|Photo: NC Extension|
Putting your best foot forward
Like all farm animals being able to move is very important. Over the years, foot health has gained interest in meat birds and breeding stock, since if a bird can't walk it can't eat and a dangerous spiral starts if not corrected.
It is important to note that moisture plays a large part in a bird's foot health. Litter and floor conditions that are too wet begin to erode the skin on the foot pad and can lead to inflammation (bumblefoot) and lameness. Moisture created by the birds along with water spillage if not managed can create lameness in a flock. You can test litter moisture by picking up a large handful of litter and squeezing it. Excessively wet litter will ball up or drip water, and feel sticky to touch. Add additional litter if possible or stir existing litter to help promote drying. Adjust ventilation rates to help remove moisture from the house and keep the litter dry.
Remember that litter floors are the environment that the birds live in, including walking and standing. The litter volumes on floors should be adequate to supply a soft walking surface for the bird. It also should be deep enough for water absorption from the flock. All other associated flooring, including slats, perches and other resting devices need to be in good condition to eliminate any foot pad injury. Good housekeeping of the floor will aid in keeping the flock in good step.