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Measuring What Chickens Chug-a-Lug

By Alfredo Flores
January 22, 2003

A device developed by the Agricultural Research Service that measures how much water chickens receive through automatic watering systems is being presented today at the International Poultry Exposition in Atlanta, Ga.

The device, called a "nipple waterflow rate stick," will be unveiled by VAL Products of Lancaster, Pa. The device was co-developed a year ago by VAL Products and former ARS nutritionist Berry Lott, now an extension poultry specialist with Mississippi State University. The new device could provide chicken growers with a solution to a long-standing problem.

When giving chickens water, growers use pipe delivery systems--or drinkers--that dispense the liquid through "nipples" that the chickens can draw from. But up to a year ago, growers were unable to know for sure just how much water their chickens were getting--vital information that could be used to gauge the birds nutritional health.

The nipple waterflow rate stick can determine how much water the chickens are receiving, along with the rate at which the water is distributed and what materials are being carried in the water.

Roughly 25,000 chickens are housed in the average poultry house, which has four 400-foot-long pipes with nipples attached. In just one minute, a chicken grower using the nipple waterflow rate stick can be alerted to low waterflow that could cause reduced feeding.

The device will sell under the name of the VAL Lott stick. It is named after Berry Lott, who worked with ARS agricultural engineer Jack Simmons and ARS chemical engineer Dana Miles to develop the nipple waterflow rate stick.

A recent study by Simmons showed that low waterflow rates can reduce chickens' weight gain by as much as 20 percent. The unique device calculates the flow rate of drinkers quickly and easily, so growers don't have to kneel in litter to take cumbersome measurements.

ARS is the U.S. Department of Agriculture's principal scientific research agency.