Page Banner

United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Research Project: MICROBIAL INTERACTIONS AND INTERVENTIONS TO REDUCE TRANSMISSION OF FOODBORNE PATHOGENS THROUGH POULTRY

Location: Food and Feed Safety Research

Title: Behavioral responses of laying hens to different alfalfa-layer ration combinations fed during molting

Authors
item Dunkley, C - TX A&M UNIVERSITY
item Kim, W - TX A&M UNIVERSITY
item Friend, T - TX A&M UNIVERSITY
item Woodward, C - TX A&M UNIVERSITY
item McReynolds, Jackson
item Dunkley, K - TX A&M UNIVERSITY
item Kubena, Leon
item Nisbet, David
item Ricke, Steven - TX A&M UNIVERISTY

Submitted to: Poultry Science
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: February 20, 2008
Publication Date: April 20, 2008
Citation: Dunkley, C.S., Kim, W.K., Friend, T.H., Woodward, C.L., McReynolds, J.L., Dunkley, K.D., Kubena, L.F., Nisbet, D.J., Ricke, S.C. 2008. Behavioral responses of laying hens to different alfalfa-layer ration combinations fed during molting. Poultry Science. 87:1005-1011.

Interpretive Summary: Over the last several years molting practices of the egg laying industries have been criticized by activist groups. The intent of our study was to further analyze the behavior of hens being fed alfalfa during an induced molt. We measured the nonnutritive pecking, feeder activity, drinking, walking, preening, head-movement and aggression. Our studies showed that an alfalfa diet could serve as an alternative to feed withdrawal for inducing a molt in laying hens. Hens fed the alfalfa adjusted well to the diet based on reduced nonnutritive pecking behavior and greater feed activity compared to feed withdrawal hens. This data shows that the stresses of molting can be significantly reduced by administering a supplemental diet.

Technical Abstract: Several dietary alternatives to feed withdrawal have been proposed to induce a molt in laying hens. This study compared the behavior of laying hens on an alfalfa crumble diet (ALC) to hens which were either full-fed (FF) or hens which had feed withdrawn (FW) during a 9 day trial. Each treatment consisted of 24 hens (three hens per battery cage) and treatment commenced after a two week acclimation period. Video cameras connected to a digital multiplexer recorded the behavior of the hens. The percentages of observations performing nonnutritive pecking, feeder activity, drinking, walking, preening, head-movement and, aggression, were quantified for two 10 min periods at daily intervals. No significant differences were observed in head movement among the treatments. The walking activity of the FW hens began to decline after d 2 and was significantly lower than the other groups on d 4, 6, and 7. All hens were observed preening and it was only on d 7 that a significant increase occurred in the FW and ALC hens when compared to the FF group. Both the FW hens and the ALC hens spent less (P less than or equal to 0.05) time than the FF hens in drinking with the exception of d 7 when the ALC hens were not significantly different from the FF hens. The FW hens spent less time than the ALC hens on d 3 and 6. Nonnutritive pecking behavior was greater (P less than or equal to 0.001) in the FW hens the ALC hens on some of the days but was similar on d 3, 5 and 6 of the trial. The ALC hens spent more (P less than or equal to 0.05) time than the FF hens in nonnutritive pecking behavior from d 2 to 8. The ALC hens spent less (P less than or equal to 0.05) time visiting the feeder than the FF hens at the beginning of the molt. The FW hens’ visits to the feeders declined as the trial proceeded. In summary, the ALC diet showed potential as an alternative to feed withdrawal for inducing a molt in laying hens and these hens appeared to adjust to the diet based on reduced nonnutritive pecking behavior and greater feed activity compared to feed withdrawal hens.

Last Modified: 7/25/2014
Footer Content Back to Top of Page