Effects of timing and duration of feed restriction during rearing on reproductive characteristics in broiler breeder females.
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The objective of this study was to determine whether there exists a critical period during rearing when restricted feeding of broiler breeder hens can be most beneficial on subsequent egg production. Broiler breeder pullets were subjected to combinations of either ad libitum or restricted feeding during three periods before sexual maturity. Body weight gain, feed intake, and egg production were recorded. Ovary and oviduct weights were noted at age of first oviposition. At 15 and 18 wk of age and at age of first oviposition, chicken luteinizing hormone releasing hormone-I (cLHRH-I) in the median eminence and the levels of luteinizing hormone (LH) and follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) in the pituitary and plasma were determined. The results demonstrated that alternation between ad libitum and restricted feeding during rearing changed the growth curves of the birds. Feed restriction from 7 to 15 wk followed by either ad libitum or restricted feeding led to improved reproductive performance, suggesting that long-term feed restriction may not be necessary to attain good reproductive performance. The birds restricted from 7 to 15 wk of age had higher proportional weights of ovary (> or = 1.7%) and oviduct (> or = 1.58%) at age of sexual maturity. The cLHRH-I levels in the median eminence and gonadotrophin contents in the pituitary followed that of growth in response to feeding levels and timing of feeding and could be related to the timing of the onset of lay. At age of first egg, all groups had similar levels of cLHRH-I, LH, and FSH. However, no clear effect of level of feed intake or time period of restriction could be observed for plasma LH or FSH concentrations.