The effects of feed restriction, time of day and time since feeding on behavioral and physiological indicators of hunger in broiler breeder hens

LM Dixon*, Ian C. Dunn, Sarah Brocklehurst, LJ Baker, Tim Boswell, Sarah D Caughey, Angus MA Reid, V Sandilands, Peter W. Wilson, RB D'Eath

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Citations (Scopus)
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Broiler breeder chickens are commercially feed restricted to slow their growth and improve their health and production, however, there is research demonstrating that this leads to chronic hunger resulting in poor welfare. A challenge in these studies is to account for possible daily rhythms or the effects of time since last meal on measures relating hunger. To address this, we used 3 feed treatments: AL (ad libitum fed), Ram (restricted, fed in the morning), and Rpm (restricted, fed in the afternoon) to control for diurnal effects. We then conducted foraging motivation tests and collected home pen behavior and physiological samples at 4 times relative to feeding throughout a 24-h period. The feed treatment had the largest influence on the data, with AL birds weighing more, having lower concentrations of plasma NEFA, and mRNA expression of AGRP and NPY alongside higher expression of POMC in the basal hypothalamus than Ram or Rpm birds (P < 0.001). R birds were more successful at and had a shorter latency to complete the motivation test, and did more walking and less feeding than AL birds in the home pen (P < 0.01). There was little effect of time since last meal on many measures (P > 0.05) but AGRP expression was highest in the basal hypothalamus shortly after a meal (P < 0.05), blood plasma NEFA was higher in R birds just before feeding (P < 0.001) and glucose was higher in Ram birds just after feeding (P < 0.001), and the latency to complete the motivation test was shortest before the next meal (P < 0.05). Time of day effects were mainly found in the difference in activity levels in the home pen when during lights on and lights off periods. In conclusion, many behavioral and physiological hunger measures were not significantly influenced by time of day or time since the last meal. For the measures that do change, future studies should be designed so that sampling is balanced in such a way as to minimize bias due to these effects.

Original languageEnglish
Article number101838
JournalPoultry Science
Issue number5
Early online date10 Mar 2022
Publication statusPrint publication - May 2022


  • behavior
  • broiler breeder
  • hunger
  • physiology
  • welfare


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