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Hens / Enriched Cages / Egg Production / North America / Industry News & Trends / Poultry Welfare
on April 21, 2017

Layer keel bone fractures can result from perch collisions

Keel bone health is increasingly seen as an animal welfare metric in alternative housing systems.

A new research study shows the majority of keel bone damage originates from collisions with perches inside the layer house.

Dr. Maja Makagon, assistant professor of applied animal behavior at University of California, Davis’ Department of Animal Science, discussed the results of a study conducted to analyze keel bone damage in a layer environment. Makagon, who spoke on April 19 as part of the Egg Industry Center Egg Industry Issues Forum in Columbus, Ohio, said the study utilized accelerometers and 3D imaging technology to study the force of the collisions and measure their effects on the keel bone.

The keel is an extension of the sternum that provides an anchor for the bird’s wing muscles and provides leverage for flight. As laying hens are being removed from a conventional cage environment, Makagon said, keel integrity is increasingly seen as an indicator of animal welfare. Damaged keels are associated with increased mortality, reduced egg production and egg quality, and keel damage is likely associated with pain for the animal.

Methodology

The study, conducted by students and professors from UC Davis, Purdue University, the University of Bern and Michigan State University, analyzed keel damage in an enriched cage environment. Makagon said the study contributes to existing literature on the topic by examining the relationships between the development of keel bone damage, the types and magnitudes of impacts experienced at the keel by hens housed in enriched colony systems and behaviors associated with these impacts.

Makagon said the study used groups of hens housed…

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