VOLUNATRY FEEDING RESTRICTION KEEPS WEIGHT OF BROODY HEN DOWN

Discussion in 'Chicken Behaviors and Egglaying' started by centrarchid, Aug 9, 2013.

  1. centrarchid

    centrarchid Chicken Obsessed

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    Holts Summit, Missouri
    During the production season I have several broody hens running about at any given moment. It has been interesting to observe the very consistent pattern of weight change associated with the broody cycle. Hens are at peak weight at start of egg deposition and declines slowly as clutch is laid. Once clutch is set and incubation starts the hens foraging activity is restricted to about on hour each day and feeding during that time is voracious. Despite the aggressive feeding and typically good crop fill the hens weight drops steadily over the 21-day incubation period. During the last 36 to 72 hours on the nest (which usually is in addition to the 21-day incubation period) feeding often stops with hens not being provided feed near by. The weight drops even further then so that when hen leaves nest with brood her weight is usually only about 2/3
    s that of when first egg was laid. For the first few days following coming off nest her weight may drop even further since foraging activity is limited by need of chicks to balance nutritional and thermoregulatory needs. The hen's feed intake I assumed was limited by her inability to invest time in foraging and giving chicks first dibs on choicest items. My interest was in shortening the refractory period between broods so I have been trying restore hen weight faster through supplying supplemental feed for chicks (in addition to natural forage) that hen can consume free-choice. Such feed has been a bit rich on protein side relative to feed normally given to adults and I did not watch consumption closely but recently have found broody hens do not consume enough for crop fill like other hens do. I thought this might be a function of the feed used so I mixed in layer pellets and intact corn to see if feed intake increased. The hens consumed those items preferentially but still no crop fill. Over last few days I brought out big guns and began supply mealworms with sunflower seed based bird feed free-choice in addition to other items normally consumed preferentially. Feed intake still did not increase enough for crop fill and weight increase. For some reason hens are voluntarily restricting feed intake even choicest item types are not limiting. Why?
     
  2. sourland

    sourland Broody Magician Premium Member

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    Interesting. I have not a clue as to the reason.
     

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