DENTON, Md. (Oct. 3, 2017) — While poultry experts were in the area for the Delmarva Poultry Industry Inc.’s National Meeting on Poultry Health, Processing and Live Production, it made sense, said Dr. Jon Moyle, University of Maryland Extension poultry specialist, to invite them to speak to growers, too.

These experts would be addressing veterinarians and poultry health experts from around the country, suppliers, flock supervisors and poultry company employees.

University of Maryland Extension and University of Delaware Cooperative Extension, which jointly sponsored the grower meeting with the help of DPI, plan to continue the grower meetings every year.

More than 60 growers enjoyed a quick meal of fried chicken at the Caroline-Dorchester County 4-H Park in Denton on Sept. 26 before hearing presentations about on-farm water quality and best practices for managing chicken litter.

Mary Katherine Foy, director of technical services for Proxy-Clean Products, discussed the importance of clean water for chickens.

With slides of slime and other gunk that can develop inside water lines, she emphasized the importance of cleaning water lines every time the farm is without chickens and having a water program to keep the lines clear after using some “magic pill” water treatment product.

With a master’s in environmental biology, Foy is well aware of the bacterial growth within that slime layer. She sees problems on farms of actively involved manager/owners who are well-read and willing to try new things, particularly in production of poultry without antibiotics. “Sometimes they try two or three things with one flock,” she noted.

Bacteria is in the environment, and when chickens get a drink, they introduce bacteria into the water lines. That “magic pill” may barely touch the bacteria it is supposed to control — may in fact supplement bacteria growth.

“Keep it simple: Clean water,” Foy said.

She suggested growers educate themselves about the products they are considering using. “What will it do to the water line environment? What are the side effects?” she asked. And, “change one thing at a time.”

What’s in your water? Minerals, for one thing, such as iron and sulphur which affect bird health. They both support bacteria. Slower, warmer water — such as is found in the first few weeks with chicks — allows for more bacterial growth.

Other minerals that can affect performance are zinc, sodium plus chloride, magnesium, arsenic and lead. Foy described how these minerals can affect chickens.

What can you do about minerals? Clean the water lines with a de-scaler; filter in the incoming water, using cotton, charcoal, green sand or reverse osmosis; and treat the water daily with hydrogen peroxide or chlorine.

If you are seeing issues such as high mortality, enteric issues, poor flock performance, disease in flock after flock, low vaccination effect or low water consumption … 70 percent of the time the problem has to do with water, Foy said.

Poultry barns have the perfect environment to grow a long list of bacteria, algae, yeasts, molds, viruses and parasites. Your water lines are not a closed system. Bacteria have the ability to move in water.

Filters don’t get all the bacteria, and softeners do not disinfect water. The bacteria that survive are hard to kill.

Algae blooms are easily detected; a biofilm layer of bacteria is not always visually detectable. One under-performing farm had lines that “looked clean,” but tests revealed more than 300 million CFU (colony-forming units) per milliliter. “That’s the size of the tip of my nail,” she said.
If you use additives, be sure you have a water treatment program. It should include a method and frequency of cleaning between flocks and a daily water treatment program.

Be aware that chlorine breaks down quickly and does not compete well with additives. Organisms become resistant.

Proxy-Clean has a product with which growers can flush lines, Foy said. She warned that growers should be careful to use the right proportions and allow enough time for the product to work through the entire system. “Trigger all the nipples,” she said.

Clean one line at a time and be sure to clean the regulators.

If you need information on daily water treatment, contact Foy at (479) 387-6972.
Proxy-Clean is distributed by a new firm now located in the G&M Sales building in Delmar, Md., called Clear View Enterprises. For information, visit

She noted that the University of Arkansas is set up to test for minerals in water found in this area.

The cost runs about $23. For information, visit