Water is the life blood of living things. Water is needed for most, if not all metabolic processes in birds. It is necessary for regulating body temperature, digestion, and elimination of waste. Birds will consume, at least, twice as much water as feed, so clean water is an absolute must.
With birds consuming so much water, it creates an easy, cost effective avenue to administer nutrients, acidifiers, and vaccines quickly to ensure bird health. However, what is good for the birds, can promote bacterial growth inside the water lines where it can go unnoticed. If the additive helps the birds, chances are there is something in the water or water line that also gets a boost.
Water systems that do not have a regular line cleaning schedule along with supplemental care run the risk of contaminants, biofilm, scale, and other bacterium build-up. For example, pseudomonas, E. coli, and even salmonella sp. can live and thrive in the right situations inside water lines. One issue with water line cleaning is ensuring the process is making a difference without harming the equipment (lines, medicators, pressure equipment) being used in the system. Using the “line cleaner,” in our case CID 2000 (a strong hydrogen peroxide/peroxy acetic acid solution), manufacturer recommendations for water line cleaning concentration will help keep equipment in working order. CID 2000 recommendations for facilities without animals are 2% solution in the lines for 12-24 hours. We have found it beneficial to pump a 3% maximum CID 2000 solution into our waterlines, including small bell waterer hoses, where animals are not present and allow it to work for at least 12 hours. After the time is allowed for the solution to work, it is very important that lines are fully flushed before animals are moved back in. To ensure all our lines are getting treated, we will run a tracer dye to make sure all lines get the solution, and also to guarantee the solution is all flushed from the lines.
Now you have clean water lines. However, right after flushing those lines build up can begin again, especially after running probiotics or vitamins. Our supplemental care program comes from Susan Watkins, and includes running up to 1oz of CID 2000 mixed in 1 gallon of water through our proportioner or medicator at a rate of 1:128. I generally start with ½ oz on younger birds and test water coming into the waterers with H202 test strips. Remember that the more build up in lines, the more buffering will take place. This may mean that when testing waterers, nothing may show up on test strips. At that point I will put the maximum of 1oz through the medicator, but testing is very important. As the solution works in the lines, buffering will decrease, and more residual CID 2000 will be going through the lines. The target residual in the lines is 25 to 50 ppm. A higher concentration may harm the birds or change the water taste enough to make birds slow or quit drinking. I never put more CID 2000 solution through the medicator than the 1 oz!
At MacFarlane, we also run chlorinators on our wells to aid in controlling bacteria and keeping lines clean, especially for our outdoor pen facilities. The system we employ, drops a chlorine pellet into the well and is regulated by water usage. This method is a great, relatively low maintenance option; however water should be tested regularly for chlorine level. If the level is too high, it will affect how much and if the birds will drink it at all. For this reason, we filter the chlorine out of the water lines going into our brooder barns.
How do you know if water line cleanliness is negatively affecting your chicks?
One of the biggest and easiest things to notice is if lines are plugging or water pressure is abnormally low. Birds need water! If you are having unexplained mortality, birds seem “down” (not normal “bouncing” or noise), wings are being held lower than normal, or something just doesn’t seem right, water issues could be the problem. Many times if you have checked all variables in the barn over and over with everything seeming correct and birds are not sick, what is inside those waterlines (that can’t be seen) is the problem. The only sure fire way to know if the problems you are facing are coming through your water system is to have your water system tested regularly. However, it is very inexpensive to run a maximum of 1 oz. CID 2000 solution regiment, when not running nutrients, to be sure your water or waterlines are clean.