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Lameness Better Predicts Broiler Performance in Mobility Tests Than Other Bird Characteristics

07 July 2014

According to Bristol University researchers, reduced mobility in broilers is closely linked to lameness (as assessed by gait score) and not to other bird factors such as weight. Affected birds may be experiencing pain or discomfort.

To determine whether lame broilers are in pain, it is necessary to compare measures of lameness and mobility before and after analgesic treatment, according to Gina Caplen and colleagues at the University of Bristol in the UK.

In a paper published in the journal, Animal Welfare, they explain that such measures should not be unduly affected by other bird characteristics.

This study assessed the performance of lame (gait score, GS 3–4) and non-lame (GS 0–1) broilers using two mobility tests:

  1. a novel test to assess broiler ability to access resources when housed in groups (Group Obstacle test); and
  2. a Latency-to-Lie (LTL) test.

Outcome test measures included number of obstacle crossings, latency to cross an obstacle and time taken to sit in shallow water. Associations between outcome test measures and other bird characteristics (established lameness risk-factors), including strain, sex, age, mass, contact dermatitis and pathology, were also investigated.

The performance of high-GS and low-GS broilers differed in both mobility tests and no other bird characteristics were as consistent a predictor as lameness.

This demonstrates that mobility impairments are closely related to lameness assessed using GS, and that there is a component of lameness that cannot be explained by other bird characteristics, such as being male and heavy. This component may represent pain or discomfort.

Both mobility tests are suitable for further application with analgesic testing to classify lameness-associated pain in broilers, concluded the Bristol University team.


Caplen G., B. Hothersall, C.J. Nicol, R.M.A. Parker, A.E. Waterman-Pearson, C.A. Weeks and J.C. Murrell. 2014. Lameness is consistently better at predicting broiler chicken performance in mobility tests than other broiler characteristics. Animal Welfare. 23:179-187. doi: 10.7120/09627286.23.2.179

July 2014

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