Reduction of wing area affects estimated stress in the primary flight muscles of chickens

Grace A.T. Hong, Bret W. Tobalske, Nienke Van Staaveren, Emily M. Leishman, Tina M. Widowski, Donald R. Powers, Alexandra Harlander-Matauschek

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In flying birds, the pectoralis (PECT) and supracoracoideus (SUPRA) generate most of the power required for flight, while the wing feathers create the aerodynamic forces. However, in domestic laying hens, little is known about the architectural properties of these muscles and the forces the wings produce. As housing space increases for commercial laying hens, understanding these properties is important for assuring safe locomotion. We tested the effects of wing area loss on mass, physiological cross-sectional area (PCSA), and estimated muscle stress (EMS) of the PECT and SUPRA in white-feathered laying hens. Treatments included Unclipped (N = 18), Half-Clipped with primaries removed (N = 18) and Fully-Clipped with the primaries and secondaries removed (N = 18). The mass and PCSA of the PECT and SUPRA did not vary significantly with treatment. Thus, laying hen muscle anatomy may be relatively resistant to changes in external wing morphology. We observed significant differences in EMS among treatments, as Unclipped birds exhibited the greatest EMS. This suggests that intact wings provide the greatest stimulus of external force for the primary flight muscles.

Original languageEnglish
Article number230817
JournalRoyal Society Open Science
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 29 2023


  • estimated muscle stress
  • feather loss
  • keel bone
  • laying hen
  • physiological cross-sectional area


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