Sanitation, Cleaning, and Disinfecting Poultry Facilities

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Diseases and infections have always been a major concern to the poultry industry. Fortunately, microbial contamination can be prevented and controlled using proper management practices and modern health products.

Microorganisms are everywhere! Some are relatively harmless, while others can cause disease. Some pose a lethal threat to one species of animal while remaining harmless to another species. Some organisms are easily destroyed, while others are very difficult to eliminate. The moral is, “Treat all microorganisms as if they are a severe threat to the chick’s livelihood.”

Three terms are commonly used to describe microbial control:

     * Sterilization – Destroying all infective and reproductive forms of all microorganisms (bacteria, fungi,
        virus, and the like).
     * Disinfection – Destroying all vegetative forms of microorganisms. Spores are not destroyed.
     * Sanitation – Pathogenic organisms are present but are not a threat to the birds’ health.

Many producers have the impression that they create a “sterile” condition because they use disinfectants, when they may only achieve a sanitized condition at the very best.

The most important thing to remember when striving for a sanitized environment is that cleanliness is essential. Proper cleaning removes most germs and is always done before using disinfectants. This applies to all areas, including floors, walls, equipment, and personnel.

It is extremely important to remove as much organic matter as possible from surfaces being disinfected. After removing dust, chick down, droppings, tissue residues, and such, thoroughly clean surfaces, using warm water and appropriate cleaning aids. Focus on selecting the proper detergent to produce the cleanest environment possible with variations in water hardness, salinity, and pH. A thorough rinsing with enough clean, sanitized water completes the cleaning process and removes most lingering residues of detergents, organic matter, or microbial germs.

Only after facilities are thoroughly clean do you treat surfaces with an appropriate disinfectant solution. Not all disinfectants are suited for every situation.

When selecting the disinfectant, carefully consider these:

     * The type of surface being treated.
     * The cleanliness of the surface.
     * The type of organisms being treated.
     * The durability of the equipment/surface material.
     * Time limitations on treatment duration.
     * Residual activity requirements.

If the surface is free of organic matter and residual activity is not required, quaternary ammonium compounds or halogen compounds can be used effectively. However, if surfaces are difficult to clean, residual activity is required, or the contaminating organisms are difficult to destroy, then multiple phenols or coal tar distillates may be needed.

Be careful that the disinfectant, when used as directed, meets your requirements. Be reasonable and don’t expect the product to produce impossible results.Otherwise, select a different product or change disease control practices.

Although many disinfectants are available, the disinfectant you select must be effective for the conditions being used.

Here are several considerations for getting the best results from a disinfectant:

     * Consider the disinfectant’s effectiveness on organisms of greatest concern. Not all disinfectants are
        effective against all organisms.
     * Clean and disinfect in separate operations.
     * Disinfectant solutions are more effective when applied as warm solutions rather than cold solutions. Hot
        solutions can reduce disinfectant efficiency.
     * Few disinfectants are effective instantaneously; allow enough contact time (usually 30 minutes is
     * Embryos are very sensitive and severely affected by chemical vapors. Use disinfectants having least
        effect on embryo development.
     * Allow all surfaces to dry thoroughly before reuse. Dryness reduces reproduction and spread and
        transport of germs.
     * Improper use of disinfectants can damage or hinder the function of equipment. Some disinfectants are
        corrosive or clog spray nozzles of water systems.
     * Always follow label directions for their safe use. Never sacrifice personal safety for cost savings or
        productive efficiency.

Disease-free surfaces can be compromised if you do not properly maintain facilities. You can unknowingly act as a germ carrier and become a major source of infection. Provisions must be available for frequent washing of hands and footwear. Freshly laundered clothing and caps can significantly reduce the spread of germs. Restricted movement of personnel within specific areas also reduces the distribution of organisms.

The risk posed by disease causing organisms is a constant challenge. Use effective control measures rather than trusting visual cleanliness as an indicator of sanitation. A surface that looks clean is not necessarily disease-free. Assuming so may be fatal to the birds and management program.

Disinfectant Classifications




Alcohols Small utensils Poor residual activity, fire hazard, expensive
Halogens Water sytems, foot baths Corrosive, poor residual activity, ineffective in presence of organic material
Incubation equipment, feeding systems Non-corrosive, non-irritating, limited residual activity and effectiveness with organic matter
Phenols General house use Slightly irritating, good residual activity, effective with organic matter
Coal tar
General house use Coorosive, irritating, good residual activity, effective with organic matter
Aldehydes Fumigating incubators/eggs Highly toxic, slight residual activity, sporicidal, fungicidal
Small utensils Poor residual activity, corrosive, innefective in presence of organic material

Munawar Ali Munawar Ali
Doctor of Veterinary Medicine
June 26, 2008
Sanitation, cleaning and disinfections are extremly important actions a farmer should take to prevent his flock from different diseases.

Article is very nice and practical.

A detailed assay is requested regarding the above points.

Waiting for reply,

Dr. Munawar Ali
July 12, 2008
Cleaning, sanitation and disinfection are critical to the normal functioning of the poultry enterprise.
I would like to add the controlled growth of a set of organisms you require. We use various live bacterial and viral vaccines. We also use live protozoa like Eimeria. What are we doing here? We are growing a set of organisms.
We use organic acids in feed, water and use acidifiers to keep the Ph level around 4.0. What are we doing here? We are cultivating a set of organisms we require which we would like to outnumber than the pathogenic organisms.
With the change of seasons a new set of organisms start to establish in the poultry environment. It thrives in that particular temperature, humidity and particulate matter.
So terminal disinfection and normal sanitation and disinfection in the presence of birds is the art of a good flock manager.
This art has to be mastered to get the best results out of a flock and to achieve the target productions with the best quality and profitability.

Dr.Rajendra Kumar, MVSc
Al Jazira Poultry Farm LLC,
Dubai, UAE
January 31, 2011
I need help!!!!
Here, in Iran is an outbreak of some uknown disease.
I have a problem with disinfection of enviroment.
who knows which disinfectant is effective on freezing and cold weather?
Cyril Quist Cyril Quist
Doctor of Veterinary Medicine
December 16, 2011
the use of detergents and water should be considered to be key in reducing cost in any sanitation activity.
haters wanted haters wanted
September 30, 2015
what are some sanitary measures that can be taken for broilers
Tarek El Sonousy Tarek El Sonousy
Veterinary Doctor
April 2, 2017
The use of “quats” as cationic detergents is better than we counting on as disinfectant, They are not effective against non-enveloped viruses or mycobacteria and are considered sporostatic but not sporocidal. They have limited effect against Gram-negative bacteria and Pseudomonas. They are pH sensitive, more active at neutral to slightly alkaline pH but lose their activity at pH less than 3.5. QACs are in general, easily inactivated by organic matter, detergents, soaps and hard water (this may vary with the “generation”). QACs are toxic to fish and should not be discharged into water sources(i.e., streams, ponds, lakes). I believed that compound with mixed disinfectants (like gluteraldehyde,formaldehyde with “quats”) is better than single disinfectant
Dr. Tarek El sonousy,
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