Quality water is one of the needs that must be fulfilled. Monitoring daily water intake is an accurate way to measure performance and as an indicator of broiler health. Breeders need to pay attention to the drinking water system installed.

Function of water in broiler body

Water is an important substance and needed by broilers. Chickens can survive several days without food, but not if water is not available. The water in the broiler body used to:

  • Helps distribute nutrients throughout the body
  • Metabolic processes (enzymatic reactions and chemical reactions in the body)
  • Regulate chicken body temperature

Broiler Drinking Habit

Broilers drink lots of water and will also excrete a lot of it again. Generally broilers drink more than they eat. During life, broilers weighing 2.3 kilograms need 8.2 kilograms of water, and feed consumption are only 4.5 kg. About 80% of the water that’s drunk by the broiler will be excreted from the body so that the ventilation system and good quality of the husk need to be to consider to expect excretion from the broiler.

Water intake affects the feed intake. The higher the water intake, the higher the feed intake. Based on the research results, chickens will eat little or no food at all if there is no water.

Factors that affect water intake

The amount of water intake is influenced by the following:

1. Broiler Age

As they get older, broilers need greater water consumption. This is due to the increasing need for water to carry out the metabolic process and to maintain the body temperature of the chicken. The water consumption required per broiler age can be seen in table 1.

2. Environmental Temperature

Broilers consume more water when the ambient temperature is high. One of the ways broilers deal with high temperatures is by gasping for breath (panting) to carry out the process of evaporating water from its body so that it releases to heat. Panting will deplete body fluids and of course need water replacement, so that the broiler water intake increases when the ambient temperature is high. Water intake increases 5% when the ambient temperature increases by 1oC.

3. Water Temperature

The ideal drinking water temperature for chicken is 15 – 21oC. Drinking water temperatures that is too clod (< 5oC) or too hot (>30oC) can reduce water intake.

  • 4. Taste of Water

The taste of water can change as a result of adding antibiotics or vaccines. The addition of antibiotics to drinking water can produce a bitter taste, thereby reducing water intake.

Water Quality

Good quality drinking water for chickens :

  • Colorless and no sediment
  • Tasteless and no smell
  • Have pH 6.5 – 8.5
  • Chloride content < 500 ppm
  • Nitrate content < 200 ppm
  • Hardness level (Ca+2 and Mg+2) < 110 ppm
  • Doesn’t contain E. Colli bacteria
  • Doesn’t contain Salmonella sp bacteria
  • The total number of bacteria contained (MPN) <100 per 100 ml water
    *Standard of Medilab water test

Good water quality will also support the solubility of drugs and vaccines. Also, clean water can prevent the growth of bacteria or fungi on broiler pipes and drinking utensils.

To monitor water quality, its recommended to conduct routine water taste in the laboratory :

  • Chemical test (once per year or when a case occurs)
  • Biological test ( 2 times per year)

Performance and Health Indicators

The results of recording daily water intake can be used to determine the performance ad health of the broiler. If there is a significant change in a water intake, this may indicate a problem. The balance between water consumption and broiler feed can be shown by the water / feed intake ratio.

Simply Cases :

The results of recording daily water intake, feed intake, and water / feed ratio from a cage are presented in the following figure.

Analysis result

At the age of 21 days, you can see that the water intake has increased, but the feed intake has actually decreased. This deviation is much more visible in the water / feed ratio graph. The possible causes for this case are :

  • Broiler indigestion
  • Post vaccination reactions ( 5 days after vaccination)

*Note: deviation of water intake data is not always caused by health problems of chickens. This can also be caused by : leakage of drinking water pipes or heat stress.

Drinking Water Equipment

Broiler must have easy access to drinking places and be available ad libitum (always available water). In closed house cages, the drinking water system that is often used is a nipple drinker, because :

  • Able to reduce the humidity level of the cage by 7%.
  • Water cleanliness is more maintained and not contaminated by the environment.

The nipple drinker system consists of 2 parts :

  • Main water supply
  • Water line drinker

A. Main Water Supply

The function of the main water supply is to flow water from the water tank to the water line drinker.

Some of the functions of the main water supply equipment are as follows :

1. Water Tank

As a source of drinking water for chickens. Minimum water tank height is 2 – 3 meters. To prevent water tank from heating up from the sun, the water tank must be protected with a roof or painted white so that it reflects the sun’s heat.

2. Water meter

Serves to measure the amount of water consumption.

3. Filter

Serves to filter water from dirt deposits and prevent clogging of the nipple drinker.

4. Pressure Meter

Serves to measure water pressure. This item is optional (not required to be installed).

5. Medicator

Serves to enter antibiotics, vitamins, or vaccines automatically into the water pipe line. Medicator is able to regulate the amount of drug dispensed, for example on a scale of 1% which means 1 ml of medicine for every 100 ml of drinking water.

B. Water Line Drinker

Water line drinker is a water pipe line in the cage. Water line drinker equipment can be seen in picture 11.

The water regulator functions to stabilize the water pressure from water tank to the drinker nipple pipe, thus supporting the broiler water intake. The height of the sphere in the transparent tube (above the water regulator and at the end of the pipeline) indicates the water pressure in the pipe. The higher the ball, the higher the water pressure. Make sure the level of the ball on the transparent tube is parallel to the tube in front of and behind. The tube should be positioned as straight as possible to indicate accurate pressure conditions. Recommended sphere height in transparent tube:

The height of the water line drinker

The height of the water pipe line is adjusted to the reach of the chicken (2 – 3 cm above the head of the chicken) using a pulley / winch.

Water Line Drinker Maintenance

Equipment that is always wet with water is at risk of growing bacteria, mildew, or bio film. Bio film is a collection of microorganisms or bacteria attached to a surface and covered by an adhesive produced by bacteria. Bio film in water pipes can harm the health of chickens.

Water line drinker maintenance activities :

  • Wash the water line drinker equipment before and after the chick in using a cloth and disinfectant solution (can use Medisep).
  • Flushing the drinking water pipe regularly every 1 times a day (morning) or at least once a week to prevent the formation of bio film. Flushing can use pressurized water (1.5 – 3 bar) or use chemicals, such a peroxide (H2O2) and citric acid.

Water system problem handlers

Disruption to the drinking water system will have an impact on the performance of the broiler. So careful observation in the cage is needed and fast handling. Some of the problems that can occur and their handling are related to the drinking water system :

1. Wet husk or leaking of the nipple drinker

Wet the husk will increase moisture and excess ammonia production, which can cause respiratory problems in chickens and disturbance of chicken feet (limp / scuffed).

The cause of wet husk or leaking of the nipple drinker can be due to :

  • The water pressure in the drinker nipple pipe is uneven (the height of the ball in the transparent tube is not parallel)
  • The water pressure in the drinker nipple pipe is too large, so that the water discharge is too large and soaks the husks
  • Clogged nipple drinkers due to bio film or insoluble drugs
  • Improper installation of water system equipment

2. Dehydrated Chicken Feet

A sign of dry chicken feet indicates that the chicken is dehydrated or is not consuming enough water. These results can be supported by checking the daily water intake records or from the water / feed rat

The causes of low water consumption can be caused by :

  • The water pressure in the nipple drinker pipe is too low
  • The temperature of water is too hot
  • The number of nipple drinkers is too small compared to the broiler population. Note the ideal number of nipple drinkers : population ratio is 1:10 to 1:12
  • Clogged nipple drinkers due to bio film or insoluble drugs


[1]A Broiler’s Chick Water Intake Cobb Vantress.2003.

[2]Water Related factors in Broiler Production . 2012. Extension Service. Mississippi State University

[3] Broiler Signals. 2015. Netherlands. Roodbont Publishers. Marteen de Gussem.

[4]Poultry Water Management During Hot Weather.2016. NutriQuest Vol. 6.

[5]FAQ Ziggity:http://ziggity.com/faq/[6]Management of Nipple Watering Systems for Broilers.2015. The University of Tennessee

[7]Red hocks in day old chcks or poults.Pas Reform Integrated Hatchery Solutions. Gerd de Lange

[8]Poultry Drinking Water Primer.2009. Extension Poultry Scientists: The University of Georgia

[9]Ross Broiler Management Handbook.2014. An Aviagen Brand.


Broiler Drinking System
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