Canadian Poultry Magazine

How to clean the waterlines in your poultry barn

By Mary K. Foy   

Features Barn Management

If you feel like you missed the memo on how to clean waterlines, or if you just want a refresher course, we have you covered.

Avoid carrying contamination in the waterline from one flock to the next with these tips. PHOTO CREDIT: Big Dutchman

We hear it all the time when it comes to getting our farms ready for a flock to be placed – clean the water lines. The assumption is that everyone just knows how to do this. Well, if you feel like you missed the memo on how to clean water lines, or if you just want a refresher course, we have you covered here.

Equipment you will need

Cleaning product
Find a product that specifically says it can be used to clean agricultural water lines. Some products are very harsh on the rubber components and stainless-steel components of our water systems. Read the label!


Sump pump or proportioner pump
Most products call for a two or three per cent solution. This cannot be achieved with a 1:128 medicator. Some growers have an adjustable medicator that can go up to these percentages. There are special proportional pumps called Qwik-Blends that will inject the three per cent directly from the container, or you can use a barrel with 30 gallons of water, one gallon of cleaning product and a sump pump to create a three per cent solution that is pumped directly into the waterline with the sump pump.

Protect your hands!

You’ll need one if you do not have flush hoses installed at the end of the waterlines.

Steps for cleaning your lines

  1. Start with an empty barn.
  2. Lower the waterlines so the drinkers will be easy to trigger by hand
  3. Adjust your medicator to the two or three per cent level, install the Qwik-Blend proportioner pump, or set up your sump pump/barrel of solution to deliver the recommended solution into the water system. (A Qwik-Blend will go onto the system right where your medicator is – unscrew the medicator hoses and screw in the Qwik-Blend hoses. Qwik-Blends are only to be used when no animals are present. A sump pump will just need one access valve into the system to screw in the hose from the sump pump into the system – close all valves before the sump pump location so there is no back flow)
  4. Open overhead clean-out hoses or attach a flush hose to the end of the line and open valves. You can also place buckets at the end of the waterline. 
  5. Dye that does not contain a stabilizer (vaccine dyes have stabilizers in them) may be added to some products at this point to indicate product location in the system.
  6. Turn on water in the anteroom and begin flushing. It may take 15 to 20 minutes for the system to be full of the cleaning solution.
  7. While the lines are filling with cleaning solution, walk the barn and trigger every drinker. This is an essential step to cleaning the system properly. 
  8. Watch for fizzing (if using a hydrogen peroxide) or the dye color change on the ground outside where the hoses empty or in the catch bucket at the end of the waterline if you do not have flush hoses.
  9. Hang the flush hose up high to prevent solution from syphoning out of the line. If you have overhead clean-outs, leave the valves partially open to provide adequate ventilation. 
  10. Allow solution to sit the recommended time that is on the label of the product. Please pay attention to this. Some products only stay for 6 hours, some can stay for 24 hours depending on how harsh they may be for your equipment
  11. After the recommended amount of time has passed, flush fresh water into waterlines and trigger each drinker again. You must trigger the drinkers again to make sure fresh water is in the drinker wells for the incoming birds. This may take 30 to 45 minutes. 

Before you start, make a plan. 

What product will you use? Read the label to help fine tune your plan. Remember, the amount of product you use during a flock will be different than the amount you use cleaning waterlines. Read, read, read. 

How much product will you need? Calculate the volume of your waterlines and what it will take to have a two or three per cent solution of cleaning product put into those lines. Product manufacturers with experience in poultry may be able to answer this question for you based on your barn size and waterline diameter.

When will you do this? It is recommended that cleaning the waterlines be done a couple of days before birds are placed. 

If the lines have never been cleaned or if it has been several years, plan to repeat the process and give yourself enough time to do that before the birds are placed. 

Carrying contamination in the waterline from one flock to the next flock is one of the most common missteps when raising birds. Clean the waterlines between every flock to give each placement of birds a fresh start. 

Mary K. Foy is the director of technical services for Proxy-Clean Products. The U.S. company’s cleaning solution is used in Canada as part of the Water Smart Program developed by Weeden Environments and Jefo Inc.

Print this page


Stories continue below