The vital role of drinking water in poultry production

Geeta pipaliya1, Ashutosh Fular2, Aruna Kuniyal3

Water stands as a fundamental and often overlooked nutrient in poultry production, serving diverse functions crucial for bird health and productivity. From softening feed in the crop to aiding digestion, supporting temperature regulation and contributing to blood, lymph, and egg composition, water plays a pivotal role. Proper hydration is paramount for chickens, influencing their overall well-being. Water needs vary throughout different phases of poultry production, making it essential to understand these changing requirements. Here, we will discuss about the varying water requirements across poultry production stages.

Requirement of water during brooding phase

Although, day old chicks can live without water and feed for up to 3 days but delay will result in dehydration and weakness. Hence, it is best to provide them water after 24 hours of their hatching. For 100 pullet chicks, 2 fountain types of drinkers should be installed for initial 2 weeks. The height of the fountain should be increased by 1 inch after 2 days. It is best practice to keep the water 4 hours prior to the arrival of the chicks so that the brooder heat will raise the temperature of water. The optimum temperature of water should be 180 Celsius and over.

Addition of the 8% sugar in first drinking water for initial 15 hours have been said to be fruitful in reducing the mortality in chicks when they are in brooder house. In order to alleviate stress, vitamin and electrolytes can also be added in water for initial 3-4 days. The water should always be offered 3 hours prior to the first feed to reduce dehydration. The drinkers used for the chicks should be cleaned daily using a brush and stale water should be removed regularly. Regular disinfection of the drinker is important aspect of cleaning for destruction of microbes.

Requirement of water during growing phase

The requirement of water differs during the growing phase. Clean and fresh water is a must for improving feed conversion efficiency in birds. During extreme hot conditions, the requirement is double as compared to the recommended requirement. For example, Leghorn pullet requires twice the water per day at 1000F than at 700F. The ideal ratio of water to feed for growing birds is 1.5-2:1 in winter and 2-2.5:1 in summer.

Requirement of water during laying phase

In laying hens, water is essential for optimal egg production. As, hydration directly affects the quality of eggshell and internal egg composition. Water is also required for calcium transport to the eggshell. The ideal ratio of water to feed for laying birds is 1.8-2.2:1 in winter and 2.6-3.5:1 in summer. In general, the water temperature for mature birds should be in between 10-150C for adequate consumption of water by birds.

For 100 layer birds, the age wise water requirement is as follows

Table 1: Requirement of water for layers

Age (week)Water requirement (Litre/day)
21 and above25-30
Source: Poultry Science and practice-A textbook by Nilotpal Ghosh

Requirement of water for broilers

The water requirement of 100 broiler birds can be calculated by multiplying their age (in weeks) with 2 in the following manner.

Table 2: Requirement of water for broilers

Age (week)Water requirement (Litre/day)
5   5*2=10
6   6*2=12
Source: Poultry Science and practice-A textbook by Nilotpal Ghosh

Water requirement during heat stress

Water plays a critical role in mitigating heat stress in poultry birds. It helps in temperature regulation through evaporative cooling and dissipates excess heat. Process including panting and respiration of birds during hot weather condition make use of water for cooling purposes thus preventing dehydration caused by increased fluid loss. As heat stress can lead to electrolyte imbalances in birds so maintaining electrolyte balance is essential. Proper hydration decreases heat-related mortality and keeps feed consumption adequate. It also plays a crucial role in preventing severe heat stroke. Water is a key constituent of heat stress management strategies and it serves as an early indicator for monitoring the heat stress in the flock as in water consumption may increase 3-4 times during heat stress.

Water quality for poultry birds

A clean, safe and adequate supply of water is must for efficient poultry production as poor quality water may be a source of potential disease risk. The drinking water for birds should be clear, free from odour and color and devoid of any sediment. It must be free from pathogens and should have a pH of 6.8-7.5. If water cleanliness and hygiene is not maintained, it may lead to various diseases which are transmitted through contaminated water including pullorum disease, fowl typhoid, salmonellosis, ranikhet disease, E. coli infection, infectious bursal disease, infectious coryza, fowl cholera etc. Hence, regular water sanitation is an important aspect of poultry production. Water treatment can be done using chlorination, filtration, ozone treatment, deionization etc. The reminder should be taken not to use water sanitizers 24 hours prior and after the vaccination of birds as it reduces the efficacy of vaccination.

Table 3: Quality of drinking water for poultry birds

CharacteristicsLevel considered averageMaximum permissible levelRemarks
Total bacteria0/ml100/ml0/ml is desirable
Coliform bacteria0/ml50/ml0/ml is desirable
pH6.8-7.5<6 not desirable
Hardness60-180ppm>180 very hard, <60 very soft
Ca60 mg/L 
Mg14 mg/L125 mg/L 
Cl14 mg/L250 mg/L 
So4125 mg/L250 mg/L 
Na32 mg/L50 mg/L 
Fe0.2 mg/L0.3 mg/LHigh level leads bad odour
Cu0.002 mg/L0.6 mg/LHigh level leads bitterness and bad odour
Pb0.02 mg/LHighly toxic
Zn1.5 mg/LHighly toxic
No20.4 mg/L4 mg/L>4 toxic
No310 mg/L25 mg/L
Fluoride1 mg/L
Source: Carter, T. A. and Sneed, R. E. (1996). Drinking water quality for poultry. North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service.


Water is definitely one of the most vital nutrients in poultry production. Understanding its versatile role in crop function, digestion, thermoregulation and complete health is of supreme significance. It is very essential to understand the growing water needs at each stage of poultry production to ensure that birds obtain the necessary hydration required for their well-being and efficiency. Adequate water management is not simply a duty; it is the basis of successful poultry production.