Factors affecting Poultry Litter conditions

What is Poultry Litter: Poultry litter or broiler litter is a mixture of poultry excreta, spilled feed, feathers, and material used as bedding in poultry operations. This term is also used to refer to unused bedding materials. Poultry litter is used in confinement buildings used for raising broilers, turkeys and other birds. Common bedding materials include wood shavings, sawdust, peanut hulls, shredded sugar cane, straw, and other dry, absorbent, low-cost organic materials.

Factors affecting Poultry Litter conditions:

There are three factors that have particularly important effects on the litter condition.
A) Litter Moisture
B) Greasy Capped Litter
C) Nitrogen in the litter

A) Litter Moisture 

  • Litter moisture is the key to the burnt hock problem. It is unusual for there to be burnt hocks when the litter condition is friable and dry.
  • Litter moisture is affected by drinker design; air change rate; litter material and depth; stocking density; diet and flock health.
  • Wet litter causes degeneration of the outer scales on the hocks and feet (i.e. on the pressure points). As liveweight increases and mobility decreases the pressure becomes greater and contact with the litter more prolonged. Males are therefore more affectedby wet litter than females.

B) Greasy Capped Litter

When there is too much fat in the feed or it is of poor quality, the fat content of the faeces increases. Consequently the litter also has a higher fat content which causes it to lose its friability more quickly. A cap forms and the pressure points on the bird’s legs and breast are then vulnerable to damage.

C) Nitrogen in the Litter

Experimental evidence suggests that the worst burning tends to occur when the nitrogen content of the litter exceeds 5.5%. The quality and amount of protein in the feed should be examined if litter nitrogen levels are high. At these times, the moisture content of the litter is also often found to be high.

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