A recent study has demonstrated the significant benefits of adding omega three fatty acids to the diet of laying hens: a 40-60% reduction in keel bone breakages, a corresponding reduction in severity of breakages and an increase in overall bone quality (Tarlton JF et al 2013). Omega three polyunsaturated fatty acids can easily be added to the diet of layer hens with commercially available supplements such as ElancoT Poultry Tonic HD Plus which contains 500mg of omega three per litre.
Standard chicken diets are rich in omega- six polyunsaturated fatty acids, which are the precursors to mediators of inflammation and bone resorption.
In contrast, dietary omega-three polyunsaturated fatty acids are precursors to mediators that help promote immune function and enhanced bone turnover.
Investigators at Bristol University studied the effects of supplementing the diets of free range housed hens with omega three, compared to a standard diet rich in omega six, over three years, There was a 40% to 60% reduction in the rate and severity of keel bone fractures in the supplemented hens, which had significantly better quality skeletal bone in terms of density, mineral content, volume, and mechanical properties compared to hens fed a standard diet. Bone fragility is one of the major economic and welfare issues affecting laying hens, it’s estimated that up to 95% of free range hens suffer breaks during laying in some housing systems. Based on these study results the investigators suggested that diet supplementation with omega three could lead to 68 million fewer hens suffering from keel fractures in the EU each year, which is a tremendous improvement in health standards. The evidence from this study suggests omega three may also have potential benefits in humans suffering from osteoporosis.
These results demonstrate that a relatively simple dietary modification through correct supplementation can potentially improve the egg production, health and welfare of millions of layer hens.
Reference: Tarlton JF et al. Reduced bone breakage and increased bone strength in free range laying hens fed omega-three polyunsaturated fatty acid supplemented diets. Bone 2013;52(2):578-586
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