 gallon of product into 30 gallons of water. Often a large plastic barrel is used for this.
• Drop a sump-pump into the barrel and attach the hose of the sump pump directly into the water system. By-pass the medicator, if there is one. Often the valve on the “outgoing” side of the medicator is detached and used as the point of injection for the sump pump hose. Close any valves before this point to prevent product being pushed back into the water source.
• To provide adequate air release and to push product into the line, remove a cap (or open a valve) at the end of the drinking system.

Start the water through the proportioner pump or start the sump pump and allow it to push the solution throughout the system. For best results do two water lines at one time.

1. Put a catch bucket at the end of the line (if there are no flushing hoses to the outside) where the cap has been re-moved.
2. Watch for signs of the product at the end of the line by monitoring the water in the bucket or on the ground outside where the hoses empty.
3. Put the caps back on (or close the valve) at the end of the water line.
4. Trigger all nipples and allow product to sit in lines for manufacturer’s recommend amount of time.
5. Flush all lines with fresh water.
6. Finish by triggering all the nipples again.

It is essential that the label instructions be strictly followed to ensure safe handling and effective cleaning.

If minerals are an issue, the water lines should also be de-scaled of the mineral buildup by cleaning the water lines with a de-scaler that is designed specifically for poultry water systems.

Once there are birds in the facility, it is extremely import-ant that the water not be forgotten.

Slow moving water in heated housing will undoubtedly grow microorganisms and build in organic load. Keep in mind that we do not have a closed system in the poultry barn. Each time a bird gets a drink they open the system up to the environment. Whatever is in the air of the facility can wind up in the water line. It is vital that water have a water conditioner in it that is designed for use with poultry in the facility and has the stability to act under warm conditions with heavy organics. If there is not a feasible way to do this continuously, then the water should at least be treated after the addition of supple-mental products or as a precautionary step once per week.

We may not all be blessed with pristine water, but we do have some control over making the most of what we have. Keeping our water program simple, removing problem minerals and ensuring that the water we give our birds is as clean as possible will undoubtedly reduce the stress on our birds and allow them to perform at their best.