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Importance of Water in Poultry Health

M.R.Reddy. M. V. L.N Raju. M. M. Chawak and S. V. Rama Rao
Project Directorate on Poultry, Hyderabad .

Water is the most critical nutrient required for the production of poultry, but its importance is often neglected by poultry raisers. It makes 55-75 per cent of the chicken's body and 65 per cent of an ego. It serves to soften and hydrolyze feedstuffs for digestion. As an important constituent of the bipod and lymph it serves as a carrier of digested food and waste products. It serves to control body temperature by evaporation through air sacs and lungs. It is the main constituent of mucus which acts as a lubricant for the Joints and muscles. Besides being an impor­tant structural component, water is a necessary agent in all body processes, which are chemical reactions between substances in a liquid medium, of which water is the principle constituent.

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Although water is normally consi­dered as H 2O, all natural waters gen­erally contains various impurities and other contaminants. It is becom­ing apparent that certain chemical or microbiological contaminants, present in water have important direct and indirect effects on avian health.

A. Sources of water contamination:

Sources of water contamination are mainly categorized into the follow­ing five groups.

1. Wastes of human and animal origin

2. Run off from agricultural land

3. Domestic sullages

4. Industrial wastes

5. Accidental pollution


1. Surface water horn rivers, ponds, lakes end canals i« most prone .to con­tamination. In India most of the sewage water is dumped back, into the river or canal from which the water is often taken for drinking purposes. Besides, animals and humans bathe in it. All these factors contribute to high level of micro-organisms in water.

2. Most commonly used sub­surface water sources like wells, hand pumps and tuba wells gets; contaminated by sanitary land till and water clogging in the vicinity. Sometimes wells become contaminated with bac­teria following tree roots and loose walls.

3. The water distribution system is also prone to contamination. If there are leaks in the water supply pipes. Outside water seeps into the pipeline. Bad plumbing practices also contribute to contamination of water distribution system.

4. Nearly all poultry raisers use underground or overhead tanks to storewater. These tanks are usually not cleaned and disinfected regularly. Tank covers are often left open giving access to birds, droppings and other contamination. Consequently, these storage tanks become breeding grounds for micro organisms. Poor sanitation habits of workers also aggravate contamination.

5. At the consumer end (poultry), the water troughs of the litter floor gets contaminated by litter, and secre­tion and excretion of birds. In channel type of waterier in cage system, water is contaminated with nasal discharge of birds. Subsequently the same con­taminated, water is consumed by other birds.


Because of the essential role played by water in supporting chicken life italso has, if contaminated, great poten­tial fer transmitting a wide variety of diseases and illnesses. Water-borne infections occurs as shown in the figure-1, the pathogenic organisms gain access into the drinking water through excretions and secretions of -sick bird, which is then consumed by a bird susceptible to the disease Some of the poultry diseases spread through water are-Ranikhet disease, fowl cholera, infectious Bursal disease, infectious bronchitis, salmoneltosis, colibacillosis, coccidiosis and ascariasis.


Water is eliminated by the bird mainly through feaces and respiration. The amount of water eliminated by a bird depends on many factors. Birds consume and [eliminate more water in hot weather. Rations that are high in fiber, protein, minerals (Nacl, Mg. K. S ) or toxins increase the water consumption and excretion through feaces. Birds suffering from diseases of intestinal tract evacuate watery faeces (Diarrhea). If the drinking water is contaminated with toxic ele­ments and bacteria, water consumption and elimination seems to increase. Often, due to faulty design and man­agement of water flowing system and drinkers, lot of water finds its way through seepage, leakage and spillage from waterier. All these factors in turn raise the moisture content of the litter. This leads to severe health hazards and down grading. Increased litter moisture flavours the growth of molds and coccidiat oocysts. Further, it flavours the microbial breakdown of uric acid excreted by the birds, to ammonia. Hence high litter moisture leads to increased production and accumulation of ammonia in a poultry house, which causes .kerato-conjunctivitis. Respiratory affections, regress­ion of bursa of fabric us, immunosuppression, poor performance, hock scabs and breast blisters in broilers and seve­ral other stress related problems.


In order to reduce the microbial load, purification of water is done by various methods, like boiling, filtration, U. V. Irradiation, chemical purifica­tion etc.

a) U. V. irradiation of water: U. V. irradiation of water helps to reduce the bacterial load but this method finds little application in poultry industry, because of high cost, no safeguard against recontamination and of photo reactivation of bacteria. The U. V. lamp used in this equipment has a definite life and with age the intensity of light is diminished leading to low .purification efficiency.

b) Chemical purification: This is the most commonly used method Of water purification. In this process the destruction of bacteria is accomplished by chemical oxidation of the complete cell structure. The chemical purifiers are added to the water at such low levels that they are not harmful to birds but are very destructive for the bacteria and virus. Details of comm­only available chemical water purifiers are described in Table 1.

TABLE 1. Chemical purifiers used for purification of drinking water in poultry.


The poultry raisers should follow the following guidelines for efficient and successful water management to prevent health hazards in poultry.

1. Good quality drinking water must be made available to the birds at all times in adequate amounts.

2. The water source must be regu­larly sanitized to ensure; that the bac­terial and fungal load is reduced.

3. Bacterial and fungal analysis of the water is to be done periodically to gauge the efficacy of the water sanitization programme.

4. At yearly intervals the pipe­lines should be flushed out with a concentrated chlorine solution under pressure. This will not only disinfect the pipeline but also eliminate the rust developing in the pipes and valves.

5. Seepage or leakage of water from waterier and pipelines inside the house must be prevented. Drinker hei­ght should be adjusted weekly.

6. Covers of the storage tanks should always be kept closed to prevent wild bird droppings and other contami­nants.

7. Waterier should be cleaned with a scrub brush each day and the old water should be removed from the building.

8. Ensure that all the birds are drinking by providing adequate number of waterier.

9. Choosing appropriate delivery system and maintaining those systems are essential.

10. Functioning of automatic drinkers (nipples, bell type) should be monitored regularly.

11. Daily record of water consumption is very much essential. A sudden drop in water consumption is often the early warning of potential problems with flock. A large increase in water usage is usually associated with leak­age problems.