Impact of nutrition on welfare aspects of broiler breeder flocks

M.M. van Krimpen, I.C. de Jong

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

13 Citations (Scopus)


To ensure health and reproductive performance, broiler breeders are feed restricted during the rearing period and, to a lesser extent, during the production period. Although restricted feeding improves health and bird welfare, on the other hand the birds are chronically hungry and suffer from frustration of feeding motivation, which has a negative effect on bird welfare. The aim of the current paper is to give an overview of the role of feed (nutritional aspects as well as feeding management) as a possible tool to improve broiler breeder welfare. Possible strategies discussed are 1) dietary dilution, by reducing the energy content and/or increasing the NSP content, by adding soluble or insoluble fibres to the diet; 2) adding appetite suppressants (e.g. calcium propionate) to the diet; 3) changing feeding management (e.g., scattering feed in the litter). Some of these strategies, i.e. dietary dilution or adding appetite suppressants, positively affect behavioural patterns of the birds, by reducing stereotypic pecking and eating motivation, and increasing the time spent sitting. Appetite suppressants have however been criticised for causing birds to feel ill. These behavioural changes, however, can only be considered as indirect parameters of improved bird welfare and there is still a need for a reliable indicator of hunger. It is clear that nutritional strategies can be helpful in reducing hunger stress in broiler breeders. Nutrition, however, cannot fully solve the broiler breeder paradox. The main reason for this paradox is related to breeding goals that are focussed on improving feed conversion and increasing breast meat percentage. Future genetic selection should aim at uncoupling the link between (re)production and welfare or reducing the conflict between these outcomes.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)139-150
JournalWorlds Poultry Science Journal
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2014


  • low-density diets
  • quantitative food restriction
  • ovarian follicular hierarchy
  • fed representative 1957
  • feather-pecking line
  • laying hens
  • feed restriction
  • body-weight
  • growth-rate
  • gastrointestinal motility

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