The effect of dietary alterations during rearing on feather condition in broiler breeder females.

Morrissey, K.L.H., Widowski, T.M., Leeson, S., Sandilands, V., Arnone, A., and Torrey, S. (2014). "The effect of dietary alterations during rearing on feather condition in broiler breeder females.", Poultry Science, 93(7), pp. 1636-1643. doi : 10.3382/ps.2013-03822  Access to full text


In commercial production, broiler breeders are severely feed restricted to maintain healthy BW. This restriction can induce stereotypic behavior, including feather pecking, which has negative welfare implications for both the victim and performer. It has been suggested that the problem may be symptomatic of chronic hunger or the frustration of feeding motivation. In this study, we determined whether feather condition, as an indirect measure of feather pecking, could be improved via dietary manipulation. Six dietary treatments were tested, each with 5 replicate pens of 9 to 12 birds. Control diets (C) were fed on a daily or skip-a-day (SAD) basis. Alternative diets included soybean hulls as a bulking ingredient and calcium propionate (CaP) as an appetite suppressant of either a feed grade (F) or purified (P) quality. Both alternative diets were fed on either a daily or SAD basis. Five or 6 birds were randomly chosen from each pen and feather scored at 10, 14, 20, 26, and 36 wk of age. Six body parts (neck, back, wings, legs, vent area, tail) were given a score from 0 to 5 (0 = no feather damage, and 5 ≥ 50% feather loss with tissue damage). Scores were summed for each bird and averaged for each pen. Data were analyzed with room and feeding frequency as main factors and diet as the subfactor with repeated measures. There was an interaction between diet and time (P < 0.01) with the feather condition of the C birds worsening more quickly in comparison with the F and P birds. There was an interaction between feeding frequency and time (P = 0.015), with SAD-fed birds scoring better than daily-fed birds at 20, 26, and 36 wk. This interaction could indicate that SAD feeding increased satiety after the birds became accustomed to the schedule. Because feather condition was better with the alternative diets, this may indicate a reduction in stereotyped feather pecking with these diets. This suggests that the alternative diets increase satiety compared with the control diets.

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