High levels of contact dermatitis and decreased mobility in broiler breeders, but neither have a relationship with floor eggs

Anna C.M. van den Oever*, Liesbeth Bolhuis, Lotte J.F. van de Ven, Bas Kemp, Bas Rodenburg

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

7 Citations (Scopus)


Contact dermatitis, both on the foot pads and hocks, is a well-known health issue in broilers. Less is known about contact dermatitis in broiler breeders, however, although they have many risk factors for developing leg health problems in common with broilers. This study aimed to describe the prevalence and severity of contact dermatitis during the production cycle in 5 lines of broiler breeders, investigate possible causes of contact dermatitis, and study its relationship with gait, egg production, and floor egg percentage. Five commercially available genetic lines of broiler breeders were housed in 21 pens of 550 females and 50 males from 20 to 60 wk of age. Every 10 wk litter quality, leg health measurements (foot pad dermatitis, hock burn, and gait) and body weight were assessed of 50 random hens per pen. Total number of eggs, number of eggs laid outside the nest (floor eggs), and mortality were recorded daily per pen. Prevalence of foot pad dermatitis, hock burn, and gait problems increased with age. Litter quality started to decrease at 50 wk of age. Prevalence of foot pad dermatitis was affected by litter quality, whereas genetic line had little effect. One genetic line was more prone to developing hock burns, though generally the prevalence of hock burn (13%) was much lower than that of foot pad dermatitis (74%). The percentage of broiler breeders with gait problems increased up to 24% with age, but this was not related to the prevalence of contact dermatitis. The lines differed in body weight from 32 wk of age onwards, and a higher body weight was related to lower egg production and higher cumulative mortality. The percentage of floor eggs was not related to leg health parameters or genetic line. Broiler breeders thus have similar leg health problems as broilers, but these problems are not related to the percentage of floor eggs, suggesting that other factors are involved in the undesirable behavior of floor laying.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3355-3362
JournalPoultry Science
Issue number7
Early online date24 Apr 2020
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2020


  • broiler breeder
  • floor egg
  • foot pad dermatitis
  • genetic line
  • leg health


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