Wet litter not only induces footpad dermatitis but also reduces overall welfare, technical performance and carcass yields in broiler chickens

Published on: 07/30/2014
Author/s : Jan Van Harn, H. Gunnink and I.C. de Jong (Wageningen UR Livestock Research)

IntroductionFootpad dermatitis (FPD), also called footpad lesions or pododermatitis, is a major welfare concern in broiler chickens. Severe FPD is likely to be painful for the birds, and because of its association with litter quality it also reflects other welfare aspects (Haslam et al., 2007).Wet litter is the most important factor causing FPD in broiler chickens (Shepherd et al. 2010). It can be...

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July 30, 2014

Hi Dr van Harn,

Is wet litter a major problem in Europe? In your experience, what are the key predisposing factors for it?

Best wishes, Mingan Choct

Georges Tenny Ngu Georges Tenny Ngu
B.Agric. Tech. (Animal Productions), MSc. in Animal Science (options in Monogastric Nutrition and Reproductive Physiology), PhD student
July 31, 2014
This is certainly true, since birds cannot walk around freely, stand for long at the feeding troughs to obtain the necessary nutrients needed for efficient performance. By lying on the floor, the carcass quality and cleanliness is also affected.

Georges Tenny Ngu
Farm Manager, Faculty of Agriculture and Veterinary Medicine, University of Buea,
Poultry farmer, Cameroon
August 7, 2014
Can you suggest me one method for estimation of ammonia levels in the litter material which is easy ,accurate and involving simple equipments
August 17, 2014

I like to know if due to wet litter more toe defects were observed like crooked toes and the like. Because the gait score was affected, was this a consequence of footpath lesions or were there more leg abnormalities like Valgus and Varus defects?

September 8, 2014

Dear Dr. Mingan Choct,

FPD and thus wet litter is a major issue in the EU. A recent study in the Netherlands (De Jong et al, 2011) showed that 38.4% of the regular (fast growing) broilers had severe lesions. Studies in France (Allain, 2009) and Portugal (Gouveia et al, 2009) reported levels of about 70% severe FPD. But there are also countries such as Sweden and Denmark (these countries uses for several years now a monitoring program were FPD is an indicator of the welfare of broiler flocks) were the incidence of severe FPD is low (<10%).

FPD is caused by wet litter (wet, sticky and caked litter increases the prevalence of FPD!). So, the best way to prevent FPD is to keep the litter dry and friable, especially in the brooding period (first 14 – 18 days) when the birds appear to be more susceptible to lesion development. In my opinion, farm management is the major cause of wet litter. By farm management you can think of litter (litter material and litter depth), light (distribution of light, light colour and lighting programme), water (supply and water management), ventilation (rate) and heating (heat distribution, heat source), stocking density and breed. But also feed and diseases played an important role.

September 8, 2014

Dear Winfridus Bakker,

We did not specifically look for toe abnormalities. We looked for the gait and FPD, hock burns. I can’t remember if there were more toe abnormalities than normal (if there were any).

The wet litter leaded also to burn spot on the toes. But to our opinion the lower gait was caused by the severity of the footpad lesions and probably also by the severe hock burns

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