Removing Limescale Improves Water Quality on Poultry Farms

The principles of electronic water conditioning/treatment are explained by Jan de Baat Doelman, President of Scalewatcher North America, who also offers a case history of the successful application of this technology at a large broiler breeder facility in Canada.
calendar icon 24 June 2014
clock icon 6 minute read

Water is one of the most important nutrients in poultry production. About 70 per cent of a bird’s body is made up of water - eggs contain around 65 per cent water. Birds are constantly losing water in egg production, so there is an obvious need for constant replenishment. Water intake is almost twice the weight of feed and during heat stress the amount of water consumer can be quadrupled. It is therefore essential that a safe and adequate supply of water is always available for efficient poultry rearing.


Numerous factors can affect the water supply such as bacteria, pH levels and water hardness or total dissolved solids (TDS) in addition to nitrate levels and other naturally occurring elements such as sodium, magnesium, etc., which can affect water quality and therefore the health and performance of poultry.

Total Dissolved Solids

TDS is a measure of the inorganic salts dissolved in water. Calcium, magnesium and sodium salts are the primary components of TDS. A high TDS level can cause harmful effects in poultry production including loose droppings.

pH values

The acidity and alkalinity of water is measured by pH and makes a great difference in terms of the water’s quality. A pH of 7 is neutral with acidity designated by a pH lowered than 7 and alkalinity higher than 7. The higher the pH level, the greater the amounts of calcium and magnesium in the water, which can gradually build up blocking the water systems.

Hard water generally does not affect poultry health and performance but can cause a build-up of mineral deposits. This can lead to the build-up of limescale in pipelines resulting in leaking nipple drinkers, reduced effectiveness of antibiotics and a reduction in the effectiveness of chlorine and other sanitizing agents. Excessive hardness can also interfere with water-administered medications, disinfectants and cleaning agents.

Poultry Equipment Is Affected by Hard Water

Hard water

Well water or bore-hole water usually contain high levels of calcium carbonate as can areas where there are high TDS. This can cause a build-up of limescale in pipes, boilers, chillers, thermostats, elements and fittings on hatchery machines. Limescale build-up can prevent such equipment from working efficiently and result in the frequent breakdown of equipment and loss of production.

How limescale develops

Aqueous solutions can become supersaturated, which means that they contain higher concentrations of dissolved solute than their equilibrium concentration. Such solutions are not stable and are easily triggered into dropping back to saturation level, forcing the dissolved compound to precipitate. Even when a bulk solution is less than fully saturated, scale formation can occur spontaneously due to localized super saturation, at a surface for example.

Cooling panels

When cooling panels become clogged with scale, extractor fans have to work much hard and remain on longer to draw air into and through the building. This results in increased electricity costs, poor ventilation and a shorter life for the fan motors.

When pads become very blocked, air is drawn through other cracks or openings. The desired pattern of airflow is therefore upset, which can cause poor ventilation or draughts, which stress the birds and results in them dying or growing less economically .

Softened water

Water softeners reduce the hardness in water by replacing calcium and magnesium with sodium. However, this does not reduce the TDS and may increase the sodium content to unacceptable levels. Softeners are not recommended for poultry farms as birds are extremely sensitive to excess sodium.

Electronic Water Conditioning

The Scalewatcher environmentally friendly alternative to chemical and mechanical descaling

Electronic water conditioning/treatment (EWT) is a non-invasive system utilising single or multiple solenoid coils wrapped around the pipework to be treated. A signal generator, where the frequency is changing continuously within a specified range, supplies current to the coils. The pulse shaped current creates an induced electric field, concentric around the axis inside the pipe.

As a consequence to this arrangement, any charged particle or ion moving within the field experiences a so-called Lorentz force generated by the interaction between charged particles and magnetic and electric fields. The treatment influences the initial nucleation, resulting in crystals that do not "stick" together. Untreated water builds up matted structures that continuously grow. This treatment creates idiomorphic, scattered crystals, which do not form matted structures.

They have a rotundas shape, which means that they have a larger volume in relation to a smaller surface. This feature makes them sensitive to water currents and they are easily flushed out of the pipeline. As no new scale layers are formed, the sheer force of the water flow will gradually remove existing layers of scale.

The ability to adjust power, frequency and coil configurations of products like the Scalewatcher on site enables performance to be optimised with no downtime and no pipe replacement.

Case Study: Nipple Drinkers

One of the largest hatcheries in Ontario, Canada with breeder facilities supplying between 40 and 45 million eggs annually and with a turnover of over 500,000 chicks per week has resolved the problem of its nipple drinkers becoming encrusted with limescale and dirt by installing EWT. The hatchery uses some 1,000 gallons of well water a day, which has a pH value of 7.7.

Despite regular manual and chemical descaling whilst the flocks were in the barn, and again between flocks, the nipple drinkers soon became so encrusted with limescale and dirt that they had to be replaced.

Following the installation of EWT onto the mains water feed to each of the breeder barns, within four months, the scale had completely disappeared and the equipment looked cleaner.

Since the technology was installed, no chemicals have been needed and the cleaning time has been reduced by 66 per cent. The equipment is now cleaned with a standard garden hose.

For further information, visit the web site of Scalewatcher North America Inc.,

June 2014

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