Litter Management

Litter Management

  • Although litter will function more efficiently on an earthen floor, a concrete floor is advised for a perfect disinfection at the end of each batch.
  • About 3-5” of litter should be put into the house initially and, as this breaks down, more should be added till a depth of about 8-12” is reached.
  • Before adding fresh litter material, remove the caked up and wet litter material.
  • Rack the litter thoroughly to break the clumps with the help of the litter racker and allow it to dry.
  • Sprinkle a mixture of wood ash and fertilizer grade superphosphate in the ratio of 4:1, at the ratio of 5 kg per 10 m2 area, before racking the litter to prevent ammonia gas release from litter.
  • Addition of slaked lime may be avoided that will increase the pH of the litter which in turn release more ammonia from the litter and also favours the growth of E. coli, the most common pathogen of poultry.
  • At the beginning the litter contains only 12% moisture. If the moisture level exceeds 30% due to poor ventilation, too many birds, irregular stirring or damp floor, the litter will cease to function efficiently. Because the manure digesting bacteria can be active only within 30% moisture level of the litter.
  • Some time many birds will bear “balls” made of litter materials at their claw tips. Ball formation is a sign of bad litter management.
  • Built-up litter has a very important role in providing warmth to the birds in winter.
  • In winter the litter depth can be increased to 10-12” while in summer it may be reduced to 2.5-4”.

Recycling of nutrients in deep litter system

  • The dropping from chicken when mixed with litter synthesizes Riboflavin (Vitamin B2) and Vitamin B12 by the chemical and bacterial actions.
  • The built-up litter also contains niacin, phosphorus, potassium, magnesium, sodium and calcium.
  • Deep litter bird often pecks and eats a small quantity of litter material which contains above nutrients. This phenomenon is known as recycling.
  • Even if the poultry feed is slightly deficient in some of the nutrients, the deep litter birds will not show any deficiency symptoms due the recycling of nutrients.
  • In cage rearing the recycling of nutrients is completely absent.
  • So, all the nutrients including calcium, phosphorus and sodium must be balanced meticulously in poultry ration.

Qualities of good litter material

  • It must absorb moisture from droppings quickly.
  • It must release moisture and dries up rapidly.
  • It must have least tendency to form cakes.
  • It must be free from mould growth.
  • It must be free from sharp objects and other objectionable materials.
  • It must be non-toxic, inert and compressible.
  • It should possess good insulating properties and protect chicks from extremes of climate.
  • It must be cheap and locally available.
  • It must be biodegradable, supply some nutrients to the birds and form a good quality manure later.
  • It must have medium particle size, soft and light in weight.
  • Quality of a litter material is tested by picking a hand full of litter material and presses it tightly.
  • A good litter material is the one which breaks up when hand is open and the litter material with more moisture will form a ball in the hand.
  • Too much dried litter material causes dustiness in the farm.