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Keel Bone Injury

Keel bone injuries are a major welfare problem in freerange 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 outward from their breast, serving as the point of attachment for their wing flight muscles. Hens with keel bone injuries often suffer from long-term chronic pain, depending on the severity of the injury and extent of damage to the sensory nerves. Keel bone injuries may prevent hens from perching with other flock members or taking them longer to fly down from perches.

Causes of Keel Bone Injuries


Keel bone injuries are caused by collisions with other hens, solid objects, and falling from any height.

Which Chickens are Most at Risk of Keel Bone Injuries


Keel bone injuries are more likely to occur in hens with weak bones, or existing deviations caused by long-term pressure on the keel bone, such as a poorly designed perch.

Clinical Signs

Reluctance to move
Decreased activity
Muscle atrophy
Lameness
Loss of appetite
Depression
Weakness

Diagnosis

  • History
  • Clinical signs
  • Physical exam
  • Radiographs

Treatment

NameSummary
Supportive careIsolate 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.
Lowering perch height

Prevention

  • Install perches lower to the ground (less than 30 in (77 cm) above the ground)
  • Design perches so that inter-perch distances are less than 24 in (60cm) apart
  • Supplementing diet with Omega-3 fatty acids
  • Using soft perches
  • Let hens of plenty of daily physical activity during growth, to help them increase their bone strength.

Scientific References

Age Range

Hens have an increased risk of keel bone deformities with age

Risk Factors

  • Overcrowding birds
  • High perches
  • Improperly designed perch layout
  • Rough handling