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Poultry drinking water

If you pick up a glass of water and see a layer of slime around the edges, you wouldn’t want to drink it. Chickens don’t like slime in their drinking vessels, either. It can harbor contaminants and bacteria that affect their health.

Susan Watkins is a poultry science professor at the University of Arkansas. She says a thin layer of smelly, slimy, scum can form in waterers and water lines. If the scum is green, it’s caused by algae. It thrives in direct sunlight and heat, and tends to be more of a problem in the summer.

Biofilm that is a rusty-red in color means that your water supply has naturally-occurring iron in it, which attracts nasty stuff.

"Anytime you have iron in the water, then you’re kind of feeding the pseudomonas, the e-coli, those types of little bugs," she says. "The iron itself the birds don’t mind, but if the bad stuff moves in, say an e-coli moves in or a really not good pseudomonas, then those can have a negative effect on our bird performance."

Obviously the more slime you’ve got, the more bad stuff is going to move in. Watkins says keeping chicken waterers out of direct sunlight will help minimize it from forming. But there is more you can do.

"Clean them as frequently as you can to try to keep the water supply fresh. Know what your water supply is," she says. "Does your water have naturally-occurring iron, manganese and sulfur? Those are the three culprits that tend to feed the bad bacteria."

Both algae and iron biofilm development are hampered by a low water pH, so adding a tablespoon of vinegar to each gallon of drinking water might help prevent the slime.