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Type of publication: Journal Article
Type of document: Full Paper

Year: 2007

Authors: Renema, RA; Robinson, FE; Beliveau, RM; Davis, HC; Lindquist, EA

Title: Relationships of body weight, feathering, and footpad condition with reproductive and carcass morphology of end-of-season commercial broiler breeder hens

Source: J Appl Poultry Res. 2007; 16(1): 27-38.

Authors Vetmeduni Vienna:

Petri Renee

Reproductive efficiency of broiler breeder hens declines with age. Whereas careful feed management can maximize BW uniformity at housing, there is variability in how rate of lay and flock behavioral dynamics will interact with subsequent growth during the breeder phase. This study characterized differences in carcass and reproductive morphology in end-of-cycle commercial broiler breeder hens based on BW, feather coverage, and footpad condition, and we discuss the potential implications of the findings. At 62 wk of age, 537 hens were studied from an original flock of 3,800. Birds were sorted into subgroups based on BW, feather score, footpad score, and whether they were in laying condition when dissected. The average flock BW was 3.56 kg, with means of 2.86, 3.56, and 4.20 kg for the low (LOW), standard (STD), and high (HIGH) BW groups, respectively. A higher proportion of birds from the STD (85%) and HIGH (81%) groups still had a fully formed reproductive tract compared with birds of the LOW (59%) group. The LOW birds in laying condition had a smaller ovary than the STD or HIGH birds. The ovary condition of birds in laying condition was not related to feather coverage. As feather coverage improved, final hen BW increased, demonstrating a potential role of feather coverage in growth efficiency or of BW in level of mating activity. Birds that received a feather score of 5 (complete back feather coverage) and had a normal reproductive tract made up 14.7% of this flock. It is likely that many of these birds were mating very infrequently or possibly not mating, which has implications for maintenance of flock fertility. Some may also have been returning from a molt. Footpad condition was not related to body size. External traits such as BW, feather score, and footpad score can provide insight into flock reproductive condition and male: female interaction.

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