The Importance of Poultry Paw Quality

Keeping floors dry and birds' paws healthy helps grow bigger birds and paychecks, regardless of whether China buys a single chicken foot.
paw quality

You all remember the days when poultry paws had more value, but in recent years, they’ve become less important. If you’ve heard about China lifting the U.S. poultry ban, you have probably heard it is a reason to bring paws back into focus. In fact, projections from November 2019 say around 1 billion pounds of chicken paws will head to China in 2020—potentially selling at 87 cents a pound. That means paying extra attention to paws could be lucrative! 

If that’s not reason enough to focus on paw health, there are a lot of other problems caused by sore paws that can translate to your bottom line. 



Where does paw health start? 

If you watched our Windrow Series, you have heard us say “a healthy floor is a healthy bird.” Moisture in litter can wreak havoc in your poultry house and create a ton of health problems for the birds.

High moisture can lead to many physical problems like breast blisters, which are bad for scoring at the processing plant. Bacteria love moisture—it helps the bad stuff like Clostridium, which causes dermatitis and enteritis, multiply quickly and take over natural defenses, which can lead to all kinds of illness and disease outbreak. 

This is where burned feet find their cause. Footpad dermatitis, also called ammonia burn or scald, is almost exclusively caused by the corrosive effects of wet litter. If you have seen footpad dermatitis in your house, you know it causes necrotic lesions, which are blistering scabs, on the bottoms of the paws. When we humans get a blister or cut on our feet, we are not as interested in playing in a basketball game or going on a run.

While that might sound like something you’d hear from an animal activist, the truth is that sore feet keep birds from moving, which makes them less likely to move to eat or drink. Less food and water translates into lower weights and lower performance. Keeping floors dry and birds' paws healthy helps grow bigger birds and paychecks, regardless of whether China buys a single chicken foot.

What causes wet litter?

Nipple overflow. Like Jason talked about in last week's video, water usage and water consumption are two different things. Birds’ beaks can only hold so much water. Any excess goes onto the floor, so monitoring water at the nipple will help keep your floor dry! Improper ventilation, leaky water lines and poor drainage from storm runoff can also create wet litter. These are things that require plain ole manual labor to fix. Southland Organics would not be much of a help in these areas without coming to visit and staying for dinner.

Where we can help is in the more difficult causes of moisture in the house—the biggest being waste. Runny, liquidy droppings are a huge challenge in keeping floors not only dry but also healthy. They’re packed with harmful bacteria, and when they’re loose, that bacteria runs rampant, especially when the litter has high moisture already. Tightening birds’ guts can help! Take a look at our Scoop on Poop video if you haven’t seen it yet for tips on how to tighten your birds’ guts, help them make the most of the feed they’re eating, and keep the floor drier. 

Managing litter is the key to a dry floor.

There are many different approaches to litter management in the industry. You can clean out, cake out, windrow—see our Windrow Series here—but all of those happen between flocks. What can you do with litter when you have birds? The key to litter decomposition and drying those floors with birds in the house is maintaining the proper carbon to nitrogen ratio.

Carbon to Nitrogen Ratio 

Carbon and nitrogen are part of nature’s design to turn things that are dead into things that can be used as life-giving fuel. Carbon naturally occurs as part of the decomposition process. It helps convert elements that cannot be used on their own, like nitrogen, into food for plants. Litter is packed with nitrogen—that’s why some people want it to fertilize plants. But with the constant flow of nitrogen in a poultry house, it’s hard for natural processes to decompose the litter at a rate that keeps the carbon balance needed for healthy floors. 

Our product, Litter Life, adds biologically active, organic carbon and organic acids to balance the ratio and help accelerate the decomposition process. This accelerated process of breaking litter down naturally keeps moisture from building up. And it doesn’t have to be just wet from the litter—even in the cases of condensation and water accumulation from lines, Litter Life helps greatly in drying the litter floor.

Contact Us

If you need help with litter moisture management or simply would like to learn more, the Southland Organics team is here. Connect with me, Allen Reynolds, at or 800-608-3755.


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About the Author

Allen Reynolds

Allen Reynolds

Poultry Sales Manager

This was written by Allen Reynolds, Southland Organics’ Poultry Sales Manager. Allen spent years working on poultry farms, from installing equipment to dumping chicks. He has been helping poultry farmers overcome obstacles since 2014, focusing on poultry farm strength in the antibiotic-free environment since 2017. He has traveled thousands of miles and worked closely with hundreds of farmers during his time with Southland Organics. Allen is known by even more farmers from the YouTube channel Poultry Biosecurity, where he regularly appears in videos that educate farmers on topics like bird health and farm business.

Learn more about Allen Reynolds

Erin Flowers

Copywriter and Editor

This was edited by Erin Flowers. As a writer and editor, Erin keeps a close eye on the details. Erin thoroughly researches each topic, fact checking and source searching to give our readers helpful resources for raising chickens, homesteading, and growing lawns and gardens. Erin graduated from the University of Georgia with a bachelor's degree in advertising. She began working with Southland Organics in 2018.

Learn more about Erin Flowers

Erin Flowers
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