Pashu Sandesh, 07th June 2018


The poultry industry uses various water sources such as the municipal water, underground water, and to some extent, surface water and rainwater. Regardless of the source, it is highly important that water provided should be free of microbial contamination to ensure flock health and performance, and food safety. Therefore, water sanitation is a very crucial step in a poultry operation and should be effectively carried out. Good quality water is very important for good digestion and to create a healthy gut flora, which will help the bird to absorb all the essential nutrients.

To take care of the routine problems of a 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, but wrong solution may create the problem by reducing the 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 for 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 acts as the 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.

An 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 the 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 temperatures 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 3% hydrogen peroxide solution 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: ---
It Should be stable in all pH ranges. Make sure that you are using perfect hygienic water for your birds and
• Must work in foregut as well as in hindgut
• Must suppress bacteria that are "pH sensitive" like E.coli, Salmonella, Campylobacter, C. perfringens, Listeria etc.
Acidifiers are used to keep water pH to less than 7.0 and help to reduce bacteria proliferation. It has been observed that lowering pH to less than 5.0 does not provide significant improvements in broiler performance. Overuse of organic acids such as citric and acetic acids can lead to reductions in water and feed consumption and lead to a depression in growth rate. it is recommended that producers monitor the pH of drinking water when using acidifiers at the manufacturer’s recommended levels.

Water Sanitation Options
1. Chlorination
Chlorination has been a highly accepted method in water disinfection both for human and animal drinking purpose. It involves adding chlorine to water and can be performed using chlorine-containing compounds. In poultry operations, the commonly used chlorine sources for poultry drinking water sanitation are sodium hypochlorite, elemental chlorine gas and calcium hypochlorite. Their presence in the optimal pH range will create hypochlorous acid on hydrolysis.

Hypochlorous acid has a strong germicidal action. However, in high pH conditions (>8.5 pH), it dissociates completely into hypochlorite ions which has a less germicidal action than the hypochlorous acid. The pH range between 6.5 and 8 .5 has incomplete dissociation, while pH below 6.5 has no or a negligible dissociation of the hypochlorous form.
Therefore, chlorination is more effective at lower pH levels and often drinking water is acidified to support chlorine disinfectant efficacy for improved sanitizing residual which supports better bird performance. When using chlorine and acidifiers together in water, they should be mixed and injected separately to avoid poisonous gas formation.

When drinking water has 2-5 ppm free chlorine residual, it is effective against most microbial growth in water. E. coli O157: H7, most Salmonella and Campylobacter species, and avian flu virus are easily inactivated at these residual levels or at even lower levels.

Chlorine products have been the primary water disinfectant products for thirty-forty years in the poultry industry. Unfortunately, microbes are becoming resistant to these products because they have not been always used properly. Therefore, the industry also needs to identify other options of water sanitation and have clear guidelines on the efficacy of alternative disinfectants, as well as their optimal usage levels.

2. Hydrogen Peroxide:

An alternative disinfectant to Chlorine
Recent field experiences have shown that poor performing farms are greatly benefitted from water sanitation programs using hydrogen peroxide which is an alternative disinfectant to chlorine. Hydrogen peroxide has a rapid bactericidal action and is effective against a wide range of viruses, yeast, and fungi. Pseudomonas aeruginosa, Escherichia coli, Salmonella typhimurium, Staphylococcus aureus, Aspergillus fumigates and Fusarium species are well inactivated even in presence of organic matter.

Maintaining 25-50 ppm of hydrogen peroxide residuals in the water is considered the effective for limiting most microbial growth.
Successful cleaning of poultry waterlines with hydrogen peroxide products with minimal equipment damage can also be done.
3. Other Water Sanitizers in Poultry Operation
Another successfully used water disinfectant for sanitizing poultry drinking water is chlorine dioxide. It acts as a selective oxidant as it has a single electron transfer mechanism and reduces to form chlorite ion which exists as the dominant species in water.

Other disinfectants like quaternary ammonium compounds and iodophores are also used in poultry operation for disinfecting water and water system. Ozone and UV rays can also be used for water sanitation but not common in poultry practices.


Water being the prime nutrient for poultry, the industry should pay close attention in these regards to providing the best sanitizing option for poultry producers and to address any type of water quality issues. Constant monitoring is required, It is recommended that water samples be collected quarterly and sent to the Laboratories for analyses. The information gained from these analyses can be used to determine the best management practices required for your specific water conditions.