Chickens: Forced Molting

Since my major is animal science I feel the need to bring up issues in animal welfare. As you probably know, there are many issues concerning livestock production. Each animal seems to have an issue that needs to be addressed. Since a lot of people consume chickens (and chicken by-products), I thought it would be a good idea to bring up one aspect that the market that faces issues. Eggs. Before I have you read the article that I will be analyzing, you need some background in chickens.

There are essentially two types of chickens you need to know about: broiler and laying. They both end up on your plate, unless you’re a vegetarian or vegan. Broilers are utilized for their meat production. Laying hens are used for their egg production. I will be focusing on laying hens for this post.

Another term you should know is molting. According to Nutrena (animal feed company), “losing feathers and re-growing them is called molting and occurs every year when the days get shorter.” Kind of sucks because when the days get shorter we just put on more clothes (winter is coming). Those poor suckers have to lose all of their feathers. While molting occurs, egg production stops¬†momentarily and energy is geared towards using protein for new feathers to push through. Molting can take any where from 3 to 12 weeks, depending upon the bird. After molting occurs, eggs are usually larger from that period of rest.

Now that you have a couple facts about chickens tucked into your memory bank I can talk more about what is happening within the industry of producing eggs from these feathered friends.

If you’re a producer larger eggs = $$$. Hens naturally go through molting during the fall, but consumers demand eggs constantly so molting has to be forced (for those large eggs). Forced molting can be done by fasting (removing food) hens for a number of days and restricting the amount of light available. The article I found presents a different method that would not be so harsh as to removing food from the hens. Click on the word (CHICKENS!) below to read the article.

CHICKENS!

The experiment in the article was looking for another way to induce molting in chickens. They found that instead of fasting the chickens, a producer could supplement 15 grams of feed per day per chicken on a corn-soybean meal diet to produce healthier molting and egg production.

In the introduction of the article the author mentions how animal welfare has become an increasing concern within the last few years. More people are becoming aware of how their food is produced and they’re concerned. Minimizing stress on the animal is a top priority from consumers. Forced-molting methods are becoming looked down upon, especially from countries other than the U.S. and European Union. There could be a lot lost business if practices are not changed to please consumers.

Changing the production of eggs could definitely have an impact on large producers. Instead of having the chickens fast, which would’ve meant spending less money on feed, new welfare regulations would increase the cost of feed. There are many other things that would most likely have to be changed as well. A lot of factors have to be considered when changing a process.

  1. http://www.scielo.br/scielo.php?script=sci_arttext&pid=S1516-635X2009000200006
  2. http://www.epa.gov/agriculture/ag101/printpoultry.html
  3. http://www.nutrenaworld.com/knowledge-center/poultry/the-molting-process/index.jsp
  4. http://animalrights.about.com/od/FactoryFarming/f/Starving-Egg-laying-Hens-So-That-They-Will-Produce-More.htm
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One thought on “Chickens: Forced Molting

  1. It is a very interesting process that I did not know about when going to my local grocery store and purchasing a few dozen eggs. I had no idea that when a chicken goes through the molting process, that this is the time when their eggs are the largest. I just assumed that the fatter the chicken, the bigger the egg. Silly me.

    I liked the way that your blog was very easy to read and understand. By defining each of the processes and types of chickens, I was able to really understand what you were talking about. I also think that it is very interesting that forced molting can be done in a humane way. In the last few decades, animal welfare has been very important to us as a whole. Thinking of a chicken starving, just so we can have eggs a little bigger is extremely sad.

    It was a very informative and interesting article. Good job!

    Like

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