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Broiler Chicken Health Issues

Be on the look up for these possible broiler chicken health issues to keep your chickens healthy.

| February 2018

  • One of the most common health issues for commercial broilers is heart failure.
    Photo by Pixabay/Capri23auto
  • “Storey’s Guide to Raising Chickens” by Gail Damerow has helped over 2 million people begin raising their own chickens.
    Cover courtesy of Storey Publishing

Storey’s Guide to Raising Chickens (Storey, 2017) by Gail Damerow helps readers through the ins and outs of rising their own chickens. For more than 40 years, this book has been the go-to guide on everything about chickens, from choosing your first chicken to fending off parasites and illness from your flock. In the following excerpt, Damerow goes through the warning signs of possible broiler chicken health issues.

Health issues of homegrown meat birds primarily relate to rapid growth and heavy weight. Common issues for commercial strain broilers are lameness, breast blister, and heart failure. Among utility breeds, breast blister is the most common health concern.


Commercial-strain Cornish-cross broilers are developed for such rapid growth that their bodies get too heavy for their little legs to carry them. Difficulty walking is therefore a significant issue among strains developed for industrial production. The faster a bird grows, the greater its risk of going lame.

During the past half century, the rate of industrial-broiler growth has increased from less than 1 ounce (25 grams) per day to today’s rate of 3-1/2 (100 grams) ounces per day. Where a broiler once took 13 weeks to reach 4-1/2 pounds (2 kilograms), today’s commercial broilers reach that weight in as little as five weeks. As a result of the strain on their legs and joints, those fast-growing birds can’t get around well, and a small percentage can’t walk at all. A study as early as 1972 concluded the “birds might have been bred to grow so fast that they are on the verge of structural collapse.”

When a broiler gets so heavy its legs can’t support its body, the bird can’t get to feed and water, leaving it to get trampled by the more mobile birds and eventually die of either starvation or dehydration. In industry, up to 2 percent of lame broilers must be killed before they reach market weight.

Although it shouldn’t take a PhD to see when a chicken is in distress, the broiler industry has devised various lameness scoring systems to determine when a review of management practices might be needed and at what point a lame bird should be humanely put down. The typical progression of lameness is:

Poultry Farmer Pakistan
5/21/2018 12:44:45 PM

I strongly feel that broiler chicken health has improved over the last few years. As a poultry farmer in Pakistan, I've seen the rise in health standards. As a result, the consumer is also safe now and enjoys nutritional benefits from eating broiler meat. I've explained in more detail in my poultry production blog ( I'd suggest a study for anyone who is interested in this topic

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