Do Low-Density Diets Improve Broiler Breeder Welfare During Rearing and Laying.

I.C. de Jong, H. Enting, A. van Voorst, H.J. Blokhuis

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

49 Citations (Scopus)


Low-density diets may improve welfare of restricted fed broiler breeders by increasing feed intake time with less frustration of feed intake behavior as a result. Moreover, low-density diets may promote satiety through a more filled gastrointestinal tract, and thus feelings of hunger may be reduced. Broiler breeders were fed 4 different diets during the rearing and laying periods. Behavioral and physiological parameters were measured at different ages as indicators of hunger and frustration of the feeding motivation. A diet of 8.4 MJ/kg as compared with a standard diet of 10.9 MJ/kg extended feeding time and reduced stereotypic object pecking at 6 and 10 wk of age. Furthermore, compensatory feed intake at 12 wk of age was reduced. During lay, differences in behavior were observed between the treatments that could be attributed to differences in feeding time. However, birds fed the diet with the lowest energy content (i.e., 9.2 MJ/kg) had higher heterophil to lymphocyte ratios (H/L) at 40 wk of age compared with the other treatments, indicating that they experienced more stress during the laying period than the other treatments. This result could have been due to the very long feeding time of this treatment group during lay, which may be stressful. In conclusion, a low-density diet of 8.4 MJ/kg may reduce hunger and frustration in the first half of the rearing period. However, for substantial improvement of broiler breeder welfare during rearing, more extreme diet modifications are required
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)194-203
JournalPoultry Science
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2005


  • quantitative food restriction
  • high-fiber diets
  • feed restriction
  • pregnant sows
  • oral behavior
  • fed fowls
  • females
  • corticosterone
  • stress
  • stereotypies

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