Skip to main content
    • Aa
    • Aa

History, changing scenarios and future strategies to induce moulting in laying hens

  • M. YOUSAF (a1) and A.S. CHAUDHRY (a1)

Moulting is a natural phenomenon in birds during which they replace old plumage with new feathers, reduce feed intake, lose body weight and suspend reproduction. Moulting in laying hens can be induced by using photoperiods, feed deprivation or restriction or diets containing minerals or variable amounts of other ingredients. Induced moulting can result in higher egg production and improved quality. It reduces mortality, production costs and investments in new farms and hatcheries. While feed withdrawal has been a most effective way to induce moult in poultry birds, it is illegal on welfare grounds in the UK and Europe. This may have implications for the global poultry industry. Therefore, efforts to find a non feed removal method as a desirable alternative to induce moulting in poultry birds are underway in different countries. This paper reviews the history of induced moulting and its future implications by examining different methods that have been tested in the past and their potential to become a more acceptable alternative to feed removal method of inducing moulting in laying hens.

Corresponding author
Corresponding author:
Hide All
ADAMS J.L. (1955) Progesterone-induced unseasonable moult in single comb White Leghorn pullets. Poultry Science 34: 702-707.
ADAMS J.L. (1956) A comparison of different methods of progesterone administration to the fowl in affecting egg production and moult. Poultry Science 35: 323-326.
AHMED A.M.H., RODRIGUENZ-NAVARRO A.B., VIDAL M.L., GOUTRON J., GARCIA-RUIZ J.M. and NYS Y. (2005) Changes in the eggshell properties, crystallographic texture and in matrix proteins induced by moult in hens. British Poultry Science 46: 268-279.
AVMA (2002) New position on induced molting wins the favour. Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association (
BAR A., RAZAPHKOVSKY V., WAX E. and MALKA Y. (2001) Effect of age at molting on post-molting performance. Poultry Science 80: 874-878.
BAR A., RAZAPHKOVSKY V., SHINDER V. and VAX E. (2003) Alternative procedures for molt induction: Practical aspects. Poultry Science 82: 543-550.
BATTLEY P.F., PIERSMA T., DIETZ M.W., TANG S., DEKINGA A. and HULSMAN K. (2000) Empirical evidence for differential organ reductions during trans-oceanic bird flight. Proceedings of the Royal Society 267: 191195.
BELL D.D., SWANSON M.H. and JOHNSTON G. (1976) A comparison of force molting methods. Progress in Poultry. University of California Cooperative Extension, Davis, CA.
BELL D.D. (2003) Historical and current moulting practices in the U.S. table egg industry. Poultry Science 82: 965-970.
BELL D.D., CHASE B., DOUGLASS A., HESTER P., MENCH J., NEWBERRY R., SHEA-MOORE M., STANKER L., SWANSON J. and ARMSTRONG J. (2004) UEP uses scientific approach in its establishment of welfare guidelines. Feedstuffs 76(1): 13-21.
BERRY W.D. (2003) The physiology of induced molting. Poultry Science 82: 971-980.
BIGGS P.E., PERSIA M.E., KOELKEBECK K.W. and PARSONS C.M. (2004) Further evaluation of non feed removal methods for moulting programs. Poultry Science 83: 745-752.
BRAKE J. and THAXTON P. (1979) Physiological changes in caged layers during a forced moult. 1. Body temperature and selected blood constituents. Poultry Science 58: 699-707.
BREEDING S.W., BRAKE J. and GARLICH J.D. (1992) Moult induced by dietary zinc in a low calcium diet. Poultry Science 71: 168-180.
BURKE W.H. and ATTIA Y.A. (1994) Moulting single comb White Leghorns with the use of the Lupron Depot formulation of leuprolide acetate. Poultry Science 73: 1226-1232.
BURTON M. and BURTON R. (1980). The New International Wildlife Encyclopedia. N.C.L.C. Limited, London UK.
BUTLER P.J. and WOAKES A.J. (1990) The physiology of bird flight. In: Bird Migration (ed. E. Gwinner), pp. 300–318. Berlin: Springer.
CANTOR A.H. and JOHNSON T.H. (1984) Inducing pauses in egg production of Japanese quail with dietary zinc. Poultry Science 63 (Suppl. 1): 10 (Abstr.).
CHOWDHURY V.S., NOSHIBORI M. and YOSHIMURA Y. (2004) Changes of the mRNA expression of TGFβ receptor types II and III in the interior pituitary during induced molting in hens. Journal of Poultry Science 41: 140-146.
DAVIS G.K. (1974) High level copper feeding of swine and poultry. Federation Proceedings of American Societies for Experimental Biology 33: 1194-1196.
DECUYPERE E. and VERHEYEN G. (1986) Physiological basis of induced molting and tissue regeneration in fowls. World's Poultry Science Journal 42: 56-68.
DICKERMAN R.W. and BAHR J.M. (1989) Moult induced by gonadotrophin releasing hormone agonist as a model for studying endocrine mechanisms of moulting in laying hens. Poultry Science 68: 1402-1408.
DONALSON L.M., KIM W.K., WOODWARD C.L., HERRERA P., KUBENA L.F., NISBET D.J. and RICKE S.C. (2005) Utilizing different ratios of alfalfa and layer ration for molt induction and performance in commercial laying hens. Poultry Science 84: 362-369.
EDGE S. (1998) Moulting laying hens. ADAS Gleadthorpe Research Centre, Mansfield, Notts, UK.
EL-DEEK A.A. and AL-HARTHI M.A. (2004) Postmoult performance of broiler breeder hens associated with moult induced by feed restriction, high dietary zinc and fasting. International Journal of Poultry Science 3(7): 456-462.
ETCHES R.J., WILLIAMS J.B. and RZASA J. (1983) Corticosterone and nutritionally induced ovarian regression in the hen. Poultry Science 62: 1417 (Abstr.).
ETCHES R.J. (1984) Maturation of ovarian follicles in Cynnghan. Reproductive Biology of Poultry pp. 51-73.
FURR B.J.A., BONEY R.C., ENGLAND F.J. and CUNNINGHAM F.J. (1973) Luteinizing hormone and progesterone in peripheral blood during the ovulatory cycle of the hen (Gallus domesticus). Endocrinology 57: 159-169.
GAST R.K. and RICKE S.C. (2003) Symposium: Current and future prospects for induced moulting in laying hens. Poultry Science 82: 964.
GRIMINGER P. (1977) Effect of dietary copper sulphate on egg production and shell thickness. Poultry Science 56: 359-361.
HANSEN R.S. (1960) The effect of method of force moulting on reproductive performance of chickens. Poultry Science 39: 1257 (Abstr.).
HANSEN R.S. (1967) Periodic forced molting for a two-year lay. In: Pacific Poultryman (July), Watt Publishing, Mt. Morris, IL.pp. 24, 25, 60.
HARMS R.H. (1981) Effect of removing salt, sodium, or chloride from the diet of commercial layers. Poultry Science 70: 333-336.
HEMBREE D.J., ADAMS A.W. and CRAIJ J.V. (1980) Effects of force moulting by conventional and experimental light restriction method on performance and agonistic behaviour of hens. Poultry Science 59: 215-223.
HERREMANS M., VERHEYEN M. and DECUYPERE B. (1988) Effect of temperature during induced moulting on plumage renewal and subsequent production. British Poultry Science 29: 853-861.
HOLT P.S. (2003) Moulting and Salmonella enteritidis infection: The problem and some solutions. Poultry Science 82: 1008-1010.
HUSSEIN A.S. (1996) Induced moulting procedures in laying fowl. World's Poultry Science Journal 52: 175-187.
HUSSEIN A.S., CANTOR A.H. and JOHNSON T.H. (1988) Use of high dietary levels of aluminium and zinc for inducing pauses in egg production of Japanese quails. Poultry Science 67: 1157-1165.
HUSSEIN A.S., CANTOR A.H. and JOHNSON T.H. (1989) Comparison of the use of dietary aluminium with the use of feed restriction for forced moulting laying hens. Poultry Science 68: 891-896.
JOHNSON A.L. and VAN TIENHOVEN A. (1981) Plasma concentrations of sex steroids and LH during the ovulatory cycle of the hen, Gallus domesticus. Biology of Reproduction 23: 386-393.
KESHAVARZ K. and QUIMBY F.W. (2002) An investigation of different moulting techniques with an emphasis on animal welfare. Journal of Applied Poultry Research 11: 54-67.
KHOSHOEI E.A. and KHAJALI F. (2006) Alternative induced-moulting methods for continuous feed withdrawal and their influence on postmoult performance of laying hens. International Journal of Poultry Science 3(7): 47-50.
KIM W.K., DONALSON L.M., MITCHELL A.D., KUBENA L.F., NISBET D.J. and RICKE S.C. (2006) Effects of alfalfa and fructooligosaccharide on molting parameters and bone qualities using dual energy X-ray absorptiometry and conventional bone assays. Poultry Science 85: 15-20.
KOCH J.M., MORITZ J.S., LAY D.C. and WILSON M.E. (2005a) Melengestrol acetate in experimental diets as an effective alternative to induce a decline in egg production and reversible regression of the reproductive tract in laying hens. I. Determining an effective concentration of melengestrol acetate. Poultry Science 84: 1750-1756.
KOCH J.M., MORITZ J.S., SMITH D.L., LAY D.C. and WILSON M.E. (2005b) Melengestrol acetate as an effective alternative to induce a decline in egg production and reversible regression of the reproductive tract in laying hens. II. Effects on postmolt egg quality. Poultry Science 84: 1757-1762.
KOCH J.M., LAY D.C., MACMUNN K.A., MORITZ J.S. and WILSON M.E. (2007) Motivation of hens to obtain feed during a molt induced by feed withdrawal, wheat middlings or melengestrol acetate. Poultry Science 86: 614-620.
KOELKEBECK K.W., PARSONS C.M., LEEPER R.W. and WANG X. (1993) Effect of supplementation of a low corn moult diet with amino acids on early postmoult laying hen performance. Poultry Science 72: 1528-1536.
KOELKEBECK K.W., PARSONS C.M., DOUGLAS M.W., LEEPER R.W., JIN S., WANG S., ZHANG Y. and FERNANDEZ S. (2001) Early postmolt performance of laying hens fed a low-protein corn molt diet supplemented with spent hen meal. Poultry Science 80: 353-357.
KOELKEBECK K.W. and ANDERSON K.E. (2007) Molting layers-alternative methods and their effectiveness. Poultry Science 86: 1260-1264.
KUBENA L.F., BYRD J.A., MOORE R.W., RICKE S.C. and NISBET D.J. (2005) Effects of drinking water treatment on susceptibility of laying hens to Salmonella enteritidis during forced moult. Poultry Science 84: 204-211.
KUENZEL W.J., WIDEMAN R.F., CHAPMAN M., GOLDEN C. and HOOGE D.M. (2005) A practical method for induced moulting of caged layers that combines full access to feed and water, thyroactive protein, and short day length. World's Poultry Science Journal 61: 599-624.
LE MAHO Y. (1977) The emperor penguin: A strategy to live and breed in the cold. American Science Journal 65: 680–693.
LIPSTEIN B. and HURWITZ S. (1982) The nutritional value of sewage-grown, alum-flocculated micractnium algae in broiler and layer diet. Poultry Science 60: 2628-2638.
LOFTS B. and MURTON R.K. (1972) Reproduction in birds. Avian biology. Academic press, New York.
MARTIN G.A., MORRIS T.B., GEHLE M.H. and HARWOOD D.G. (1973) Force- molting by limiting calcium intake. Poultry Science 52: 2058.
MASHALY M.M. and WENTWORTH B.C. (1974) A profile of progesterone in turkey sera. Poultry Science 53: 2030-2035.
MAZZUCO H. and HESTER P.Y. (2005) The effect of an induced moult and a second cycle of lay on skeletal integrity of White Leghorns. Poultry Science 84: 771-781.
MCCORMICK C.C. and CUNNINGHAM D.L. (1987) Performance and physiological profiles of high dietary zinc and fasting as methods of inducing a forced rest: direct comparison. Poultry Science 66: 1007-1013.
MCREYNOLDS J.L., MOORE R.W., KUBENA L.F, BYRD J.A., WOODWARD C.L., NISBET D.J. and RICKE S.C. (2006) Effect of various combinations of alfalfa and standard layer diet on susceptibility of laying hens to Salmonella enteritidis during forced molt. Poultry Science 85: 1123-1128.
MOORE R.W., PARK S.Y., KUBENA L.F., BYRD J.A., MCREYNOLDS J.L., BURNHAM M.R., HUME M.E., BIRKHOLD S.G., NISBET D.J. and RICKE S.C. (2004) Comparison of zinc acetate and propionate addition on gastrointestinal tract fermentation and susceptibility of laying hens to Salmonella enteritidis during forced molt. Poultry Science 83: 1276-1286.
MROSOVSKY N. and SHERRY D. (1980) Animal anorexias. Science 207: 837-842.
NABER E.C., LATSHAW J.D. and MARSH G.A. (1984) Effectiveness of low sodium diets for recycling of egg production type hens. Poultry Science 63: 2419-2429.
OGUIKE M.A., IGBOELI G., IBE S.N. and UZOUKWU M. (2004) Effect of day length and feed/water regime on induction of feather moult and subsequent laying performance in the domestic fowl. International Journal of Poultry Science 3 (8): 507-512.
OCAK N., SARICA M., ERENER G. and GARPOGLU A.V. (2004) The effect of body weight prior to moulting in brown laying hens on egg yield and quality during second production cycle. International Journal of Poultry Science 3 (12): 768-772.
PEARCE J., JACKSON N. and STEVENSON M.H. (1983) The effects of dietary intake and of dietary concentration of copper sulphate on the laying domestic fowl: effects on some aspects of lipid, carbohydrates and amino acid metabolism. British Poultry Science 24: 337-348.
PENNINGTON J.T. and CALLOWAY D.H. (1973) Copper content of foods. Journal of American Dietary Association 63: 143-153.
PETHES G.Y., SZELENYI A. and PEEZELY P. (1982) Changes in the plasma concentrations of thyroid hormones and sexual steroids during forced moult of male and female domestic chickens. Acta Veterineria Academica Hungarica 30: 193-201.
PIERSMA T. and BAKER A.J. (2000) Life history characteristics and the conservation of migratory shorebirds. In: Behaviour and Conservation (ed. L.M. Gosling and W.J. Sutherland), pp. 105–124. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
QUEEN W.H., CHRISTENSEN V.L. and MAY J.D. (1997) Supplemental thyroid hormone and moulting in turkey breeder hens. Poultry Science 76: 887-893.
RICE J.E. (1905) In: The Feeding of Poultry; The Poultry Book. W.D. Johnson and G.O. Brown, ed. Doubleday, New York.
RICE J.E., NIXON C. and ROGERS C.A. (1908) The moulting of fowls. Bulletin No. 258. Cornell University, Ithaca, NY.
RICKE S.C., KWON Y.M., WOODWARD C.L., BYRD J.A., NISBET D.J. and KUBENA L.F. (2001) Limitation of Salmonella enteritidis colonization by diets containing low calcium and low zinc. Poultry Science 80 (1): 262 (Abstr.).
RICKE S.C. (2003) The gastrointestinal tract ecology of salmonella enteritidis colonization in molting hens. Poultry Science 82: 1003-1007.
SAID M.W., SULLIVAN T.W., BIRD H.R. and SUNDE M.L. (1984) A comparison of the effect of two force moulting methods on performance of two commercial strains of laying hens. Poultry Science 63: 2399-2403.
SEKIMOTO K., IMAI K., SUZUKI M., TAKIKAWA H., HOSHINO N. and TOTSUKA K. (1987) Thyroxin-induced moulting and gonadal function in laying hens. Poultry Science 66: 752-756.
SHERRY D.F., MROSOVSKY N. and HOGAN J.A. (1980) Weight loss and anorexia during incubation in birds. Journal of Comparative Physiology and Psychology 94: 89-98.
STAKE P.E., FREDERICKSON T.N., OKULICZ W., SHIPPEE R.L. and FOURNIER D.J. (1979) Tamoxifen induced forced-rest/molt in laying hens. Poultry Science 58:1111
STEVENSON M.H. and JACKSON N. (1984) Comparison of dietary hydrated copper sulphate, dietary zinc oxide and a direct method for inducing moult in laying hens. British Poultry Science 25: 505-517.
SWANSON M.H. and BELL D.D. (1974a) Force molting of chickens-I Introduction. Leaflet 2649. University of California, Davis, CA.
SWANSON M.H. and BELL D.D. (1974b). Force molting of chickens. 2. Methods. Univ. California Coop. Ext. Bull. AXT-411.
UEP, 2006. United Egg Producers animal husbandry guidelines for U.S. egg laying flocks. 2006 edition.
VAN TIENHOVEN A. (1981) Neuroendocrinology of avian reproduction with special emphasis on the reproductive cycle of the fowl (Gallus domesticus). World's Poultry Science Journal 37: 155-176.
VERHEYEN G., DECUYPERE E., KUHN E.R., FONTAINE G. and DE GROOTE G. (1983a) Moult induction in the hen. Effect of different methods on some performance traits and on thyroid hormone, prolactin. Ca, P, Na, and protein concentrations in blood serum. Reeub de I, Agriculture 36: 1535-1559.
WEBSTER A.B. (2003) Physiology and behavior of the hen during induced moult. Poultry Science 82: 992-1002.
WOODWARD C.L., KWON Y.M., KUBENA L.F., BYRD J.A., MOORE R.W., NISBET D.J. and RICKE S.C. (2005) Reduction of Salmonella enteritidis colonization and invasion by an alfalfa diet during moult in Leghorn hens. Poultry Science 84: 185-193.
YOUSAF M. (1996) The impact of induced moult on the hormonal and haematochemical profile of the layers in the third production cycle. M.Sc. Thesis, Dept. of Poultry Husbandry Univ. of Agri., Faisalabad, Pakistan.
YOUSAF M., AHMAD N., AKRAM M., ZIA-UR-REHAMAN (1996) Effect of molting on the haematochemical and hormonal changes in layers reared under different management conditions. Proceedings of Poultry Congress, New Delhi, India, Sept. 5, 1996.
YOUSAF M. (1998) Comparative study of induced moult methods in relation to plumage renewal and productive performance of layers under cage and litter floor systems. Ph.D. thesis, Department of Poultry Science, University of Agriculture, Faisalabad, Pakistan.
YOUSAF M., AHMAD N., AKRAM M., ZIA-UR-REHAMAN (1998) Changes in the concentration of various blood plasma parameters and hormones as influenced by induced moult in White Leghorn layers. Pakistan Veterinary Journal 18 (1): 36-42.
YOUSAF M. (2004) Influence of different copper and aluminium levels on feather renewal and production characteristics of the layers in the second production cycle. Research project report submitted to Pakistan Science Foundation, Islamabad, Pakistan.
YOUSAF M. (2005) Secrets of Feather Development. World Poultry 21(3):16-17.
YOUSAF M. (2006a) Influence of different copper and aluminium levels on organ weights, feather renewal and production performance of molted layers. Pakistan Journal of Arid Agriculture 9(1): 35-39.
YOUSAF M. and AHMAD N. (2006) Effects of housing systems on productive performance of commercial layers following induced molting by aluminium oxide supplementation. Pakistan Veterinary Journal 26(3): 101-104.
YOUSAF M. (2006b) Induced molting: Tips for success. Poultry International 45(4): 36-40.
ZIMMERMANN N.N., ANDREWS D.K. and MAGGINNIS J. (1987) Comparison of several induced moulting methods on subsequent performance of Single Comb White Leghorn hens. Poultry Science 66: 408-417.
Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

World's Poultry Science Journal
  • ISSN: 0043-9339
  • EISSN: 1743-4777
  • URL: /core/journals/world-s-poultry-science-journal
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *



Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 1
Total number of PDF views: 12 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 261 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between September 2016 - 21st October 2017. This data will be updated every 24 hours.