The effect of choice-feeding from 7 weeks of age on the production characteristics of laying hens
AbstractDay-old Amberlink pullets were fed chicken starter mash for the first seven weeks of age. Group A was choice-fed with pelleted protein concentrate, whole yellow maize and limestone powder from seven to 16 weeks of age. Group B received the same diet as group A, but the protein concentrate was fed in mash form. Group C (control treatment) received a pullet grower diet in mash form. The pullets were placed in individual laying cages from 16-80 weeks of age. The choice-fed groups received feedstuffs from three separate troughs (i.e. whole maize, protein concentrate and limestone powder), and group C received a layer diet in mash form. Hens offered the choice-fed diets were heavier (P < 0.05) at 16 weeks and at first egg than hens fed the control diet, even though they ate less food (group A: 66.1 g/d; group B: 66.4 g/d) than the control group (68.2 g/d). During the laying period (16-80 weeks), hens offered the choice-fed diets laid significantly (P < 0.01) heavier eggs, eggs with thicker shells, eggs with darker yolks and had better food conversion ratios than those fed the control diet. No significant differences between treatments were observed for eggs laid per hen, food consumed per day or Haugh unit score. Choice feeding was found to be beneficial for laying hens, and it appeared that early commencement of the regime was necessary for optimum output.
(South African Journal of Animal Science, 2000, 30(2): 110-114)