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Influence of housing system and design on bone strength and keel bone fractures in laying hens
  1. L. J. Wilkins, MIBiol,
  2. J. L. McKinstry, MSc,
  3. N. C. Avery, MIBiol,
  4. T. G. Knowles, BSc, PhD,
  5. S. N. Brown, MIBiol,
  6. J. Tarlton, BSc, PhD and
  7. C. J. Nicol, MA, DPhil
  1. Department of Clinical Veterinary Science, University of Bristol, Langford, N Somerset, BS40 5DU, UK
  1. E-mail for correspondence L.J.Wilkins{at}

The main objectives of the study were to provide an accurate assessment of current levels of old breaks in end-of-lay hens housed in a variety of system designs and identify the important risk factors. Sixty-seven flocks housed in eight broad subcategories were assessed at the end of the production period. Within each flock, the presence of keel fractures was determined and the tibia, humerus and keel bones dissected for measurement of breaking strength. For each house, variations in internal design and perching provision were categorised and the effective heights of the differing structures recorded. All systems were associated with alarmingly high levels of keel damage although variation in mean prevalence between systems was evident with flocks housed in furnished cages having the lowest prevalence (36 per cent) despite also having significantly weaker bones and flocks housed in all systems equipped with multilevel perches showing the highest levels of damage (over 80 per cent) and the highest severity scores.

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  • Provenance not commissioned; externally peer reviewed

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