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Keel Bone Deformities
Keel bone deformities are a major welfare problem in free range laying hens, and are reported to affect between 56 to 97% of hens per flock. The keel bone is a prominent bone in chickens that extends ventrally from their sternum and is the point of attachment for the wing flight muscles. The keel bone can be deviated or twisted, both horizontally and vertically, having an s-shaped appearance, notches or bumps.
Bone deformities range in severity and are painful for chickens, preventing them from perching with other flock members or taking them longer to fly down from perches. Hens with keel fractures often suffer from long-term chronic pain, depending on the severity of the injury and extent of damage to the sensory nerves.
Keel bone fractures are caused by trauma resulting from collisions with other hens or solid objects, and falling from perches. Fractures are more likely to occur in hens with weak bones, or existing deviations caused by long-term pressure on the keel bone, such as resting on a poorly designed perch.
Isolate injured bird from the rest of the flock, in a quiet, warm, comfortable recovery area for 3-4 weeks. Perform a body wrap using bandage material, to minimize wing movement. Make sure to wrap above and below at least one wing in order to prevent the bandage from slipping.