Chicken paws have become a lucrative commodity in the industry and are expected to skyrocket further now that China has lifted the ban on US poultry imports. Paws also serve as an indicator of animal welfare during audits and can be a direct indicator of bird performance as paw lesions begin to form in the first week of the bird’s life.
A three-score system was developed to score birds at 10-12 days of age in order to predict how a flock will grade at the processing plant. Scoring birds at this age allows remedial action to be taken to prevent further deterioration of the paws (Keep in mind that the three main factors that contribute to the formation of paw burns or lesions are litter moisture, nutrition and bedding material and depth.)
A few guidelines when scoring birds:
- Only the underside of the bird’s foot is scored. Paws that have attached dirt should be washed prior to scoring.
- Both paws are scored with the higher score recorded.
- A minimum of 30 birds per house should be evaluated.
A New Tool for Paw Scoring
To make paw scoring easier, Jones-Hamilton has updated their mobile app, PLT pHacts, to include a paw scoring tool. The new tool makes it easy to consult and score paws with your mobile phone.
Score of Zero
A score of zero reflects a bird with no sign of redness or minor hemorrhage due to broken capillaries that look like branching thin red lines under the skin (petechiation). The skin is intact. Some staining of the footpad may be present.
Score of One
Birds with a score of one have foot pads with minor redness or petechiation. A small crack in the skin may be present between individual scales. These may be as small as a pinpoint. If the foot has a callus or proliferation of the scales without a break in the skin it is classified as a one.
Score of Two
Birds with a score of two have erosions on the feet that have begun to break the skin. These can be circular or irregular shaped. Calluses or proliferation of the scales with a break in the skin are classified as a two. Birds with a score of one will tend to present at the plant with a small lesion under ½ inch in size while birds with a score of two will present with lesions that are categorized as medium or large by the USDA grading system. The ratio of birds in each category may worsen by the time the birds are processing age but it rarely, if
ever, gets better.