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Keel Bone Damage in Laying Hens—Its Relation to Bone Mineral Density, Body Growth Rate and Laying Performance

Keel bone damage is an important animal welfare problem in laying hens. Two generations of four layer lines, differing in phylogenetic background and performance level and kept in single cages or floor pens were weighed and scored for keel bone deformities (KBD) during the laying period. KBD, keel bone fractures (KBF) and the bone mineral density (BMD) of the keels were assessed post mortem. For BMD, relationships to laying performance and body growth were estimated. Caged hens showed more deformities, but fewer fractures and a lower BMD of the keel bone than floor-housed hens. White-egg layers had a lower BMD (0.140–0.165 g/cm2) and more KBD than brown-egg layers (0.179–0.184 g/cm2). KBF occurred more often in the high-performing lines than the moderate-performing ones. However, in the high-performing lines, BMD was positively related to total egg number from 18 to 29 weeks of age. The adult body weight derived from fitted growth curves (Gompertz function) had a significant effect (p < 0.001) on keels’ BMD. The study contributes to the understanding of predisposing factors for keel bone damage in laying hens. It showed that the growth rate has a rather subordinate effect on keels’ BMD, while the BMD itself greatly affects KBD.



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