The incidence of dead on arrival (DOA) birds was surveyed over 33 broiler, 11 turkey, and 19 spent hen abattoirs representing the majority (around 70%) of the Italian poultry slaughter plants. Data were recorded monthly during a 4-yr period (August 2001 to July 2005), considering a total of 1266 million chicken broilers, 118 million turkeys, and 54 million spent hens, which represent 67.7, 84.0, and 28.4% of the national production, respectively. The overall average incidence of DOA was found to be 0.35, 0.38, and 1.22% in broilers, turkeys, and spent hens, respectively. The season significantly (P < or = 0.01) influenced the mortality of all considered poultry categories, with higher incidence being observed during the summer (0.47, 0.52, and 1.62% for broilers, turkeys, and spent layers, respectively). The incidence of DOA broilers was found to be lower in small slaughter plants compared with medium and large slaughter plants (0.28 vs. 0.38 and 0.35%, P < or = 0.01). The data obtained in this study might be used for establishing limit values of DOA as a welfare indicator during the preslaughter time of birds, including catching, loading, transportation, and lairage.