Sign up now!
Don't show this again
Sweepstakes Rules

We’re glad you’re enjoying Poultry Health Today.
Access is free but you’ll need to register to view more content.
Already registered? Sign In
Tap to download the app
REPORTSCollect articles and features into your own report to read later, print or share with others

Create a New Report


Read Later

Create a new report

Report title (required) Brief description (optional)
follow us

You must be logged in to edit your profile.

Sponsored by Zoetis

Sponsored By Zoetis


Lameness in poultry can start in the hatchery

Lameness in poultry is often associated with bird weight, bacterial infections or the condition of the litter, but it actually begins much earlier in the bird’s life — often in the hatchery.

The main failure in the bone is not only related to mineralization or even damage of the bone structure. It can happen on the collagen, from embryo development through the first days of life, Edgar Oviedo, DVM, a poultry specialist focusing on broiler management at North Carolina State University Extension, told Poultry Health Today.

Oviedo, who has researched poultry lameness for more than 20 years, says reducing the temperature during the last phase of incubation and in the hatchery can make a big difference.

“If you reduce the overheating that these birds normally have, they will have better development — not only on the bones but in all the tissues,” Oviedo said. He added that reducing heat will lead to birds with better immunity, which also contributes to a lower incidence of leg problems.

Weight is less a factor

One might think weight would impact lameness, but Oviedo noted lowering incubation temperature could help reduce incidence of lameness, regardless of a bird’s final weight. While other factors can come into play, Oviedo said, “the beneficial effects of good incubation remain for the rest of the [bird’s] life. Even when we were raising smaller birds…they used to have [lameness] problems.”

There will likely always be challenges because of how fast the birds grow, along with complications associated with managing large flocks. From the egg to the processing plant, the birds go through different conditions, but Oviedo feels lowering the temperature during the last phase of incubation and in the hatchery is a good place to start.

It’s thought that nutritional imbalances can lead to lameness problems, but Oviedo doesn’t think nutrition is a primary cause.

“When the number of birds affected is less than 1% or 0.5%, it’s very hard to believe [nutrition is a factor],” he said. “And when 100% of the flock is receiving the same diet, it’s very difficult to prove that you can cause this small incidence of lameness with nutrition.”

Disease management is important too

More than 50% of broiler chickens raised in the US are now raised without antibiotics. This trend could create additional lameness challenges for growers, Oviedo said. Lameness is not related to one specific bone, he explained; it’s actually the skeletal structure of the animal that can become imbalanced when exposed to bacteria.

“The animal has to create balance through modifications of the gait,” he said. “Those modifications create friction…which can open the door to any bacteria that could be circulating.”

In a healthy flock, Oviedo said bacteria can translocate to the bloodstream or tissues, where they would normally be eliminated by an immunological response. However, bacteria can create their own areas of growth in neurological tissue, he explained.

“Bacteria can infiltrate the femoral area or the acetabulum, or it can go to a vertebra. And then we have all these other diseases that can become infectious,” Oviedo said.

Litter can also impact the birds’ ability to walk. If it is too hard, or too wet, it will affect how they balance their weight, which affects their gait, he explained. If antibiotics aren’t used, “the whole environment will be more contaminated, and the amount of bacteria that they have to deal with in the immunological system is higher,” Oviedo said.

It’s a complex issue

Lameness is a problem that has existed for a long time, and it likely won’t go away soon. Furthermore, it’s a complex issue — one that involves disease management, animal welfare and dealing with challenges associated with raising birds without antibiotics.

“Many times, the art of the poultry grower is watching the details,” Oviedo said. It takes close observation, along with common sense, to identify problems and their solutions. And sometimes that means going back to the beginning of a bird’s life.

Posted on February 27, 2019

tags: ,
  • Chicks may hold clues to lameness in older birds

    Lameness in some poultry flocks has researchers searching for the cause, Suzanne Dougherty, DVM, a consulting poultry veterinarian based in Alabama, told Poultry Health Today.

  • Kinky back takes costly toll on broilers at 4 to 6 weeks

    Broiler producers are being urged to watch for signs of kinky back, an emerging bacterial disease of poultry that can cause significant losses in birds 4 to 6 weeks of age.

  • Lameness in broilers: Osteomyelitis

    By Stephen Collett, BScAgric, BVSc, MMedVet, MRCVS, DACPV Poultry Diagnostic and Research Center, College of Veterinary Medicine, University of Georgia

You must be logged in to edit your profile.

Google Translate is provided on this website as a reference tool. However, Poultry Health Today and its sponsor and affiliates do not guarantee in any way the accuracy of the translated content and are not responsible for any event resulting from the use of the translation provided by Google. By choosing a language other than English from the Google Translate menu, the user agrees to withhold all liability and/or damage that may occur to the user by depending on or using the translation by Google.