Alfalfa as a single dietary source for molt induction in laying hens
ABSTRACT Molting is a process by which a hen’s reproductive tract is rejuvenated prior to the beginning of a laying cycle. This process is often artificially induced in commercial settings in order to extend the productive life of a flock of hens. The most common method for the induction of molt is feed withdrawal for a period of several days. It has been noted that feed withdrawal, while effective in inducing molt and allowing an adequate reproductive rest period for the hen, may cause deleterious effects on the animal. This has prompted the investigation of alternatives to feed deprivation for the induction of molt in commercial laying hens. This study involved feeding alfalfa to hens to assess its ability to induce molt. Results show that alfalfa meal and alfalfa pelleted diets were equally effective as feed withdrawal in causing ovary weight regression in birds. Molted hens induced by alfalfa diets exhibited postmolt levels of egg production over a twelve week period that were similar to that of hens molted by feed withdrawal. The postmolt eggs laid by hens molted by alfalfa were of comparable quality to eggs from feed deprived hens. Alfalfa, a fibrous feed with low metabolizable energy, may be provided to hens on an ad libitum basis for an effective molt induction that retains comparable egg quality and production.