Occurrence of mortality, wooden breast, and pulmonary disease in broiler chickens during the last 16 days of production in a teaching flock of 4000 commercial broilers was determined. A new syndrome was identified, in which broilers fell over for an unknown reason and were unable to right themselves (dorsal recumbency). Birds affected by dorsal recumbency were alert and responsive and showed no clinical signs except for occasional mild to moderate dyspnea. When turned over, they resumed normal behavior. Mortality (14 culls; 49 dead) during the last 16 days of production accounted for 1.6% of the flock and 36% of total mortality. Among these, 71% were heavy males, 70% had wooden breast, and 71% had pulmonary congestion and edema. Gross lesions of concurrent wooden breast and pulmonary disease occurred in 68% of the mortality, including 21 of 22 dead birds found on their backs. These findings indicate that wooden breast is associated with mortality prior to processing as a result of pulmonary disease in heavy male broilers. When birds with wooden breast fall onto their backs for unknown reason(s), they are unable to right themselves. If not found and turned over, they may not survive. Based on these findings, wooden breast is likely greater than just a problem with meat quality and should be considered an animal well-being issue.
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Vol. 63 • No. 3