Effects of feeding strategies during lay on broiler breeder production performance, eggshell quality, incubation traits, and behavior

van Emous, R.A.


An experiment was conducted to investigate the effects of a standard diet twice a day or split-feeding in broiler breeders on production performance, eggshell quality, incubation traits, and behavior. A total of 720 Ross 308 female breeders (45 weeks of age [WOA]) and 24 males (25 WOA) were randomly placed in 24 floor pens. The birds followed 3 feeding strategies: 1) Standard breeder diet fed once a day (100% at 0730 h) (CON), 2) Standard breeder diet fed twice a day (50% at 0730 h and 50% at 1600 h) (TAD), and 3) Split-feeding fed twice a day, with a morning (0730 h) and afternoon (1600 h) diet (SF). The morning diet contained more energy, protein, and phosphorus (P) and less calcium (Ca) than the control and afternoon diets. The afternoon diet had lower energy, protein, and P and higher Ca content than the control and morning diets. The TAD and SF birds tended to have a lower water intake (P = 0.055) and water-to-feed ratio (P = 0.054) compared to the CON birds. A 2.1% points higher hen-day egg production was found for the SF birds compared to the CON birds (P = 0.063), whereas the TAD birds did not differ from the other treatments. No differences were found for egg weight, eggshell quality, fertility, embryonic mortality, or average feather cover. A tendency toward a higher albumen percentage (P = 0.060) and lower yolk percentage (P = 0.069) was found for the TAD birds compared to the SF birds. The albumen-to-yolk ratio was higher (P = 0.022) for the TAD birds than for the CON and SF birds. Due to the twice-a-day feed distribution, the TAD and SF birds showed considerably different behavioral patterns than the de CON birds. In conclusion, twice-a-day feeding decreases the water intake and water-to-feed ratio, whereas split-feeding tended to an improved egg production in broiler breeders. However, no effects were observed on eggshell quality and incubation traits, whereas the behavioral patterns of the birds fed twice a day differed considerably with potential better welfare.