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Effect of Wet Litter on Welfare, Performance and Carcass Yield in Broilers

09 May 2014

A Dutch study has shown that broilers kept on wet litter not only had more footpad dermatitis but they also had poorer performance and defects that caused welfare issues and more condemnations than other birds kept on normal, dry litter.

A recent study at Wageningen UR Livestock Research investigated whether a high level of footpad dermatitis (FPD) in broiler chickens induced by increased litter moisture content is accompanied by negative effects on technical performance, carcass yield and other welfare aspects.

Ingrid de Jong and colleagues at Wageningen explain in a paper in Journal of Applied Poultry Research that litter moisture content was increased by systematically spraying water over the litter from six days of age onward (lesion-induction treatment).

Results were compared with a control group kept on relatively good quality litter and having a very low prevalence of footpad lesions.

Litter quality significantly decreased from seven days of age onward in the pens with the lesion-induction treatment compared with the control pens.

At 21 and 36 days of age, significantly more FPD was observed in the lesion-induction groups compared with the control groups.

Technical performance of the broilers was negatively affected for the lesion-induction groups from 28 days of age onward; lesion-induction groups had significantly lower bodyweight gain, feed intake and water intake and significantly higher feed conversion ratio than the control group.

As a result of the lower bodyweight gain, carcass weight was lower for the lesion-induction group and significantly more rejections for commercial parts were found.

The lesion-induction groups also had significantly more hock burns and breast irritations on days 21 and 36, and were dirtier but had fewer thigh scratches on day 35 than the control groups.

In addition, locomotion was negatively affected among the lesion-induction group, as they had a higher gait score on day 36 than the control group.

The researchers concluded that increased litter moisture content not only caused severe FPD but also reduced broiler performance and carcass yield and had a negative effect on other welfare aspects.


de Jong I.C., H. Gunnink and J. van Harn. 2014. Wet litter not only induces footpad dermatitis but also reduces overall welfare, technical performance, and carcass yield in broiler chickens. J. Appl. Poult. Res. 23(1):51-58. doi: 10.3382/japr.2013-00803

Further Reading

You can view the full report (fee payable) by clicking here.
Find out more about footpad dermatitis by clicking here.

April 2014

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