Hock burns, a disease to be eliminated for the welfare of chickens

Affected chickens show superficial lesions that if not treated in the right time can induce the appearance of ulcers and necrosis of the skin as broiler breeders age. all these factors do not seem to have serious consequences in terms of quality of chicken meat, but induce pain and suffering to the animal.

A research conducted in UK in 2005 found that 82% of chickens sold on supermarket shelves were affected by hock burns. But these days, as animal welfare is a much more present issue in the minds of consumers, some farms that market chickens to large retailers purposefully remove the marks on animals’ skin as they tend to reassure consumers.

Hock burns pathology on chicken feet
Photo by poultry-world.net


In order to fully understand why the disease is strongly present in chickens destined for the large-scale retail trade, we must ask ourselves about current breeding techniques. Indeed, if in the 1920s farmers needed about 120 days to raise a chicken weighing 1.5kg, nowadays it takes about 40 days.

However, shortening the breeding period by 1/3 does not reduce the amount of excrement produced by the animal, which will accumulate on the farm’s litter with a tremendously greater frequency.

In addition, intensive breeding farms undersized for the amount of chickens they contain, the chicken has less freedom of movement, and it is more likely to step on excrement.

The lack of space and the excessive fattening of the poultry means that the chicken is hardly able to support itself anymore and favors the presence of hock burns.

How to ensure better conditions to your broilers

Maintaining  litter in dry and good condition is crucial for footpath health. This measure reduces the diffusion and stagnation of ammonia in the farm, which is also a source of other disorders besides hock burns, as it reduces the animal’s immune defenses.

The breeder’s goal is therefore to reduce ammonia levels in order to ensure proper hygiene for animal welfare.

The main precaution to be taken is to adopt an efficient ventilation system. A space that is ventilated for a long time, not just a few hours, prevents ammonia from stagnating in the room by ensuring fresh air recirculation. A dry litter avoids retaining moisture, which can cause litter to clump together.

It is also advisable to install sensors to monitor ammonia levels and not rely on smell (the farmer is so used to this type of smell that he may not recognize the excessive presence of this compound on his farm).

Broilers in poultry farm

Future trends

In recent years, the issue of environmental respect has influenced the choices of farmers. Therefore, it is even more important to have an adequate and ecologic ventilation system to monitor air quality in your poultry farm.

In summer 2020, Fast food giant KFC has admitted that 1 in 10 chickens marketed in their restaurants suffered hock burn showing a great sense of responsibility and willingness to change.

Modern consumers are increasingly concerned with animal welfare and the safe sourcing of the food they consume. Therefore, farmers must act now to ensure the best animal welfare and avoid the spread of these types of diseases.

Alessandro Azzolin
Alessandro Azzolin
Digital marketing intern, with interests in different cultures. My priority is the preservation of ecosystems.

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