Broiler Welfare Assessment: Key Bird Traits To Look For (inc. Protocol)

Today, I’m going to introduce you to the most CRITICAL issues to look for when assessing the welfare of your broiler flock.


If you are looking to discover:

  • key physical indicators for broiler health
  • expert visual cues for what is normal and abnormal in broilers
  • tell-tale signs of something being wrong with your flock

…then this is a neat guide to point your husbandry skills in the right direction.

Arbor Acres Broiler Assessment Traits #

Expert global broiler breeders, Aviagen, recommend the following traits which should be assessed by stockman walking through the flock:

Broiler Assessment Traits Arbor Acres


Here is a quick summary:

Beak, Nose & Tongue #

Birds with respiratory diseases or gastrointestinal (stomach) bugs will often display symptoms like:

  • runny noses
  • feed stuck to the beak
  • dry, cracked or discoloured tongue

Makes sure each bird is clear of these.

Eyes #

Gloopy looking discharge, redness or soreness are signs that birds have eye infections and associated trouble.

Feathers #

Uniform, ordered appearance to feathers without any sticking out awkwardly…is exactly how your broilers should look.

Vent #

The opening should be clean and no loose or liquid droppings.

Skin #

Clear – without blemish, bruise, scratch or hockburn mark.

Feet #

Clean – without swellings, growths or odd-looking callouses.

Legs #

A regular gait and legs free of marks or burns is usually a good sign of proper broiler heath.

Breast #

An even covering of feathers, without marks, blisters or bald patches. This is the ideal condition for broiler breast.

Crop #

The crop being full or empty will give an indication of whether broilers are feeding and drinking adequately.

RSPCA Broiler Breed Welfare Assessment (Protocol) #

The Aviagen summary above gives a gentle introduction into broiler assessment, but for some harder facts and figures, try this RSPCA broiler welfare assessment.

It also includes rating criteria for approximating the relative quality of broiler welfare.

Here are the highlights:


Feeding regime #

The recommended guidelines for feeding broiler rations throughout starter, grower and finisher ages (inc. protein level % and MJ per kg)


Broiler Feeding Regime


Lighting regime #

The recommendation for lighting for broiler chicks up to 6 days from placement (including continuous hours of dark)


Walking Ability #

Descriptions of walking ability among broiler birds and ratings:

Broiler Walking Ability



Feather Cover #

A way of assessing and scoring the feather coverage of broiler chickens on a farm:


Breast plumage and dirtiness #

Picture guide for scoring breast plumage cleanliness on broilers:

Broiler plumage check



Leg straitness #

How to assess the straitness of legs in broiler birds, with measurement and angles:

Leg straitness in broilers



Pododermatitis #

Checklist for measuring the foot condition of broiler birds:

Pododermatitis in broilers


Hock burn #

A simply way of scoring burn seriousness on the legs of broiler birds on a farm:

Hock burn lesion chart for broilers


The proforma #

If you want to download the full proforma for your own use from the RSPCA website – you can do so here.

Now over to you… #

Are you currently looking for a way of assessing the physical condition of your broilers?

Do you have experience in assessing broiler welfare?

Either way, I’m interested to hear from you.

Leave a comment.

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