Litter is needed to provide comfortable floor conditions for the birds. It insulates the floor, absorbs and releases moisture. Crucial for good performance and bird health is the quality and the moisture content of the litter. This can be achieved by a good ventilation system and water restriction to a certain extent.

Good litter quality is important in both rearing and production, especially in keeping the quality of legs and foot pads optimal. Particularly during rearing, litter quality is important as problems with foot pads during this period will often show only in production with the birds putting more on weight.

The two basic factors that cause poor litter are manure and moisture. With temperatures above 15°C and high levels of moisture in the air and litter, bacteria become active and cause manure fermentation. During this process ammonia (NH3) is released that can irritate the eyes, respiratory tract and skin. Lesions may also develop and in severe cases, blindness, lowered resistance to E. coli and ammonia burns on the skin. Wet litter also induces lesions on the footpad (bumble foot). Poor litter condition represents an health hazard and continuous stress to the birds which certainly depresses performance.

In breeder flocks, an initial layer of litter of about 8-12 cm thick is often used (although much thinner layers can be sufficient as well). One of the main arguments in favour of thin litter layers is the prevention of floor eggs. However, thinner layers of litter means less buffer to overcome period of poor management, and therefore, need more control over the ventilation and drinking systems.

Poor litter conditions may be due to:
- over-consumption of water
- high temperature (increased water consumption)
- spillage of water into the litter
- poorly insulated houses (condensation)
- air with low temperature and high humidity
- insufficient ventilation and heating
- too many birds per m2 (volume of manure)
- too much salt in the feed (KCI, NaCI)
- structure of the feed (too many fine particles or fat)
- type and amount of litter not correct (sawdust)
- certain diseases
- overfeeding

Common types of litter in order of preference are:
- wood shavings (3.5-5 kg/m2),
- chopped straw (2.0-3.5 kg/m2),
- rice husks, oat husks, etc.

Throughout the flocks' entire life cycle, the litter must be good, dry, loose and dust-free. If not, optimum results will not be achieved. Litter should also be from moulds, pesticides, additives, etc.

As chicks get older, the litter can become wet and caked. We advise that wet and caked litter is stirred or even better, replaced immediately.