Poultry Farming


-Brief History

            People have been raising poultry for centuries.  Historically, most domesticated poultry was raised outdoors until the 1950ís when large confinement operations were begun.  With integration of both meat and egg production by large corporations in recent years, the van majority of poultry is now produced in large confinement farms (APPPA, 2005).  Large operation brought a challenge to both farmers and consumers with regards to safety and health aspects, as poultry farms needed plenty of quality water not only for the health and growth of their birds, but also to prevent equipment breakdown, lower maintenance costs and keep downtime to a minimum (Hess, 1998).  Contamination of the water system can rapidly disseminate infectious organisms.  Bacteria in feed particles, dust, litter, faeces, and nasal or mouth discharges can easily contaminate open water drinkers available to poultry.  Part of the solution has been to move to closed water systems.  The introduction of nipple systems has been shown to have considerable health benefits (Lister, 1990).   However, biofouling that is formed in closed water systems provides a haven for water born pathogens and slime.  Their presence in the drinking water may cause lowered egg production or occasional mild diarrhea, especially in caged hens (IFAS, 1998).

-The Importance of Chlorination

            The proper care of the poultry production process has a profound impact on public safety and health.  Statistically, each person in the United States consumes 96lb (44kg) of poultry every year.  Thus poultry accounts for about 36% of meat consumption, second only to beef in the American diet (Tsai /Higby/Schade, ERCO 2005).  Water is involved in every aspect of poultry metabolism.  It plays important roles in regulating body temperature, digesting food and eliminating bodily wastes.  At normal temperatures, birds consume at least twice as much water as they do feed (Sneed/Carter, 1997).  Given that the quality of the water used on poultry farms has a direct impact on the health of the flock (Hatt, 2002), and that poultry is such a significant component of the human diet, it is necessary to take great care in ensuring their drinking water quality.

            Bacteria can grow rapidly in poultry house drinkers, even if the source water is free of bacteria.  This is because Coliform bacteria are normally found in the digestive tracts of livestock, humans and birds (Sneed/Carter, 1996).  Coliform is a family of bacteria common in soils, plants and animals (VDH, 2005).  The presence of fecal Coliform in drinking water or at swimming sites is evidence that human or animal waste has been or is present.  This may be cause for concern because many diseases can be spread through fecal transmission (VDH, 2005).  Consequently, every time the bird consumes water it will be exposed to an increased microbial load through the drinking water, which could result in down grading of carcasses and increased mortality of birds (CPC, 2005).  Given that reducing the load of pathogens in the poultry farmís living environment will decrease the risk of disease, proper disinfection using Chlorine is mandatory.  The resultant water quality will mean increased poultry body weight and better egg production (Hatt, 2002) and final consumerís health.

          The use of Chlorine gas has many advantages.  Although the initial equipment cost is higher, the chemical cost is low.  Chlorine gas is 100% pure elemental Chlorine.  There are no other chemicals being added to the water.  It can be stored over long periods of time and at a wide temperature range without weakening or degrading.  With the advent of vacuum feed technology (direct cylinder-mounting of vacuum regulators) gas chlorination has statistically become the safest, most effective and efficient disinfectant option.  Vacuum operated gas chlorination systems from Aquatech Pro, Inc. are more accurately controllable, much more reliable and considerably less maintenance intensive than chemical metering pumps or tablet systems.



-Alternative Methods

            The most common disinfectants used in the poultry farming disinfection are the halogen disinfectants.  Halogen disinfectants refer to Chlorine as Sodium Hypochlorite, Calcium Hypochlorite, Chlorine gas, or to Iodine disinfectant (Idophor compounds).  The use of Chlorine gas for Poultry farming has many advantages.

         First letís consider Sodium Hypochlorite.  Sodium Hypochlorite is a clear, slightly yellowish solution with a characteristic odor.  As a disinfectant, Sodium Hypochlorite leaves residual chemical in water just as Chlorine gas does (Lenntech, 2005).  Initial equipment installation is simple, as its use only requires small metering pumps.  It is also important to understand that Sodium Hypochlorite raises the pH of water (whereas Chlorine lowers pH).

             However, Sodium Hypochlorite is difficult to effectively meter due to off gassing and its general instability.  It is also a dangerous and corrosive substance.  While working with Sodium Hypochlorite, safety measures have to be taken to protect workers and the environment.  Direct contact can burn the skin and because it is a strong bleaching agent, clothing must be protected during handling.  Sodium Hypochlorite should not come in contact with air, because that will cause it to disintegrate (Lenntech, 2005).  Additionally this liquid had just 12.5% Chlorine content, which makes it a notably less efficient disinfectant.  It is much more costly than Chlorine gas.  Sodium Hypochlorite also begins to weaken immediately and continues to lose strength during storage (DEH, 2005).  This makes it difficult to achieve consistent residual concentrations.

Calcium Hypochlorite is another chlorinating chemical sued primarily in smaller poultry farms.  It is a white, dry solid containing approximately 65% chlorine, and is commercially available in granular and tablet forms.  With respect to Sodium Hypochlorite, it is more stable allowing longer storage and fewer training requirements.  Its use involves fewer regulations than the use of gaseous chlorine (Smorol, 2005).  However, precipitated solids formed in solution by Calcium Hypochlorite complicate chemical feeding.  Calcium Hypochlorite is considerably more expensive than other disinfectant chemicals and is also regarded as spontaneously combustible and explosive (OSH, 2002).

Last, Idophor compounds because their low toxicity, can be effective in food service or in food processing applications (CMM, 2004).  Idophors are not affected by hard water, have a long shelf life and work well in hot or cold water (Bishop, 1999(.  However, these compounds are more expensive than Chlorine disinfection and to be effective, Idophors must normally be used in an acid-type cleaning system (CMM, 2004).

The following table provides a quick comparison of several chemical disinfection options.

          Table 1:  Comparison of chlorine disinfection options.

  Chlorine Gas Calcium Hypochlorite Sodium Hypochlorite
% Concentration by Weight of Available Chlorine 100% 65% .8% to 12.5%
Quantity of Media Required Low Moderate High
Required Storage Space Minimal Moderate High
Transportation Costs Minimal Minimal High
Safety Concerns (Chlorine gas is a skin and mucous membrane irritant.  Chlorine gassings can be the result of a leak from a gas chlorine system or off gassing from sodium hypochlorite liquid of the pre-disinfection solution prepared by mixing water with calcium hypochlorite). Potential gas release


Off gassing of Chlorine, especially from solution

Spontaneously combusts


Sensitive to heat and sunlight

Off gassing of Chlorine


Heat and sunlight cause off gassing and degradation

Chemical Addition None Calcium Sodium
Decomposition (degradation of potency with time, as dependent on conditions, while releasing chlorine gas). None Moderate High
Personnel Oversight Minimal High Moderate
Additional Comments "Clean" application "Messy" application and residue problems are common. "Messy"

-Equipment Selection

            The chlorine application in a poultry farm should be continuous as the water in the drinkers is constantly being contaminated with feed, manure, mucus and saliva form the birds.  Uniform levels of continuous chlorination have proven to help lower instances of disease, requiring less medication and lower costs per pound of meant production (Hatt, 2002). 

        Chlorination is commonly used for drinking water at concentrations of 3PPM.  Concentrations up to 10PPM have been reported to be well tolerated by chickens.  A 5 PPM residual is required for slime control (Jeffrey, 2005).  However, initial high Chlorine levels must be avoided, as this would cause birds to cut back on water intake, resulting in lowered egg production.

            In order to calculate which Hydro Instrumentís equipment is appropriate for use, one should estimate the amount of water being consumed by the poultry during each day.  Poultry drink a great deal of water.  During its lifetime, a 5-pound broiler will consumer more than 18 pounds of water, compared to just 10 pounds of feed (Goan, 2005).  Once the amount of water required each day is estimated, divide down to gallons per minute.  Once you have this flow estimate, the desired Chlorine level must be decided.  With these two factors known, the estimate Chlorine feed rate is easily calculated.

The following formulas are estimating the Chlorine gas feed rate:

Imperial Units:  Gallons Per minute (GPM) x 0.012 x Parts Per Million (PPM)= Pound Per Day (PPD) Chlorine gas feed

Metric Units:  Liters Per minute (LPM) x 0.06 x Parts per Million (PPM) = Gram Per hour (gr/hr) Chlorine gas feed


          If it is determined that the average water flow rate will be 90 GPM (341 L) and the desired Chlorine level is 3 PPM, the formula would be:


                                                           90 x 0.012 x 3 = 3.2PPD                               


                                                            341 x 0.06 x 3 = 61 gr/hr



            The importance of water in the poultry industry is often underestimated.  Drinking quality water is directly proportional to the quality of birds raised as waterís function include:  regulation of body temperature, transport of other nutrients and taking part in numerous chemical reactions in the body (Ultra Bio-Logics Inc).  Standards for animal drinking water indicate that there should be fewer than 100 bacteria of all types per milliliter (mL) of water (Sneed/Carter).  Gas chlorination is the most reliable and effective way of controlling microbial levels. Proper equipment and use will ensure the correct amount of safe drinking water for healthy and strong poultry growth.


                                                                          David Sanchez, June 2005






American Pastured poultry Producers Association (APPPA)- Why Raise Pastured Poultry? 2005-quoted online [Wednesday 6th July 2005]- http://www.apppa.org/

Canadian Poultry Consultants (CPC)-Water Sanitation, 2005-quoted online [Tuesday 5th July 2005]- http://www.canadianpoultry.ca/water_sanitation.htm

Cleaning and Maintenance Management (CMM)- A Disinfectants primer, 2004-quoted online  [Thursday 7th July 2005]- http://www.cmmonline.com/NewsPrint.asp?print=1&mode=4&N_ID=22327&uniqueURL=340115142-2005-7-7-10-25-27

Division of Environmental Health Ė Water Chemistry for Swimming Pools.  Retrieved Thursday 23rd from World Wide Web: http://www.deh.enr.state.nc.us/ehs.chem.htm

Goan Charles-Management of Nipple Watering systems for broilers, 2005- quoted online [Thursday 7th July 2005]- http://www.utextension.utk.edu/publications/pbfiles/pb1533.pdf

Hatt, Barbara-Gas Chlorine as a Water Disinfection System for Poultry Farms Processing Plants, Canadian Poultry Magazine, July 2002.

Hess, Jeremy- Copper-zinc filtration offers new life to chickens, 1998 Ė quoted online [Tuesday 5th July 2005]- http://www.watertechonline.com/article.asp?IndexID=5120326

Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (IFAS)-Sanitizing Poultry Drinking Water, 1998-quoted online [Wednesday 6th July 2005]- http://disaster.ifas.ufl.edu/PDFS/CHAP06/D06-13.PDF

Lenntech-Sodium Hypochlorite, 2005-quoted online [Thursday 7th July 2005]- http://www.Lenntech.com/water-disinfection/disinfectans-sodium-hypochlorite.htm

Lister Stephen-Water, Water, Water Everywhere, But is it fit to drink? 1999-quoted online [Tuesday 5th July 2005] http://www.antecint.co.uk/main/waters1.htm

Miles D M/Lott B D/Brandton S L/Simmons JD-Development of a water stick to measure nipple water flow rates, 2004-quoted online [Thursday 7th July 2005]- http://www.findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_qa4105/is_200407/ai_n9457902#continue

Occupational Health and Safety-Oxidizing Liquids and Solids-Hazards, 2002-quoted online [Thursday 7th July 2005]- http://www.ccohs.ca/oshanswers/chemicals/oxidizing/oxiziding_hazards.html

Smorol Douglas-Comparing Chlorine Disinfection Methods, 2005-quoted online [Thursday 7th July 2005]- http://www.nyruralwater.org.aquafacts.winter2003/4.shtml

Sneed R.F/Thomas A. Carter-Drinking Water Quality for Poultry, 1996-quoted online [Tuesday 5th July 2005]- http://www.bae.ncsu.edu.programs/extension/evans/ps&t-42.html

Vermont Department of Health (VDH)-A fact sheet of Coliform Bacteria in Water, 2005-quoted online [Wednesday 6th July 2005]- http://www.healthyvermonters.info.hs/epi/idepi/coliform/coliform.shtml

Tsai Lee-Shinn/Higby Richard/Schade John-Disinfection of Poultry Chiller Water with Chlorine Dioxide: Consumption and Byproduct Formation, ERCO 2005-quoted online [Wednesday 6th July 2005]-


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