The effect of dietary alterations during rearing on growth, productivity and behaviour in broiler breeder females
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Parent stocks of meat birds are severely feed restricted to avoid obesity-related health and fertility problems. This restriction often leads to chronic hunger, accompanied by stereotypic behavior. Research based in the United Kingdom has shown that using diets containing fiber and appetite suppressants may relieve some of the symptoms of hunger. However, few data are available regarding North American-sourced ingredients or nondaily feeding regimens. This study investigated the effects of 2 alternative diets, in combination with 2 feeding frequencies on growth, productivity, and behavior in broiler breeders. Six dietary treatments were tested, each with 5 replicate pens of 12 or 13 birds. Control diets consisted of a commercial crumble, fed on a daily or skip-a-day (SAD) basis. Alternative diets included soybean hulls as a fiber source, and calcium propionate as an appetite suppressant of either a feedgrade or purified quality, fed on either a daily or SAD basis. Birds were weighed weekly and egg production was recorded daily. Video cameras were used to record behavior during and following the morning feeding bout every 2 wk from 11 to 28 wk. Data were analyzed with a mixed model ANOVA, with repeated measures. Diet, feeding frequency, time, or an interaction of the 3 had significant effects on all observed behavior during rearing. These differences appeared to diminish during lay, with most stereotypic behavior no longer present. Very little object pecking and aggression was observed during and immediately following feeding bouts; however, daily-fed control birds still displayed this behavior more often, especially during rearing (P = 0.015). During feeding bouts, SAD birds feather pecked (P = 0.003) and rested more (P = 0.0002) than daily-fed birds. Control birds feather pecked most often (P = 0.033) after feeding bouts. Overall, the feed-grade diet appeared most effective at reducing hunger-related behavior, and the control diet appeared the least effective. There was little conclusive evidence to show that daily feeding was more effective at reducing hunger.
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