The effect of age on egg production in the domestic hen

Gen Comp Endocrinol. 1987 Mar;65(3):331-6. doi: 10.1016/0016-6480(87)90117-1.


The effect of age on egg production was investigated in the domestic fowl. The rate of egg production was reduced with increasing age and the incidence of thin-shelled and cracked eggs was markedly increased. Older hens which remained in lay produced fewer but larger eggs than the younger birds. The ovaries of these two groups of hens were of similar appearance but the largest preovulatory follicle and the oviduct were significantly heavier in the older birds. No differences in the circulating levels of progesterone or estradiol were apparent between the young and old birds but the activity of the renal 25-hydroxycholecalciferol 1 alpha-hydroxylase was found to be significantly reduced with age. Circulating levels of total and ionized calcium were very similar in the young and old laying birds, plasma ionized calcium levels being markedly depressed during egg shell calcification in both groups. The decreased rate of ovulation in the older birds and the increase with age in the size of the follicles ovulated is thought to be associated with a reduced rate of recruitment of follicles for rapid growth followed by a prolonged period of follicular growth and development. The poor calcification of egg shell in old birds would appear to be due to some dysfunction of the shell gland, possibly associated with reduced synthesis of 1,25-dihydroxycholecalciferol by the kidney. The maintenance of plasma ionized calcium concentrations does not appear to be of primary importance in this respect.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • 25-Hydroxyvitamin D3 1-alpha-Hydroxylase / metabolism
  • Aging / physiology*
  • Animals
  • Calcium / blood
  • Chickens / physiology*
  • Estradiol / blood
  • Female
  • Kidney / enzymology
  • Organ Size
  • Ovarian Follicle / anatomy & histology
  • Ovary / anatomy & histology
  • Oviducts / anatomy & histology
  • Oviposition
  • Ovum / physiology*
  • Progesterone / blood


  • Progesterone
  • Estradiol
  • 25-Hydroxyvitamin D3 1-alpha-Hydroxylase
  • Calcium