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Research article2014Peer reviewedOpen access

Corticosterone metabolites in laying hen droppings-Effects of fiber enrichment, genotype, and daily variations

Alm, Malin; Holm, Lena; Tauson, Ragnar; Wall, Helena


There is growing interest and concern for animal welfare in commercial poultry production. To evaluate stress and welfare in an objective and noninvasive way, fecal corticosterone metabolites (FCM) in droppings can be analyzed. However, the influence of diet, genotype, and daily variations in FCM and production of droppings in laying hens has been poorly investigated. This study examined the effect of insoluble fiber by adding 3% ground straw pellets to the feed to Lohmann Selected Leghorn (LSL) and Lohmann Brown (LB) hens housed in furnished cages between 20 and 40 wk of age. In total, 960 hens were included in the study. Droppings were collected 4 times per day for 3 consecutive days and analyzed by corticosterone immunoassay. Biological validation confirmed the ability of the assay to detect changes in FCM levels. Inclusion of straw pellets in the feed increased FCM concentration in both hen genotypes and increased excretion rate of FCM in LB hens. The LB hens also produced greater amounts of droppings than LSL hens. Both FCM levels and production of droppings varied during the day, although no distinct diurnal rhythm was found. These findings demonstrate that when using FCM to evaluate stress and welfare in laying hens, many factors (e.g., diet, genotype used, and so on) need to be taken into account to allow accurate interpretation of the results. In addition, under certain conditions, excretion rate of FCM might be more appropriate to use compared with FCM concentration.


laying hen; corticosterone metabolite; fiber; genotype; daily variation

Published in

Poultry Science
2014, Volume: 93, number: 10, pages: 2615-2621