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Nest acceptance, clutch, and oviposition traits are promising selection criteria to improve egg production in cage-free system

Abstract : In cage-free systems, laying hens must lay their eggs in the nests. Selecting layers based on nesting behavior would be a good strategy for improving egg production in these breeding systems. However, little is known about the genetic determinism of nest-related traits. Laying rate in the nests (LRN), clutch number (CN), oviposition traits (OT), and nest acceptance for laying (NAL) of 1,430 Rhode Island Red (RIR) hens and 1,008 White Leghorn (WL) hens were recorded in floor pens provided with individual electronic nests. Heritability and genetic and phenotypic correlations of all traits were estimated over two recording periods–the peak (24–43 weeks of age) and the middle (44–64 weeks of age) of production–by applying the restricted maximum likelihood method to an animal model. The mean oviposition time (MOT) ranged from 2 h 5 min to 3 h and from 3 h 35 min to 3 h 44 min after turning on the lights for RIR and WL hens, respectively. The mean oviposition interval ranged from 24 h 3 min to 24 h 16 min. All heritability and correlation estimates were similar for RIR and WL. Low to moderate heritability coefficients were estimated for LRN (0.04–0.25) and moderate to high heritability coefficients for CN and OT (0.27–0.68). CN and OT were negatively genetically correlated with LRN (-0.92 to -0.39) except during peak production for RIR (-0.30 to +0.43). NAL was weakly to moderately heritable (0.13–0.26). Genetic correlations between NAL and other traits were low to moderate (-0.41 to +0.44). In conclusion, CN and OT are promising selection criteria to improve egg production in cage-free systems. NAL can be also used to reduce the number of eggs laid off-nest in these breeding systems. However, variability in MOT must be maintained to limit competition for the nests.
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Submitted on : Tuesday, June 1, 2021 - 9:59:40 AM
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Lorry Bécot, Nicolas Bédère, Thierry Burlot, Jenna Coton, Pascale Le Roy. Nest acceptance, clutch, and oviposition traits are promising selection criteria to improve egg production in cage-free system. PLoS ONE, Public Library of Science, 2021, 16 (5), ⟨10.1371/journal.pone.0251037⟩. ⟨hal-03243919⟩

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