Do keel bone deformations affect egg-production in end-of-lay laying hens housed in aviaries?

J.L.T. Heerkens, E. Delezie, I. Kempen, T.B. Rodenburg, F.A.M. Tuyttens

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingAbstract


Laying hens housed in aviary systems have a high risk of keel bone deviations and fractures during the laying period. Recent studies even have suggested that the prevalence of these keel bone injuries are increasing (Wilkins 2004). Keel bone injuries are a serious welfare concern as they cause pain and affect bird mobility (Nasr 2012). Experimental studies suggest that these injuries may also negatively affect farm economics as hens without fractures had the highest laying rate and egg-quality (Nasr 2012). In an on-going cross-sectional study on commercial aviaries in Belgium, we investigate the relation between flock-level prevalence of keel bone injuries (varying severity of deviations, keel bone fractures and fractures in caudal tip of keel bone) and egg-production parameters and mortality in 60-weeks old laying hens. Housing system characteristics and genetic line are considered as independent factors for keel bone injuries. At each farm keel bone injuries of 50 randomly selected laying hens are scored by palpation. Egg-production parameters (laying rate and second quality eggs) are obtained from farm records and a farmers’ questionnaire. Preliminary data from 14 farms indicate that 51% (SD:7) of the hens have a keel bone fracture, 72% (SD:10) a keel bone deviation (of which 54% severe and 46% mild deviations), and 39% (SD:17) a fracture of the caudal tip of the keel bone. The average egg production at 60 weeks is 87% (SD:5), there are 2.0% (SD:1.1) second quality eggs, and mortality is 5.3% (SD:2.1). No significant associations were found between flock level prevalence of keel bone injuries and performance results yet. These associations will be tested again in the near future once similar data have been collected from at least another 33 farms. This larger dataset will also allow testing the association between characteristics of the housing, the management and the hens on the one hand, and the prevalence of keel bone injuries and production performance on the other hand.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationProceeding of the IX European Symposium on Poultry Welfare, 17-20 June 2013, Uppsala, Sweden
EditorsR. Tauson, H. Blokhuis, C. Berg, A. Elson
Place of PublicationUppsala, Sweden
PublisherWorld's Poultry Science Association (WPSA)
Publication statusPublished - 2013
EventIX European Symposium on Poultry Welfare, Uppsala, Sweden -
Duration: 17 Jun 201320 Jun 2013


ConferenceIX European Symposium on Poultry Welfare, Uppsala, Sweden

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