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Managing chicken daily water intake

Poultry farming is a popular activity among livestock entrepreneurs. For you to achieve maximum profits in your kind of chicken farming, it is vital that the correct equipment is always used. Inferior, substandard, or improvised (basins and trays) will always result in variable performance and ultimately large financial loss.

For those who want to start a poultry rearing business and are in the initial stages of sourcing for the right equipment like drinkers, I will walk you through the list of equipment, their uses, advantages and disadvantages.

Drinking systems

Providing clean, cool water with adequate flow rates is fundamental to good poultry production. Without adequate water intake, feed consumption will decline, and bird performance will be compromised.

Both closed and open watering systems are commonly used, open system simply means that the water is supplied from an open cup or basin. Closed system essentially means use of nipples that do not expose water to germs and other contaminants in the environment.

Bell or Cup Drinkers (Open systems)

Cup manual drinkers or water fonts are quite popular. They are circular and have a jar for filling water and pan for delivering it to the birds. They come also as automatic bell drinker which requires an overhead tank installed at seven feet above the ground. This system is cheap to install, is the most practiced by farmers keeping 200-500 birds, but it has several disadvantages.

It’s difficult to keep the water clean, as dusty environment makes the water dirty. It is associated with high water spillage making the litter wet and caked and can lead to high disease outbreak.

It requires daily cleaning hence very labour intensive. If not properly monitored, may lead to water waste. A manual drinker will cost you anything between Sh400-500 while an automatic drinker will cost Sh1,500 to Sh2,000 depending on the seller.

How to install drinkers 

Chicken feeding equipment.

Bell drinkers should provide at least 0.6 cm per bird of drinking space. In other words, you should aim at maximum 50-80 birds per drinker in our tropical climatic conditions. Bell and cup drinkers should be suspended to ensure the level of the lip of the drinker is equal to the height of the bird’s back when standing normally.

Drinker heights should be adjusted as the birds grow to minimise contamination while water depth should be kept at thumbnail deep. All automatic bell drinkers should have a ballast weight to reduce spillage. Automatic system provides continuous flow of water to ensure water is available to the birds all the time.

Nipple drinkers (closed system)

This is a highly mechanised system, operating at high water pressure of (80-90ml/min) or low water pressure of (50-60ml/min) and common in layers cages and huge operations.

They provide a bead of water at the end of the nipple and may have a cup to catch any excess water that may leak from the nipples. Generally, we recommend 10-12 birds per nipple with low –high flow rates.

How to install nipple system

Nipple system needs to be pressurised by installing a header tank, seven feet above the ground. Water in the nipple system is unlikely to get contaminated, that is its biggest advantage. The nipples should be placed at maximum of 35 cm apart, so that birds do not travel more than three metres to find water.

Nipple drinking system are very hygienic and water stays clean all the time, however one needs to adjust the height of the drinkers to ensure the chick can slightly reach up and never stoop down to always reach the nipples with the feet flat on the floor. Remember to follow manufacturers’ recommendation since broiler and layer nipples may differ.

Water Metres

It is becoming a good practice to monitor water consumption as it can be used to gauge feed consumption as the two are correlated. Birds generally drink twice as much as they feed. Any substantial change in water consumption should be investigated as this may indicate a water leak, health challenge or feed issue.

A drop in water consumption is often the first indicator of a flock problem. Water consumption should equal 1.6 to 2 times that of feed by mass, but it will vary depending on environmental temperatures, feed quality and bird health.

Water tanks

Adequate water storage should be provided on the farm if the main system fails. The tank should store at least two days requirement.

[Dr Watson Messo Odwako, [email protected] or [email protected]]


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