Influence of different dietary fibre contents in the diet on feather pecking, locomotor activity and performance of laying hens

1. This trial investigated the effects of three diets with increasing proportions of insoluble dietary fibre (3%, 6% and 9%) but with similar metabolisable energy on behaviour, plumage condition and laying performance of Lohmann Tradition hens.

2. At 21 weeks of age, four groups of 20 hens each (= four replicates/treatment) were randomly assigned to one of the three feeding treatments and exclusively fed with their assigned feed until the end of the laying period.

3. Severe feather pecking decreased with increasing fibre content (3%: 0.78 pecks/30min/hen, 6%: 0.31, 9%: 0.12; P<0.0001). In contrast, no effect of fibre was seen for gentle feather pecking (P=0.19) and aggressive pecking (P=0.84). The number of free feathers in the littered area increased with increasing fibre content (3%: 0.06 feathers/625cm2/hen, 6%: 0.09, 9%: 0.16; P=0.0074). Over time plumage quality worsened in all hens, but was consistently better with increasing fibre content (fibre content x sampling period; P<0.0001). Locomotor activity was similar across all treatments, except for a slight decrease in hens fed the 3% fibre diet at the end of the experimental period. No effect of fibre content on hens’ weight (P=0.75) was detectable. Similarly, performance did not differ between hens fed varying dietary fibre.

4. The results supported the assumption that increasing dietary fibre helps to reduce the risk for the occurrence of feather pecking in laying hens, i.e., improve well-being, while having no negative effects on performance.



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