Descriptive Analyses Of Gait Characteristics In Pekin Ducks From Hatch To Market Weight
The ability to evaluate gait in a commercial poultry setting is an important aspect of assessing physical health and well-being. Previously, it was suggested that gait width or metatarsal adduction (MA) may be indicative of lameness in ducks. However, no published description of normal gait of Pekin ducks currently exists. Thus, our goal was to characterize the range of gait patterns of healthy commercial Pekin ducks. We set out to determine if MA or gait width has an effect on the ducks' ability to ambulate. We further characterized whether these gait measures are associated with structural abnormalities or tibial dyschondroplasia (TD), or with plasma corticosterone levels. one-day-old hatchlings (n = 110) were obtained and housed in aviary floor pens under environmental conditions that closely adhered to industry standards. Beginning on d 3, weekly footprint analyses were completed. Qualitative analyses revealed that ducks fell into 3 general categories in a normal distribution: wide, middle, and narrow stance. Beginning at d 1, a weekly subset of ducks (n = 10) was weighed and analyzed for pelvic limb structure and presence of gross evidence of TD. on d 1, ducks were randomly selected for dissection. Starting on d 7, ducks (n = 10) were selected across the 3 gait width categories for analyses. Tibial dyschondroplasia is observed in ducks regardless of the degree of MA or width of stance. No significant differences were observed in plasma corticosterone levels regardless of gait width or degree of MA. At this time, we conclude that TD may not be a risk factor in the development of MA, or the converse, that severe MA may not be a risk factor for TD; the presence of MA may not be indicative of lameness or a diminished level of well-being in and of itself. lastly, we report that our qualitative assessment of gait width is easily performed in any aviary or barn setting, is an indicator of future gait, and this qualitative assessment can be supported by anatomical measures.