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Non-Fast Molting

Many producers are now using programs to induce molting which do not involve fasting of the birds because of welfare concerns. The Hy-Line laying hens will perform very well after a rest, particularly in the latter weeks of the molt cycle with excellent shell quality and persistency. The optimum age for molting depends on the current flocks' performance, local egg markets, and scheduling of the next pullet flock, but is usually around 65 weeks.
 
Induced molting can extend the productive life of a flock by improving rate of lay, shell quality, and albumen height. However, these levels will be somewhat lower than the best pre-molt values. Egg size will essentially remain unaffected and will continue to increase after egg production resumes.
 
A flock can be induced to cease laying by a variety of methods. A welfare-oriented non-fast molting method has been developed that results in post-molt performance equivalent to that of fasting methods. Free access to water at all times during the non-fast molt is essential. It is important to know the sodium (Na) content of the drinking water. High sodium levels (i.e., 100 ppm or higher) can adversely affect this type of molt program.
 
The best post-molt egg production is achieved after a complete cessation of egg production that lasts for at least 2 weeks and a concomitant loss of body weight to the 18-week target weight (although, in the case of heavy birds, it is not recommended that the body weight loss exceed 24 to 25% of the pre-molt body weight for white laying hens and 21 to 22% for brown laying hens). After the initial body weight loss, the body weight can be held steady by a combination of adjusting the number of feedings per day and/or a shift to a higher-energy (laying-hen-type) diet.
 
Because of the importance of the body weight loss during molt, it is recommeded to closely monitor the body weight of the flock during the molt process. Body weights should be collected twice per week from the same cages every time. The cages should be selected from bottom, middle, and top tiers; all rows; and from the front, middle, and end of the house.
 
The following table outlines the recommendations for the non-fast molting program recommended by Hy-Line. Note that there are many different successful methods to molt laying hens.

Non-fast molting recommendations

1Include a probiotic or a complex-carbohydrate product (e.g., mannan-oligo-saccharide; MOS) at 0.5 kg per metric ton (1 lb per 2000 lb) finished diet through all stages of the molt program.
2Feed intake depends on house temperature. Lower temperatures (colder) may require more feed.
3Depends on air quality in house. The suggested house temperatures may not be achievable in cold weather.
4Set lights at 8 hours or natural day length in open-sided houses. Normally, it is not necessary to change the light intensity.
5The molt diet is high in fiber (low in energy) and contains no added sodium (Na) (i.e., no added NaCl or NaHCO3).
6Light stimulate the birds to bring the birds into production by increasing the light hours to the number of hours they were given before the molt (e.g., 15 or 16 hours). This increase can be performed over 1 week (i.e., from 8 hours to 16 hours in a single day) or over 2 weeks (i.e., from 8 to 12 hours and then from 12 to 16 hours). Monitor and control feed intake for the first few days after light stimulation to avoid fat birds as they are getting back into lay (which would significantly increase egg weight in the second cycle).
7Please refer to the post-molt nutrition recommendations for the individual Hy-Line variety in the Performance Standards Manual.

Molt Diet
The molt diet is a low-energy, high-fiber diet with no added salt or sodium bicarbonate (such that all the sodium, Na, comes from the feed ingredients themselves). It should still contain trace minerals and vitamins to supply nutrients for a non-producing hen. The energy and nutrient recommendations for the molt diet is shown in the table below. In the United States, such a diet is made using corn grain and about 20% soybean hulls (plus vitamins and minerals).

Molt diet nutritional recommendations

1The recommended energy range is based on the energy values shown for the individual feed ingredients. Differences in the metabolizable energy value assigned to feed ingredients of the same name can differ substantially; in some cases, the recommended dietary energy content may have to be adjusted accordingly (see the Energy section).
2Total amino acids are only appropriate with a corn and soybean meal diet; please formulate the diet on a digestible amino acid basis if a substantial amount of other protein-supplying ingredients are used.
3The added calcium carbonate (limestone) should be particle sizes of less than 2 mm.
4The sodium (Na) content in the Molt Diet should not exceed 0.035%.

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