The effects of husbandry system on the grass intake and egg nutritive characteristics of laying hens

J Sci Food Agric. 2014 Feb;94(3):459-67. doi: 10.1002/jsfa.6269. Epub 2013 Jul 16.


Background: The aim of this study was to determine the effect of husbandry system and season on the grass intake and egg quality in laying hens considering that characteristics of organic eggs obtained in a system with no grass in the external area are similar conventional ones.

Results: Three hundred and sixty Ancona hens were randomly assigned to three groups: a control group (C), with the hens kept in cages under standard housing conditions; the organic group (O), with the hens kept under an organic production system (4 m² per hen) and the organic-plus group (OP), with the hens maintained under organic conditions but with a larger grass paddock availability (10 m² per hen). The estimated intake of forage, carotenoids and flavonoids of the OP hens was very high as the amounts deposited in eggs, mainly in the spring season. The fatty acid composition of the yolk was significantly affected by pasture. The OP eggs showed lower concentrations of polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA) n-6 and a higher percentage of PUFA n-3.

Conclusions: The results showed that the grass intake was largely affected by the husbandry system and highlighted the seasonal effect of grass availability on the nutritional quality of eggs produced in organic systems.

Keywords: egg quality; grass intake; hens; organic production; season.

MeSH terms

  • Animal Feed*
  • Animal Husbandry / methods*
  • Animals
  • Carotenoids / analysis
  • Chickens
  • Diet*
  • Eggs / analysis*
  • Eggs / standards
  • Fatty Acids, Omega-3 / analysis
  • Fatty Acids, Omega-6 / analysis
  • Female
  • Flavonoids / analysis
  • Food, Organic
  • Humans
  • Nutritive Value*
  • Organic Agriculture*
  • Poaceae*
  • Random Allocation
  • Seasons


  • Fatty Acids, Omega-3
  • Fatty Acids, Omega-6
  • Flavonoids
  • Carotenoids