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How many times should I change wet litter?

Dr Messo, I have 300 broilers, which are four weeks old today. The wood shaving is getting wet after three to four days even if I keep on turning it. What do I do? [Lucy Kamau, Banana Estate Nairobi]

Dear Ms Kamau,

Broiler chickens are mainly raised in intensive deep litter systems, where they are kept indoors and provided with comfortable conditions in form of dry litter, good ventilation, spacious accommodation, natural lights and good nutrition. If properly taken care of, there is no need to replace litter every week.

Wet litter can only occur when something has gone wrong with your management system, environment, or the health of the flock. Wood shaving is still the best alternative bedding for commercial chickens as it has good moisture-holding capacity and is easy to keep dry.

A litter depth of eight centimetre is most ideal to absorb moisture. Provide enough draft of air in the unit, open the curtains to allow fresh air in through the sides and stale warm air through the roof. Hot ambient temperatures may also stimulate heavy water intake leading to wet litter.

Cool the units by hyperventilating and opening more to air inflow. Leaking watering system or spillage may also be the reason behind wet litter. The drinker space should be 0.6 cm per bird. For nipple system, the pressure should be correctly adjusted as per the manufacturer’s recommendation to avoid excessive spillage of water. Pressure of 50-90 ml/minute should suffice.

A good stocking density should be 1 square feet per bird or 30kg/ m2, increasing this density will only result in poor litter aeration leading to wetness. Avoid too salty feed or water, as it will result in unsatiable thirst, hence excessive water consumption leading to wet litter. If all these factors have been taken care of and yet birds still release loose feacal droppings, it could be diarrheal infections. Check with your vet.

[The writer is Head Vet at Kenchic]

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