Red chickens from the neck up standing in a row within a commercial livestock setting

Layer Hen Keel Bone Health Program

Bone fractures, which cause pain and decrease egg production, are one known challenge to raising hens in cage-free housing systems and are particularly prevalent in the keel, or breastbone. To address this issue, the Foundation for Food & Agriculture Research (FFAR) and Open Philanthropy is launching the Keel Bone Health program to decrease the occurrence of keel bone injuries and improve welfare in commercial laying hens.

Scientific Program Director

Dr. Jeffrey Rosichan

Development Contact

Lauren Hershey

This program is not accepting applications.

Pre-applications due: June 8, 2022

Application Information

FFAR and Open Philanthropy anticipate awarding between two and three grants with a $3 million maximum grant available for each awardee. Applicants are not required to secure additional funding.

About the Layer Hen Keel Bone Health Program

Keel bone damage (KBD) is a deviations or fractures of a hen’s breastbone. KBD is a complex problem caused by housing design problems, genetics, behavior, rearing practices, feed and nutrition and other factors.

Continuous high egg production in commercial hensmay cause increased bone fragility and susceptibility to fractures due to the high calcium requirement to produce eggs. The keel bone is prone to fractures due to the anatomical position. Collision with housing structures combined with the weakened bone strength is considered the major risk factors for keel bone fractures in layer hens.

This program is a continuation of FFAR and the Open Philanthropy’s 2017 initial call for research to reduce keel bone fractures in in egg-laying hens. However,FFAR and Open Philanthropy recognize the need for additional investment to address this wide-ranging issue and to significantly improve keel bone health at commercial scale.

Through the Keel Bone Health Program, FFAR and Open Philanthropy are seeking larger, cross-disciplinary approaches in which scientists and economists collaborate with egg farmers, breeding companies, equipment manufacturers and other stakeholders to develop interventions and measure progress on this issue.

Awarded Grants for the Layer Hen Keel Bone Health Program

FFAR Awards $1.4 Million to Purdue University, University of California, Davis and University of Edinburgh Researchers to Improve Health and Productivity of Egg-Laying Hens

Awarded Amount $486,594   
Year 2018
Matching Funders Open Philanthropy Project

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