Development of an Ex Vivo Protocol to Model Bone Fracture in Laying Hens Resulting from Collisions

Michael J Toscano, Lindsay J Wilkins, Georgina Millburn, Katherine Thorpe, John F Tarlton

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

28 Citations (Scopus)
400 Downloads (Pure)


Fractures of the keel bone, a bone extending ventrally from the sternum, are a serious health and welfare problem in free range laying hens. Recent findings suggest that a major cause of keel damage within extensive systems is collisions with internal housing structures, though investigative efforts have been hindered by difficulties in examining mechanisms and likely influencing factors at the moment of fracture. The objectives of this study were to develop an ex vivo impact protocol to model bone fracture in hens caused by collision, to assess impact and bird-related factors influencing fracture occurrence and severity, and to identify correlations of mechanical and structural properties between different skeletal sites. We induced keel bone fractures in euthanized hens using a drop-weight impact tester able to generate a range of impact energies, producing fractures that replicate those commonly found in commercial settings. The results demonstrated that impact energies of a similar order to those expected in normal housing were able to produce fractures, and that greater collision energies resulted in an increased likelihood of fractures and of greater severity. Relationships were also seen with keel's lateral surface bone mineral density, and the peak reactive force (strength) at the base of the manubrial spine. Correlations were also identified between the keel and long bones with respect to both strength and bone mineral density. This is the first study able to relate impact and bone characteristics with keel bone fracture at the moment of collision. Greater understanding of these relationships will provide means to reduce levels of breakage and severity in commercial systems.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere66215
Number of pages7
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 13 Jun 2013


  • Animals
  • Biomechanical Phenomena
  • Bone Density
  • Chickens
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Fractures, Bone
  • Models, Biological


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