Since contaminated water can transmit serious diseases to birds, poultry owners should always provide good quality water for their flocks.
“We know that avian influenza can be spread through water that wild ducks have been on,” says Gerald Hauer, assistant chief provincial veterinarian. “Most people know to keep their poultry away from dugouts and ponds, but we want to remind them to treat that water before they let their birds drink it.”
To determine whether water needs treatment, first consider the source. If the water is from a well or municipal source, the risk of introducing diseases is minimal. If using surface water, such as from dugouts or ponds, the risk is much higher.
Though there are several ways to treat water; chlorination is the most common and inexpensive. A concentration of two to five parts per million will kill most viruses, including avian influenza. Here are some formulas for mixing chlorine with water:
* For a bulk tank, add 45 mL of household bleach (five-per-cent chlorine) to 455 litres of water. This is equivalent to adding 1.6 fluid ounces of five-per-cent bleach to 100 imperial gallons.
* People treating water by the bucket can add 2.5 mL to 22.5 litres of water (half a teaspoon to a five-gallon pail).
* If using an automatic water treatment system, be sure to set it to deliver the proper amount of chlorine.
* Always let the water sit for 10 minutes with the chlorine added before giving it to the birds, (this is how long it might take for the chlorine to kill viruses present in the water).
Sometimes water contains impurities that can affect the chlorine’s ability to kill viruses. For example, soil particles, organic material, ammonia and minerals can make chlorine ineffective. If there are high levels of any impurities, consult with a water quality specialist on ways to get around this problem.
Poultry owners should be aware that changing watering practices can have unintended effects on flocks. “You want to pay attention to your birds’ consumption whenever you make a change in their water,” Hauer says. “You need to make sure they are drinking enough.”
Also, even a small amount of chlorine can kill modified live virus vaccine added to the water. If vaccinating birds through the water, use clean water with no chlorine.
The cardinal rule for birds is to keep them away from dirty water.
“Never let poultry drink untreated water from a pond, dugout or anywhere else that wild birds have access to,” Hauer adds. “That is just basic biosecurity and it keeps all of Alberta’s livestock safe and healthy.”