Sussex breed pen                 Orpington2003


The information in this article mentions products available only in South Africa. Please enquire in your country for similar products and ensure they are available and can be used by the public. Legislation is different in each country.

It is important to clean thoroughly and disinfect as much as possible your hatchery your brooders and your pens. It is also important to inspect your birds every day to make sure there are no illnesses and/or parasites present in the pens.

If you don’t do this, small problems become big problems and you lose your birds.

Prevention is far better than cure in this case. So, what products can you use safely and what does each product give you?

Be aware also that disinfecting pens, incubators, or equipment without thoroughly cleaning the organic matter (faeces) first is a waste of time. Clean first, spray later with disinfectant.

Be aware also that although disinfectants are vital, and cleaning is a must, products such as Virukill or VirkonS will NOT affect parasites, intestinal worms, lice, mites or rats! They will also not deal with a fly problem, which if you are clean in your practice of farming, you will not have. Virukill and VirkonS will NOT cure coccidiosis either.

(See article on coccidiosis).

For these pests you need other specialised products made specifically for poultry to handle internal and external parasites.

These are discussed under the other articles in Health and Care.



methylated spirits.


a. Wide germicidal activity, non corrosive, but poses fire hazard.

b. Limited residual activity due to evaporation

c. Provide limited activity in the presence of organic matter such as faeces.

d. Not considered effective against bacterial or fungal spores.

e. Excellent for disinfecting instruments, or small objects.

f. Very expensive.

g. Must be used at a 70% to 95% concentration for effectiveness.

I had a comment following the publication of this post that using alcohol based hand cleaners at a show in order to limit transference of pathogens and bacteria from bird to bird, would be expensive and needed to be used at a high concentrations.

Please be aware the above is calculated for a poultry run and a farm with 30,000 birds. Using alcohol based disinfectant in this case would be expensive and not viable.

Using alcohol based disinfectant (THS, total hand sanitiser) which is a gel based on alcohol and needs no water, allows a film to form on the skin of the hands, and does provide limited anti bacterial properties to LIMIT the transference of pathogens. Like everything else it is not a cure all, and only a limited intellect would expect this. Using it in a limited application like a show bench is absolutely viable, and not expensive, as only a little needs to be used per person and a 5 litre container can last a long time.

Using this in a show arena, where judges would dip their hands in this gel every four or five birds, makes sense, at least to me. Clearly I stand alone in this.

You can purchase small 100ml containers of alcohol hand sanitiser at any pharmacy but it is expensive to buy in small quantities and the prices are a real rip off as far as I am concerned. In South Africa a small 100 ml bottle of hand sanitiser sells for up to R30,00. You can buy a five litre container of the same product from IMMUNOVET or for

R 250,00. Prices obviously change all the time so do enquire.


Anti bacterial soaps kill germs on the hands, and not all germs especially not poultry viruses, but they fail to prevent germs from adhering to the skin minutes after washing.

F10, which is a hand scrub available in SA is a very good alternative to alcohol. It is used widely in vet clinics as a surgical hand scrub. It handles fungi as well as bacteria and I have a container near every tap. It is useful too to wash wounds on human and pets, and chickens! It will also handle seborea type skin infections such as dandruff.



This includes all your bleaches and iodine based products.

a. Provide wide germicidal activity but are corrosive.

b. Limited activity in the presence of organic matter.

c. Poor residual activity, low toxicity, but may stain surfaces.

d. Not effective against spores and fungus.

e. Effective at low concentrations for disinfecting and cleaning small objects.

f. Low cost but requires frequent application.

If you have nothing else this is a good solution. Straight bleach diluted by 10ml per litre will disinfect most appliances and even the floors.




These are your basic Virukill . Very effective all round.

a. Limited germicidal range

b. Not sporocidal, effective against vegetative bacteria, fungi and viruses.

c. Reduced efficiency in the presence of organic matter.

d. Non irritating, non corrosive, low toxicity.

e. Residual activity is limited by the amount of recontamination.

f. Good to use on cleaned surfaces.

g. Low cost.

h. You can use Virukill  at very low dilution in the drinking water at times when you feel that birds are in danger of contracting infections from outside sources, as in July to September in SA when wild birds are most active. The dilution is ONE HALF ML per 4 litres water.

Something like VirkonS or Virukill is essential to a good sanitary programme and biosecurity in the poultry yard.

Virkon S is a wonderful cleaning agent if a little expensive. The active ingredient is potassium peroxametasulphate, which is very effective but very hard on the hands.

It is not good enough to use bleach or Epsom salts or even Jeyes Fluids. These are fine, smell good and make you think you are doing a good thing. In fact viruses do not respond to bleach or epsom salts or Jeyes Fluids. You need to apply a specific virucidal agent made for poultry applications such as Virukill. As I said above, if you have nothing else, use bleach, but make sure that as soon as you can you locate a depot that stocks Virukill or VirkonS and change to that. Poultry is not the same as other livestock, it needs products specifically to target poultry viruses , bacteria and fungi.

You will also see benefits of using this if you have a wash tub with diluted Virukill next to your water faucet, if you wash your hands frequently in this every time you think of it, as it will prevent a lot of infections such as colds and flu from being transmitted. I encourage my staff to do this and have trained them to wash their hands every time they pass the tap. I have a towel on hand at every tap and a tub of Virukill 10ml per litre dilution. Since doing that, there have been no more days off for colds, flu and gastro. Every little bit helps!

Again I need to stress that Virukill and VirkonS are excellent products with usage limited to what they were specifically designed to do: fungi will not be eradicated by Virukill or VirkonS. You will destroy viruses that target poultry such as Newcastle, Infectious Bronchitis, Mareks, Avian flu, Pox. You will destroy bacteria responsible for MG, respiratory infections, Coryza and ecoli. You will not destroy the mycoplasma organisms or those responsible for aspergillosis (fungal spores in hay). You will also not kill off coccidiosis or the parasites responsible for coccidiosis. You will however severely dent the mechanisms that spread these infections and many more too. To be completely safe, you will need to use a gluteraldehyde compound which does not destroy viruses but does destroy fungi, spores and mycoplasma organisms. You need to remember too that washing your drinkers in the Virukill every day is a good practice to have, but you must train staff not to dump the filthy drinkers in the Virukill tub! Clean first under a tap, then drop into the Virukill, otherwise the Virukill has to be replaced too often and costs money! Replace as soon as the solution starts to sour and smell.

If you wash everything before it goes in the tub you should be able to replace the solution only once every seven days.

Be aware that viruses also live in the dander of the birds, and these viruses do not perish if the dander is shed. The dander is the waxy cuticle at the base of each feather, shed when the feather is fully developed.

There is a lot of feather dander in any poultry yard, it flies around all over the place and is carried to all corners even to farms as far as three kilometres away. The virus that causes Mareks is one of those that lives in feather dander. It is vital that as well as cleaning and disinfecting your yard thoroughly, you also destroy the vectors that cause viruses, like dander and cobwebs. You cannot destroy it all, that is impossible but you can clean and sweep around your pens, to remove as much as you can, and by changing the bedding frequently you eliminate many virus carrying vectors.

Immunisation will  protect the birds against anything else not destroyed by the cleaning. This is why everything must dovetail into everything else in the biosecurity of your poultry operation. Cleaning agents cannot do it all. They are only a tool in your arsenal.

For example if you are diligent and clean your yard thoroughly, use Virukill in water to disinfect drinkers and feeders, remove soiled bedding and make sure it is not left lying around for the birds to peck…you do all this and do not have a rodent programme in place, you are actually back pedalling in your biosecurity, because rats will carry infections and undo all your good work.

Using your cleaning agents in combination   as well as good hygiene is the way to go. If your pens and cages are filthy, do not expect that Virukill or Virkons will do what you have failed to do…clean up! Clean first, disinfect later.

I suggest you use the basics like VIRUKILL 10ml per litre  in a tub to clean drinkers, feeders and utensils and as a hand wash. Spray VIRUKILL at a rate of 10ml per litre to spray houses before occupation. Use VIRUKILL at a rate of 10ml per litre to wash down walls and fans, cobwebs and dusty surfaces where dander flies. Use GLUTERALDEHYDE at a rate of 10ml per litre as a cleaning agent in your incubators, and for all utensils like brushes, brooms, dust pans, rakes, incubator baskets incubator boxes, crates, transport vehicles, boots and gloves. Use VIRUKILL at a rate of 20ml per litre as a foot bath, alternate with Virkon S.

Use VIRKON S to wash down surfaces in the poultry incubator rooms, and alternate with VIRUKILL every so often, so wherever you have used VIRUKILL, alternate with VIRKON S. It is important to use a gluteraldehyde product in your incubators because it removes fungi. Wash down with VIRUKILL or VIRKON S and finish with a spray of gluteraldehyde. Make sure you remove all the down that builds up in the incubator after a hatch. This is also a carrying agent for all sorts of bacteria.

Never allow discarded egg shells and incubator waste to lie around. Dispose and burn quickly, this is choc full of unsavoury bacteria. DO NOT feed to your chickens!




a. Wide germicidal range, not sporocidal.

b. Low toxicity and low corrosiveness.

c. Very effective in the presence of organic matter.

d. Good residual activity and deodorizer.

e. Low to moderate cost.

If you have used a product called TCP in the past, it has now reappeared as 3CP, this is a wonderful disinfectant for topical application in wounds, eye infections ear infections and egg bound hens.

Dilute a teaspoon in a litre of warm water.


This is your Jeyes Fluid and creosotes.


a. Wide germicidal activity, not sporocidal.

b. Corrosive and very toxic at high concentrations.

c. Excellent residual activity with heavy odour.

d. Highly efficient in the presence of organic matter.


f. Moderate cost.

be careful when creosoting the poles around your pens as creosote is impossible to remove from feathering especially white feathering, and if the youngsters consume the creosote it will kill them.



a. Wide germicidal activity, sporocidal and fungicidal.

b. Slight to moderate efficiency in the presence of organic matter.

c. Slight residual activity.

d. Moderately toxic.

e. Moderate cost.

Good idea to have some gluteraldehyde on hand to alternate between Virukill and this. It is wonderful for disinfecting incubators but does have  fumes which can be irritants to the humans, so care must be taken when using this product and use diluted when you do. It does destroy Aspergillosis which is a fungal disease also known as Farmers’ Lung, and is caused by spores in grasses, hence the value of using this in the incubators.

I have also found that insects such as litter beetles and cockroaches, ghekos, fleas, ticks, as well as rats hate the smell and will not go where there is gluteraldehyde on the surfaces. It makes a good floor cleaner in the house as well! Flies stay away from gluteraldehyde too.

10 ml per litre is a good dilution.

Do NOT under any circumstance mix gluteraldehyde with anything else such as bleach or any disinfecting agent such as Virukill or Virkon S. You might make a noxious gas that will irritate you or worse, and may kill the chicks.



a. Moderate to high germicidal activity but not sporocidal.

b. Ineffective in the presence of organic matter.

c . Moderately corrosive, limited toxicity.

d. Poor to limited residual activity.

e. More valuable as a cleaning and deodorising agent.

f. Moderate to high cost.

This is the active agent found in Virkon S, which is a good poultry disinfectant. It is however very costly and corrosive, especially to your hands!

Now that I have confused you all, let me simplify:

If you want a disinfectant that does it all it does not exist. You need to mix and match according to use, cost and availability.


A quarternary ammonium compound such as VIRUKILL is a good place to start as it does most of what you want, without being corrosive, or unpleasant in smell. It is non toxic to newborn chicks, and can be used around eggs as well. I use it in dilute form to clean dirty eggs. It kills most viruses.

The best way to proceed is to alternate the disinfectant you use every so often with another good quality disinfectant. You can alternate VIRKON S with VIRUKILL every few months.

In very small doses you can add  Virukill at a rate of 1-1000 to drinking water if you have a particularly bad season with illnesses, coughs colds and Coryza. In wild bird season in July I use Virukill in the drinking water for a month.

I use it all the time to clean drinkers and feeders, spray houses and clean hatchers.

However it is not sporocidal, so it is important to use something else to kill off fungus and spores. I use gluteraldehyde in diluted form, 5ml per litre, to disinfect the brooders, hatchers and incubators. You might alternate that with VirkonS.

It is important that you change the solution in the bucket you use as soon as you smell it is “off”.

It is also important to remember that these disinfectants help to keep diseases and infections at bay but they are NOT a universal cure.

You need to use wisely, in conjunction with excellent biosecurity in the yard, a good vaccination programme a good anti rodent programme and a good programme to dispose of manure.

Nothing works alone in a farm yard. Everything works in tandem with everything else, but good disinfectants is a good place to start and a good routine to implement.

You might also consider a product called F10 hand Scrub.

This is a liquid hand scrub which combines anti fungal properties with anti bacterial and anti viral. It is used widely as a disinfectant for mild infections as well on the skin for people and pets. It can also be used as a scrubbing agent in surgeries. Any wounds on a bird can be  disinfected with F10 used pure on a piece of cotton wool. As a hand disinfectant in the poultry yard it is also excellent. It is effective against gram positive and gram negative bacteria, fungi, yeasts and moulds as well.

Try this web site as F10 products are available from these people at a reasonable price, and F10 products range from ointments to disinfecting gels and water free cleansing agent for the hands. The products contain a quaternary ammonium compound,biguanadine compounds, non toxic ampholytic surfactants and glycerine. It is gentle on the hands as well.

If you have nothing else on hand, you could use thick bleach in a bucket of water to clean your drinkers and feeders. It is vital that you clean these every day. Warm dirty water for the birds to drink is a recipe for disaster. It is also the way a lot of respiratory diseases are transmitted, through the discharge from the nostrils and from bird to bird in the feeder and drinker. So, if cleared out and disinfected every day, you have a chance of stopping an outbreak before it becomes a serious problem.


These are prevalent wherever there is chicken faeces or dirt of any kind. If your poultry yard smells, you will have flies and unhappy neighbours.

If you have followed all the suggestions above, you should have no flies. However, sometimes problems are difficult to solve especially when your poultry cages are not what you would like but what you can afford.

There are products available on the market to help: You can have small containers attached to the wire fences around your pens, which can hold some fly bait . There are several on the market, and your feed place will advise you. Stay away from sticky fly paper which does not work, or fly traps which smell terrible. The fly bait is usually a crystal which does not smell and can be replaced when empty. You will see many dead flies in the container. Wrap all that in plastic and  burn. Be careful to place your bait in areas where pets and children cannot reach, and where the birds themselves cannot scratch.

There are products that you can paint onto surfaces to discourage flies, but I have never found them very effective.

The key to your success is that there should be no smell in your yard. If the yard smells, it means there is anaerobic bacteria growing somewhere, and that breeds diseases, brings in rats and generally destroys everything you are trying to do.


These are also pests and need to be dealt with. You will never eradicate them but you can keep them under control.

You can lay poison in areas where children, pets, chickens do not go, as in the ceilings. I use a peanut butter and golden syrup paste mixed with liquid rat poison, Racumin is best, or Rodex liquid. 25ml of liquid rat poison to a jar of peanut butter, add half a cup of syrup.

Place the paste in the bottom of jam jars, and place in areas frequented ONLY by rats. Do not place in areas that can be accessed by kids or dogs or chickens. Behind nesting boxes is good, in the roof, or smear the paste on wooden beams above the head of the birds.

Please remember to use all these products carefully, read instructions and stick to them, and inform staff of the same. Any product can be lethal if misused. Always ventilate well before and after and during cleaning. Wear protective face mask if in an enclosed area. Wear rubber gloves when cleaning and rubber boots in the yard. Disinfect these regularly in a foot bath. Gloves can be cleaned in the Virukill tub.


It is important to read labels very carefully when using these products.

The following are active ingredients which you can use in your poultry yard:

  1. KARBARYL based spray, Karbadust, Karbaryl powders.
  2. Mild insecticides containing derivatives from the pyrethrin daisy. Be careful as some of these products have been combined with other products to make very potent insecticides, and only those products stating on the label that they are single pyrethrin derivatives are safe. For example, there are some vicious insecticides out there for the eradication of moles, using phosphogen and other combination chemicals that are cypermethrin based. These are lethal to humans let alone pets and poultry.
  3. Malasol providing it is diluted correctly and not used as a dipping bath in which the whole bird is dunked. Use as a spray.
  4. Products containing LEVAMISOLE, which is a good dewormer and is quite safe providing it is used as directed.
  5. Products based with IVERMECTIN 1% also used for deworming and safe if used as directed.


  1. Products containing CITRUNIL, which is an insecticide used widely today derived largely from citrus. Unfortunately it is a very dangerous product now banned in Europe. It has been widely used in some pour on medication for fleas in dogs, and has been blamed for being carcinogenic. This has not been proven, but if it is dangerous enough to be banned that is good enough for me.

2.   Products containing very concentrated doses of chemicals that can burn or injure a bird such as  Hydrogen peroxide. Again read the label very carefully.

Be careful that products used on poultry are not noxious to you, use gloves and mask where necessary.


These people will have information to help you and sell all the vaccines and cleaning agents mentioned on this site.

These people will give information as it is a veterinary practice. You can buy injectable antibiotics, cleaning agents, various wound products as well. Vaccines are a problem as they are subject to refrigeration.











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