Six Top Tips we must know on water supply of poultry farm

Profitability in poultry production can only be optimized when everything goes right, and that includes keeping the birds healthy.

Hygienic Water supply system is one of the most important key factors for good health and growth of poultry. It is important for water to remain hygienic all the way until it reaches the birds, and so water & drinker lines hygiene must be a focus of attention for the farm. Water lines should be thoroughly cleaned and sanitized at regular intervals.

1.    Adjust drinkers to correct height

2.    Fix leaks

3.    Look out for air locks

4.    Install a filter to prevent sediment build-up

5.    Prevent bio-film by flushing

~   immediately after any intervention of medication

~   one minute for every 30 meters of pipe length

~   at least once a week

~   more than once a day during warm weather

~   use high pressure (1.5-3.0 bars)

6.  Use high quality acidifier in water for desired pH level

Water source get contaminated with various organic and inorganic substances resulting in high pH thus chances of growing pathogens including salmonella sp., E. coli and fungi is high. Contamination of drinking water in poultry is formidable.

Generally it is recommended that optimum pH of drinking water of poultry should be around 4.5 to 5.5 and B value of feed should be low to maintain normal gastric pH of birds.

Since gastric pH is higher in chicks than in growers and adult birds, an utmost care should be taken during brooding period of chicks for:

      Reducing chick mortality

      Controlling E. coli, Salmonella and fungi

      Improving FCR and weight gain

      Reducing ammonia in litter

      Reducing moisture in litter

To take care of the routine problems of poultry farm, we add sanitizers, acidifiers, medications, nutritional supplements & vaccines etc without understanding chemical interaction into the water which itself comes carrying its own baggage of organic & inorganic material.

We will have to keep in mind that while some chemical interaction could be synergistic, actually helping one another to work better but in the mean time making wrong solution may create problem by reducing effectiveness of the additives and some time leading to hazardous effect to birds & environment.

Following are some action & interactions which we must understand while preparing drinking water to poultry:

☞ Hydrogen peroxide (H₂O₂) and Chlorine (Cl) are not compatible so should not be used at the same time. Both are oxidizer and they will turn on each other.

☞ Copper sulfate is not compatible with Chlorine (Cl) however Copper sulfate which is an antimicrobial & antifungal agent actually enhances the effectiveness of H₂O₂ so they can be run at the same time with separate medicators.

☞ Organic iodine (Not the inorganic) is very compatible with Chlorine. This combination can help to prevent a full-blown respiratory infection if it is used early enough to treat sniffing, a loose croupy cough.

☞ Iodine, like Chlorine, works better at a lower pH.

☞ Chlorine is not compatible with any compound that act as reducing agent which would include most minerals water additives.

For example, products that contain copper, sulfur or iron will tie up the Chlorine and make it unavailable to work effectively as a sanitizer.

☞ Antibiotic like Chlortetracycline & tetracycline works best in low pH range. If you have alkaline water, adding good acidifier liquid actually enhances absorption of these products. But product like Penicillin & Sulpha drugs works better in pH above 7 so turning off the water acidifier during medication with penicillin & sulpha group is recommended.

☞ Vaccines are typically protein so at any time vaccines are used in water, the water pH should be above 4.

☞ All sanitizers lose efficacy at colder water temperatures. Chlorine, chlorine dioxide & peroxide/ozone are all temperature sensitive so colder water will slow down their reaction time.

☞ Peroxide is strong oxidant and contact with personnel is extremely dangerous. Peroxide deteriorates gradually even when stored correctly.

☞ There would be slime blooms in water system after the use of antibiotics. The antibiotic disrupts the microbial population in waterline system just as it does in the GI tract, allowing microbes such as yeast & mould to grow undisturbed.

So, thorough cleaning of water pipeline system to remove the slime using VIROK-H2O with high pressure flushing water routinely is recommended as & when required.

Regular use of best quality acidifier in fresh drinking water of poultry farm will solve routine problems but it should have following traits:

  • Ability to reduce pH of drinking water as well as GI tract content.
  • Should reduce B-value of ingredients for improvement of digestion & assimilation.
  • Must suppress bacteria that are “pH sensitive” like E.coli, Salmonella, Campylobacter, C. perfringens, Listeria etc.
  • Must work in fore gut as well as in hind gut
  • Should be stable in all pH ranges.

Make sure that you are using perfect hygienic water for your birds and not a complicated solution.

 NOTE : – For better hygienic water having pH 4-6 to eliminate virus bacteria & fungus in drinking water you may use VIROK- H2O which also help in removing biofilm from water supply channels.

Ascites (Water Belly) in Broiler Chickens during Winter Season

Ascites (or water belly) is a condition of fast growing broiler chickens in which the excess amount of ascitic fluid accumulated in the abdominal cavity. It has become major concern to the poultry industry around the world. This condition is extremely common in high altitude & more particularly during winter / cooler season.

Ascites is associated with inadequate supply of oxygen, poor ventilation and respiratory disease complex aetiology.  Morbidity is usually 1-5%, mortality 1-2% but can be up-to 30% at high altitude.

During winter season broilers are fed high energy diets to meet their nutritional demands. Since fast growing broilers have high basal metabolic rate (BMR), to metabolize high energy diet, their body needs of oxygen multipliers. There is high demand of blood through heart & lungs for proper body function due to high BMR & high energy diet.

This physiological demand increase pulmonary arterial pressure (hypertension). Bird lungs have very little ability to expand and the blood capillaries in the lungs are not able to handle increased blood flow or blood pressure. The result is an increased pressure in the liver with leakage of blood fluids, without the red blood cells, into the body cavity forming ascites or water belly.

Following may be the cause of ascites (water belly):

  1. Today´s broilers grow much faster, eating less feed. The growth of the heart and lungs has not increased in size proportional to the increase in body weight and breast meat yield. The rapid growth of the bird means more oxygen demand, requiring more work out of the heart and lungs.
  2. Anything that limits oxygen uptake from the lungs is going to cause the heart to work harder. Diseases of the lungs and poor ventilation may be involved. Major cause of Oxygen deficiency :

a)      Presence of ammonia in the poultry house. Birds are unable to get adequate oxygen as they inhale air full of ammonia so blood is deprived of oxygen supply.

b)      The dust particle in the air of poultry shed are inhaled by the birds and while exhaling they settle in various part of air sacs, specially thoracic air sac where air stays for longer period which leads difficulty for birds to breath hence deficiency of oxygen in the blood.

c)       Presence of high carbon dioxide level in the shed either due to overcrowding, poor ventilation, blocking fresh & cold air during winter with curtains or due to lack of proper exhaust fans results deficiency of oxygen in the blood of bird.

  1. Excess levels of sodium in the water or salt in feed leads to increased blood pressure in the lungs. Many feed millers still use fish meal high levels of sodium. Levels of sodium over 400 ppm could cause problems in broilers.
  2. High altitudes have long been known to cause heart failure and ascites.
  3. Chilling is a common cause in small flocks. It causes an increased blood flow through the lungs.

Signs of ascites:

  • High rate of panting is often observed in ascitic birds even the absence of apparent heat stress.
  • Gurgling sound often accompany as they often just sit with panting.
  • Birds which are ascitic may show sign of Cyanosis (a blue discolouration of skin) especially around comb & wattles.
  • Ascitic birds tire out easy and often die on their bellies.
  • Most death begins at about 3 weeks of age.
  • If their belly is opened, a cup or more of fluid or jellied material will pour out.
  • Lungs of ascitic bird may often appear pale or greyish. Lungs are extremely congested & oedematous.
  • Liver enlargement is often seen.
  • Thickening of right side myocardium & dilation of the ventricle are very common.
  • Microscopic finding – increased cartilage nodules in lung.
  • Sometimes birds die from the effects of too much blood and fluid in their lungs before there is any significant amount of fluid in the body cavity.


To differentiate from broiler “Sudden Death Syndrome” and “Bacterial Endocarditis”, a cardiac specimen (Troponin T) can be measured in blood.

How to minimize ascites (water belly)?

  • Keep air quality fresh by moving air regularly and efficiently. In the colder months, it is better to add heat and keep the air moving than to shut down vents or reduce airflow in an effort to conserve heat.
  • Treat litter by “LTP-ULTRA” to reduce ammonia production. Litter treatment is important to reduce incidence of water belly.
  • Restricting feed, feeding a mash diet, or using a less energy and protein diet.
  • Checking sodium level of water, if sodium level is high then consider using an alternate source of water that is better quality for the first 3 – 4 weeks.
  • Replace fish meals with other ready made source like amino acid arginine, if it is being used as Sodium level more than 400 ppm could be problem for broiler.
  • Careful attention to brooding temperature is also critical for minimizing water belly.
  • Prevent respiratory disease conditions.
  • Select breeds which are not genetically susceptible to this condition.

The objective should be to minimize progression leading from pulmonary hypertension to terminal ascitis or water belly condition for availing better profit during winter season. Best Management Practice is only answer to reduce problem of Ascites (Water belly) and insure better ROI (Return On Investment).

 NOTE: One of the main cause of Ascites (Water Belly) in winter season is effect of ammonia gas so using LTP ULTRA in poultry litter eliminates formation of ammonia gas and also drastically reduces litter pathogens and related disease condition up to 90% and improves overall performance of poultry farm.

Reuse & Reuse of Old Poultry Litter

Economical organic material like rice husk, sawdust, pine shaving, wood shavings, pea nuts hulls, straw, coconut husks & other dry-absorbent are used as bedding material / litter in poultry operation.

Though materials are selected keeping in mind the economics & easy availability which are regional based, the cost of above mentioned materials for broiler chicken bedding has risen considerably over the last few years.

Availability of new litter materials on time is also becoming a measure concern now days and even new litter materials are not hygienic. The new litter material which is used for bedding is procured from various sources. It is not healthy and may have high to very high contamination levels of bacterial groups and fungi.

Despite an increasing problem of procuring litter bedding due to scarcity of suitable litter materials in many broiler growing regions, one of the most common questions commonly asked by poultry farmer in our region thinking about reuse of old poultry litter is regarding the safety of reuse of buildup litter.

Farmers are not conversant to reutilize old buildup litter due to lack of awareness to handle following:

  • Build up of microbial load in the old litter
  • Emission of ammonia from old litter
  • Darkling Beetles etc.

With little advance planning and a minimal investment, these problems can be reduced or eliminated.

Litter can be reused successfully if above problem can be managed properly. Poultry raisers in developed country are strong advocators of reusing the litter and as often as for 15 – 30 times, while Brazil producers replace the litter every 6 – 10 lots as they score high for treated old litter due to following benefits:

  • Saves on labour cost involved in for clean out
  • No difficulties in obtaining sufficient bedding material at no extra cost
  • Treated old litter naturally exposes to young birds to low level & attenuated types of micro-organism for better immunity.
  • Reduced environment pollutions
  • Treated old litter is more hygienic than new litter materials
  • With BMPs (Best Management Procedures) saves cost & time.

BMPs and a good sanitation program must be in place in order to maintain a successful use of old litter.

Recycling of litter has become attractive for broiler growers for many reasons in developed countries.  The cost of replacing litter in grow out house has become very expensive (Malone, 1983). Cost & scarcity of litter materials have resulted in routine reuse of broiler litter without rious effects on broilers grow outs (Kennard & Chamberland, 1951; Jones & Hagler, 1983). New litter has been reported to favour the survival of E.coli & Salmonella more than old litter in which organism tend to die out more rapidly because of competition from the bacteria present in built-up litter (Botts, 1952; Snoeyenbos et al., 1967; Duff et al., 1973). Furthermore, previously used & built-up litter aids birds in developing competitive organism in the gut, thus inhibiting salmonella´s colonization (Fanelli et al., 1970). Bacon & Burdick (1977) and Jones & Hagler (1983) reported that fungal numbers were lower in old litter than in new litter.  

Treated litter by LTP-ULTRA is commonly used in poultry houses in deep litter system for reducing harmful ammonia level & bacterial load by lowering pH of litter. The poultry litter has an average pH of 8.0 – 9.0; this is considered a high pH i.e. alkaline. The pH can influence the ammonia volatilization. Ammonia release from litter is reduced when litter pH is below 6; emission exceeds when pH is 7 and above. At litter pH lower than 4.6, the economically devastating bacteria like E.coli, Salmonella, Clostridium, and Campylobacter do not grow.

A study was conducted to determine the efficacy of Treated Litter to understand the bacterial load in litter.

Litter Treatment

One poultry house with litter of rice husk treated with (LTP-ULTRA) on which one flock of broiler had been raised was used in the study. Litter treatment process carried out on 10th day of brooding of chicks. The active ingredients activated immediately as and when they came in contact with excreta of birds / moisture of buildup litter, ammonia formation was reduced as treatment reduced litter pH up to 4.

To evaluate the efficacy for reducing microbial load in litter, litter samples were collected for pathological test before start of litter treatment and on 21st day after litter treatment.

Litter sample collection method

Collected 100 gm of litter sub-sample each from 11 location of poultry house i.e. one from center of poultry house and other 10 from the middle between centre & each corner of poultry house (See Sampling Site Diagram) before treatment of litter & after treatment of litter.

Litter Sampling Site Location in a Poultry House

Each sub-sample were placed in clean & sanitized plastic bucket & mixed thoroughly. Then at least 100 gm mixtures were filled into a Zip-lock plastic bag and sealed tightly. Zip-lock plastic bag capacity of 250 gm was used for sample collection to make room in the bag in case gas is produced to expand plastic bag.

Sample of litter collected on time before treatment of litter & after treatment of litter were sent to Pathology Laboratory on the same day it is prepared.


Trials conducted confirmed:

–          Acidification Stopped NH3 production

–          Reduced TVC (CFU/g) up to 97.12%

–          Eliminated E.Coli / Salmonella.

Repeat Use of Litter

When possible, remove all crusted & wet litter and disinfect (With highly effective disinfectant) the shed. Remove all cake formation from litter & maintain humidity of house in between 50% to 75%. Treat litter with appropriate litter conditioner. After similar action the old litter can be used again & again minimum up to 10 times.

Prevention of Darkling beetle

The Lesser mealworm or Darkling beetle (Alphitobius diaperinus) and the Hide Beetle (Dermestes maculates), adults and larvae of both species can become extremely abundant in poultry manure and litter. The large beetle populations may become a public nuisance at cleanout time because of adult migration from the fields where the manure is spread into nearby residential areas. 

Both beetles can cause extensive damages:

  • They feed on poultry feed stocks.
  • They bore into structural materials.
  • They are vector (transmitter) & serve as reservoir for several poultry disease pathogens.
  • They may bite birds & damage skin of birds reducing carcass quality.

Most insecticide loses their effectiveness against beetles within days or few weeks after application and is also hazardous to poultry & care takers. The lifecycle of beetle could be disrupting on poultry litter floor by using safe litter conditioner which bring down litter pH <5.

Note: Use nonhazardous & nontoxic substances classified as GRAS (Generally Regarded as safe) and may be mixed with approved insecticide for better result if required for extended period of time. However, avoid using materials such as agricultural lime (CaCO3), hydrated or slaked lime (Ca(OH)2), or burnt lime (CaO) since they increase litter alkalinity (to a pH greater than 7) and alkalinity makes favorable condition for pathogenic bacteria to grow and also converts more of the ammonium into ammonia gas. This can become an environmental problem.