Current Research at the Ontario Poultry Research Centre

The following is a list of current projects at the Arkell Poultry Research Centre.

These research summaries are a new initiative started in 2020 committed to increasing awareness of the projects being undertaken at the Research Centres. This is not an exhaustive list, but a snapshot of ongoing projects. Note that some projects may remain unlisted if they are protected intellectual property. 

Research Centres are a key part of the research process. While a portion of a project may be completed at a research centre, further analysis can occur after projects have left the facility. The projects listed here are those that are currently underway of have recently completed the research centre portion of the project. 

If you have any questions about ongoing research at the research station please email

Update regarding COVID-19

The Alliance is committed to ensuring the health and safety of staff, animals, researchers and the community. We are following guidance set out by the University of Guelph’s Office of Research with respect to biosecurity and research activities during COVID-19. Please keep in mind the status of projects may change as the response to this pandemic evolves.

Current research studies

Click to see a summary of each project.

Research summary
Objective To determine how poultry digest and absorb nutrients when reared on antibiotic-free feeding programs and how these relate to growth and development. 
Benefit to Agri-food This project will provide new information on how antibiotic-free feeding programs affect intestinal development and function in broilers and contribute to the development of effective antibiotic-free starter diets.
Research summary
Objective To examine the effects of dietary omega-3 fatty acids supplementation on various reproductive outcomes of broiler breeder hens as well as the health and performance of their offspring. This project will also evaluate the nutritive value and metabolic implications of feeding a flaxseed based source of omega-3 fatty acids in broiler breeders.  
Benefit to Agri-food

By supplying adequate amounts of dietary omega-3 fatty acids to broiler breeders, these nutrients will be transferred to the yolk and be accessible to the developing embryo, leading to more resilient broiler chicks. This method may provide an alternative approach to establishing a healthy gastrointestinal tract in broiler chicks at hatching as a replacement to the use of antimicrobial growth promoters. Moreover, omega-3 fatty acids will improve broiler breeder reproductive parameters such as fertility and hatchability.

Research summary


  1. determine how well amino acids from common poultry feeds are digested by Ontario broiler chickens during an enteric disease challenge; and
  2. determine whether amino acids that are needed from feed sources become limiting in broiler chickens fed antibiotic-free diets.
Benefit to Agri-food

This study aims to improve poultry farmers' productivity and profitability by working to develop an optimal antibiotic-free diet to enhance nutrient absorption and utilization by broiler chickens.

Research summary
Objective To determine whether wing use or disuse during young hen growth leads to keel bone damage (KBD) in adult laying hens.
Benefit to Agri-food Findings from this study could help reduce the incidence of injury and improve hen health and welfare, as well as help reduce a loss of productivity stemming from KBD.
Research summary

Short-term objectives include:

  1. comparing the effects of different commerical housing environments for young hens on various developmental outcomes; and
  2. determining the effects of hen strain, age and exercise during early growth stages on bone response to mechanical stimuli and calcium homeostasis.

Long-term objectives include:

  1. to advance understanding of the bone biology of laying hens; and
  2. to identify practices for housing and managing different strains of hens that result in a successful adaptation to a complex housing environment.
Benefit to Agri-food This project will provide insight into the effects of different housing environments on young hen development, which could inform producer selection of rearing housing environments and management practices for young hens.
Research summary


  1. identify the body weight and body composition thresholds wherein sexual maturation occurs spontaneously in brown versus white egg laying hen strains; 
  2. describe the biological signals responsible for activating and/or inhibiting the reproductive axis in commercial egg laying hens;
  3. determine whether different environments in which poultry are raised affect the biological threshold needed to activate the reproductive axis in young hens; and
  4. determine the impact of early and/or delayed sexual maturation on skeletal health.
Benefit to Agri-food This research aims to generate clearer direction for the management of young hen environments and nutrition in non-cage systems to ensure healthy and productive adult laying hens.



Research summary


  1. develop and validate a new identification and quantification technique for Eimeria species in coccidiosis (a parasitic disease) in poultry;
  2. apply this technique in commercial poultry farms in southern Ontario; and
  3. test the utility of the technique for monitoring coccidiosis-vaccinated commercial poultry flocks.
Benefit to Agri-food This project will benefit poultry farmers by improving identification and quantification of Eimeria species of coccidiosis in poultry, helping to improve management strategies and disease control on-farm.