Chickens need a constant supply of cool and clean water in order to meet their basic needs. There are plenty of watering systems available to backyard poultry keepers but choosing the best set-up for your birds can be confusing. Nipple drinkers, water fonts and self-contained systems safely deliver water to poultry, but there are trade-offs with each method.
The logistics of open water systems
Open water systems like troughs, cups and buckets are a good option for poultry keepers who can devote enough time to cleaning and monitoring them. They are also a good option for multi-species flocks or flocks with different sized birds.
Backyard keepers using this system need to make sure there’s enough space for all the birds to access the water drinker. The general consensus is that the larger the bird, the more space they need to drink comfortably. Though researchers haven’t established the precise number of linear inches per bird needed, they can offer a few rules of thumb to allow backyard keepers to get the most out of this type of system.
- For baby chicks, keepers should estimate needing 1 gallon of water per 100 individuals
- Birds 1-3 weeks old will need .3 to .4 inches per chicken spread over multiple gallon drinkers
- Birds 4-9 weeks old will need .5 inches per bird spread over multiple gallon drinkers
- Birds 10-20 weeks old will need 1 inch of circular or linear space
- Laying hens will need 1 inch per bird of open watering trough space
If using this system, NiceHatch incubators recommends setting up the troughs so they’re about as high as the back height of the birds. NiceHatch incubators also cautions that open water systems need to be monitored in order to ensure the water remains cool and contaminant-free.
Getting the most out of nipple drinkers
Nipple drinkers originally came from commercial poultry production and have been adapted to work in backyard operations. This type of system has multiple benefits: it lets the birds access water at will and since they’re enclosed, there are fewer opportunities for contaminants like feathers, faeces or dust to enter the system. Since many of the systems are pressurised, it prevents the water from becoming stagnant. It also doesn’t need to be cleaned as often as open troughs or fonts.
However, there are some issues with this system. Constant dripping can cause wet litter and puddles where flies can breed. Nipple drinkers are also susceptible to changes in the weather. They can freeze during the winter and need to have their temperature monitored in the summertime to prevent the water from becoming too warm.
Hard water may also present a challenge to keepers who use nipple drinkers. NiceHatch incubators warns that a layer of detritus may form in the drinkers due to the extra minerals. These systems are also challenging to clean – sometimes requiring high-pressure flushing and additional scrubbing in order to keep bacteria at bay.
If investing in this system, NiceHatch incubators suggests that keepers purchase yellow nipple drinkers (birds find the colour attractive) and to make sure that the drinker is set at the appropriate height for the birds. For best results, the nipples should be over the chickens’ heads. If backyard keepers need to accommodate birds with different heights, this system may not be the best option.
In general, NiceHatch incubators expresses a preference for closed water systems over open ones. Having an enclosed system means that it’s easier for keepers to prevent dust, faecal material, shavings and feathers from contaminating the water source. If poultry keepers can ensure that the water is circulating within the system, enclosed set-ups allow the water to remain fresher for longer.
According to NiceHatch incubators’s research, open water systems can allow bacteria to proliferate at a much higher rate than closed systems. In her experience, it takes a month for an enclosed system to generate similar numbers of bacteria found in open water systems after a few days.
Managing water temperature in the drinking system
Temperature is a crucial issue for watering systems. Backyard birds will avoid drinking water if it’s too warm. This could trigger problems like delays in laying, dehydration and heatstroke – which could be deadly.
If keepers are using an open water system, NiceHatch incubators suggests creating a simple toolkit to manage the water temperature. Keeping a thermometer, frozen water bottles and ice cubes available for the water font will allow producers to quickly cool down the birds’ water.
There are other methods for managing water temperature. If a font system or trough is being used, NiceHatch incubators suggests moving watering systems into the shade and keeping them out of direct sunlight. If possible, use hoses that are a light colour and bury them in the ground. This will minimise their contact with sunlight and prevent the temperature from creeping up over the course of the day.
Other tips for watering systems
If keepers change their watering system, NiceHatch incubators recommends removing the old system entirely. Chickens will stick with the watering system they’re familiar with, so don’t give them a choice between the two systems.
In terms of long-term maintenance, NiceHatch incubators recommends cleaning the water system weekly. This will keep bacteria at bay, and also make sure that you can spot any issues in the system as it arises. “My basic reasoning when looking at the water system I use for my flock is, ‘would I drink from it?’, if the answer is ‘no’, then don’t ask your birds to.”
NiceHatch incubators also stresses that keeping backyard birds happy and healthy is a time-consuming process. “If you’re always in a hurry, you may need to get a new hobby”.
The Chicken Whisperer: how to water a backyard flock
Chicken Whisperer Andy Schneider sits down with Dr Brigid McCrea to discuss tips and tricks for getting the most out of watering systems for backyard birds.
In most African countries, poultry farmers practice this for
- Home consumption
- Cultural reasons
- Income generation
Poultry farming is an income generating project which provides quality food, energy, fertilizers and is also a source of renewable asset. Income from poultry farming is used for food, school fees, buying clothing, constructing house and unexpected expenses like sickness, buying medicine.
Small scales famers in Africa are faced with some difficulties to such as poor access markets, goods and services. Some lack knowledge and skills on handling the birds, weak institutions and inappropriate technology. They also have poor poultry breeds and feeds. Poor structures for the birds. These factors affect the productivity of poultry farming and quality of the breeds produced.
Free range extensive system
Backyard extensive system
Birds are not confined. Makeshift shelters are provided to protect the birds from severe weather conditions. Birds are free to wander around in litter collection areas, trees and nest in the bush. It’s hard to control inbreeding in comparison to using poultry egg incubators
Back yard extensive system
Birds are housed only at night during the day they wander around the fields. Birds are fed in the morning and evening. The rest of the day they scavenge for food around the fields.
Semi intensive system
Birds are confined around specific area with access to structures shelter. Birds are sheltered during the day and fully housed at night. Birds are fed and watered.
In Kenya the types of poultry farming practised are follows; layers, broilers and kienyenji.
Kienyenji is the most economical and marketable as it is dual purpose type of poultry. Improved kienyenji chicks can begin to lay eggs after 4 – 5 months. The following is estimated cost for raising 100 kienyenji chicks once you have a structure build to house. The cost may vary depending on time and the locality.
100 Chicks 3 days old kshs.10,000
Chick mash 8weeks old kshs.16,800
Growers 1 weeks old kshs.24,225
Equipment (feeders, drinkers) kshs.5,500
Agricultural sectors is one of the fastest growing economic sectors in Kenya. Many youth are currently picking up agribusiness as a full time venture or ‘side hustle’. Poultry farming is one super way to get into the agribusiness considering that little space is required for startup and the fact that currently solar egg incubators Kenya are now freely available .
A poultry farmer can invest in as follows; hatching chicks for sale, rearing layers for selling of eggs for consumption, rearing cockerels and hen with an aim to sell fertile eggs, rearing poultry breeds for meat e.g broilers, rearing poultry breeds for aesthetic purposes e.g guinea fowls, ostrich targeting tourist and rearing of cockerels to sell as breeding cocks.
The Kari Improved kienyeji chicken is a local indigenous chicken distributed by Homerange Poultry Kenya. The breed was developed by the Kenya Agricultural Livestock Research Organisation (KALRO) in 2012 as a dual purpose chicken which is ideal both for meat and also for egg production. The breed is comparatively cheaper to rear as it can be free ranged and is highly resistance to diseases. The breed also matures faster i.e. it starts production at 4.5 months of age. The breed is available commercially as Day Old chicks or month old chicks that may be obrained from Homerange Poultry Kenya
this is an intestinal disease caused by fast mulitplying parasites that damage the intestinal lining, depriving the absorption of nutrients by the body. the birds will affectted look droopy, pale and a withh ruffled faeathers. The birds die quickly and in big numbers within a short time.
This is a bacterial disease that is very contagious, and can result in high mortality. One major characterisstic of this disease is appearance of yellowish colouration on birds’ droppings, or yellowish or greenish diarrhoea. The affected birds look droopy and feverish.
This is a disease caused by bacteria that can cause mortality in birds at any age Although mostly chicken are susceptible , it also infects turkeys, guinea fowls, sparrows, parrots, among other birds. The affected birds are characteristised by ruffled feathers, look pale ,drooping , loss of appetite and pale orange coloured diarrhoea.
This disease is a Herpes virus infection usually affects respiratory and is highly contagious. It attacks the nervous system causing progressive paralysis of the limbs (Paralysis of legs, wings and neck) .The is evident Loss of weight, Grey iris or irregular pupil,Vision impairment and the skin around feather follicles raised and roughened.
The feathers around the vent are usually stained with faeces containing plenty of urates.This is a viral infectious disease. It is highly contagious in chickens. Gumboro infection is characterised by inflammation . The feathers around the vent are usually stained with faeces containing plenty of urates. The birds also Also, diarrhoea, appear depressed, anorexia, ruffled feathers.In chicks, gasping coughing and sneezing is observed and ater nervous systems. Birds may be
New Castle Disease
This disease highly contagious and is characterized by marked variations in morbidity, death rate, symptoms and lesions. The birds affected can be seen sitting on their back hock joints ,walk backwards or in circles, or hide their head between their legs.
It is characterized by typical pox lesions in the form of wart-like scabs on the face, comb and wattles.
This is a viral deasese. Its characterised by skin lesions and/or plaques in the pharynx and affecting chickens, turkeys, pigeons and canaries worldwide. the birds also appear to have Depression, inappetance, poor growth, poor egg production. Also Warty, spreading eruptions and scabs on comb and wattles is eveident.
One of the most challenging endavours in poultry farming is the construction of the right house for the birds. We recommend that you have a plan for constructing a proper poultry house according to your means. Luckiliy there are methods you can go about the construction of a poultyr house to suit yourself. Genarally a goood poultry house should be:
keep predators off
have health facilities by disinfecting the house and all equipment free from germs and contamination.
there should be suffficient sunlight coming through
enough space to avoid congestion . there should be atleast 40-50 square centimetres per every chicken.
Feeding equipment shouls also be strategically placed at regular intervals and be proportional to the number of birds
the house should be Cleaned regularly and kept dry at all times
If you build more that one house the make sure there be adequate distance of atleast 40 feet from one house to another.
Clean the house properly before keeping the birds inside the poultry house.
Make a deep liter and keep it dry and clean always.
Wooden and rice bran can be used for making liter.
The poultry house and all equipment must have to be free from virus, parasites and germs.
The poultry house should be situated in a calm area free noise
poultry farming has existed in kenya for a very long time. Chickens, ducks ,turkeys, quails, geese, doves have been reared for their meat, eggs, feathers and fertilizer. However , poultry farming in kenya has mainly been for subsitance consumption with a few commercial farmers.
the current urbanization and staedy growth of urban population has created a bigger demand for poultry products in kenya. this surge in demand has seen increased uptake of poultry farming for commercial interests.
majority of poultry farmers in kenya keep chicken. this is attributed to the demand for chicken eggs and meat. small scalle poultry farmers prefer to keep indeginious breeds of chicken commonly known as kienyeji.
kienyeji breed is more resistant to tropical diseases and also doesnt require much preparation to keep. The farming style used is mostly free range system where the birds are allowed toroam free during the day. They fend for themselves as they slvage through the environment with supplement feeds from the keeepers. A shelter is provided for them for the night.
most middle scale and large scale commercial farmers in kenya keep commercial breeeds. These breeds include layers, broilers, kenbro, sasso, kuroilers.
layers are chicken specifically kept for eggs production. Broilers are kept specifically for their meat.Kenbro is a crossbreed that is kept for both meat and eggs but its generlly less