Effect of Dietary Zinc Level on Egg Production Performance and Eggshell Quality Characteristics in Laying Duck Breeders in Furnished Cage System


In order to investigate the effect of dietary Zn levels on laying performance, eggshell quality, and eggshell microstructure in Muscovy duck breeders under furnished cages. Firstly, the effects of age (35 weeks vs 40 weeks) and rearing system (littered floor vs furnished cage) on eggshell quality of laying duck breeders were studied (Exp. 1). Then, a total of 324 30-week-old Muscovy duck breeders were allotted into 3 dietary Zn groups with 6 replicates (18 ducks per replicate), including 0 mg Zn/kg (control-Zn group, C-Zn), 40 mg Zn/kg (normal-Zn group, N-Zn), and 140 mg Zn/kg (high-Zn group, H-Zn). The experimental period for 6 weeks was divided into 3 periods of 30–32, 32–34, and 34–36 weeks of age (Exp. 2). In Exp. 1, duck breeder eggs in the furnished cage system had lower the average shell thickness than birds in the littered floor system at 40 weeks of age (P < 0.05), not at 35 weeks of age. In Exp. 2, N-Zn and H-Zn groups had greater egg weight, egg production, and egg to feed ratio of duck breeders than C-Zn group (P < 0.05). Additionally, H-Zn group had higher laying rate, qualified egg ratio, and Haugh unit as well as lower mammillary cone width than C-Zn group (P < 0.05), with no differences between C-Zn and N-Zn groups (P > 0.05). Diet supplemented with 140 mg Zn/kg increased shell thickness and palisade layer thickness of duck breeders at 36 weeks of age (P < 0.05), but not at 32 and 34 weeks of age. In conclusion, diets with 40 or 140 mg Zn/kg improved egg production performance and egg quality of laying duck breeders during 30–36 weeks of age in a furnished cage system. Dietary supplementation of 140 mg Zn/kg level increased the ultrastructural palisade layer thickness contributing to greater eggshell thickness of duck breeders at 36 weeks of age.

This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.

Fig. 1
Fig. 2


FC :

furnished cage

LF :

littered floor

CA :

carbonic anhydrase

Zn :


C-Zn :

control Zn group with 0 mg Zn/kg diet

N-Zn :

normal Zn group with 40 mg Zn/kg diet

H-Zn :

high Zn group with 140 mg Zn/kg diet


  1. 1.

    Xin H, Gates RS, Green AR, Mitloehner FM, Moore PA Jr, Wathes CM (2011) Environmental impacts and sustainability of egg production systems. Poult Sci 90(1):263–277

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  2. 2.

    Sumner DA, Gow H, Hayes D, Matthews W, Norwood B, Rosen-Molina JT, Thurman W (2011) Economic and market issues on the sustainability of egg production in the United States: analysis of alternative production systems. Poult Sci 90(1):241–250

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  3. 3.

    Lay DC Jr, Fulton RM, Hester PY, Karcher DM, Kjaer JB, Mench JA, Mullens BA, Newberry RC, Nicol CJ, O’Sullivan NP et al (2011) Hen welfare in different housing systems. Poult Sci 90(1):278–294

    Article  Google Scholar 

  4. 4.

    Norgaard-Nielsen G (1990) Bone strength of laying hens kept in an alternative system, compared with hens in cages and on deep-litter. Br Poult Sci 31(1):81–89

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  5. 5.

    Lewko L, Gornowicz E (2011) Effect of housing system on egg quality in laying hens. Ann Anim Sci 11(4):607–616

    Article  Google Scholar 

  6. 6.

    Karcher DM, Jones DR, Abdo Z, Zhao Y, Shepherd TA, Xin H (2015) Impact of commercial housing systems and nutrient and energy intake on laying hen performance and egg quality parameters. Poult Sci 94(3):485–501

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  7. 7.

    Hidalgo A, Rossi M, Clerici F, Ratti S (2008) A market study on the quality characteristics of eggs from different housing systems. Food Chem 106(3):1031–1038

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  8. 8.

    De Reu K, Messens W, Heyndrickx M, Rodenburg TB, Uyttendaele M, Herman L (2008) Bacterial contamination of table eggs and the influence of housing systems. World Poultry Sci J 64(1):5–19

    Article  Google Scholar 

  9. 9.

    Berrang ME, Frank JF, Buhr RJ, Bailey JS, Cox NA, Mauldin J (1998) Eggshell characteristics and penetration by Salmonella through the productive life of a broiler breeder flock. Poult Sci 77(9):1446–1450

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  10. 10.

    van den Brand H, Parmentier HK, Kemp B (2004) Effects of housing system (outdoor vs cages) and age of laying hens on egg characteristics. Br Poult Sci 45(6):745–752

    Article  Google Scholar 

  11. 11.

    Zhang YN, Zhang HJ, Wang J, Yue HY, Qi XL, Wu SG, Qi GH (2017) Effect of dietary supplementation of organic or inorganic zinc on carbonic anhydrase activity in eggshell formation and quality of aged laying hens. Poult Sci 96(7):2176–2183

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  12. 12.

    Winum JY, Innocenti A, Nasr J, Montero JL, Scozzafava A, Vullo D, Supuran CT (2005) Carbonic anhydrase inhibitors: synthesis and inhibition of cytosolic/tumor-associated carbonic anhydrase isozymes I, II, IX, and XII with N-hydroxysulfamides--a new zinc-binding function in the design of inhibitors. Bioorg Med Chem Lett 15(9):2353–2358

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  13. 13.

    Idowu O, Ajuwon R, Oso A, Akinloye O (2011) Effects of zinc supplementation on laying performance, serum chemistry and Zn residue in tibia bone, liver, excreta and egg shell of laying hens. Int J Poult Sci 10(3):225–230

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  14. 14.

    Chen W, Wang S, Zhang HX, Ruan D, Xia WG, Cui YY, Zheng CT, Lin YC (2017) Optimization of dietary zinc for egg production and antioxidant capacity in Chinese egg-laying ducks fed a diet based on corn-wheat bran and soybean meal. Poult Sci 96(7):2336–2343

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  15. 15.

    NRC (ed.): Nutrient requirements of poultry, 9th revised edition. Washington, DC.: National Academy Press; 1994.

  16. 16.

    Monogastriques IndlraDdléd: L’alimentation des animaux monogastriques: porc, lapin, volailles: Editions Quae; 1989.17. Al-Rawi B, Craig J, Adams A (1976) Agonistic behavior and egg production of caged layers: genetic strain and group-size effects. Poult Sci 55(2):796-807

  17. 17.

    Berwanger E, Vieira SL, Angel CR, Kindlein L, Mayer AN, Ebbing MA, Lopes M (2018) Copper requirements of broiler breeder hens. Poult Sci 97(8):2785–2797

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  18. 18.

    Sokolowicz Z, Krawczyk J, Dykiel M (2018) The effect of the type of alternative housing system, genotype and age of laying hens on egg quality. Ann Anim Sci 18(2):541–555

    Article  Google Scholar 

  19. 19.

    Clerici F, Casiraghi E, Hidalgo A, Rossi M (2006) Evaluation of eggshell quality characteristics in relation to the housing system of laying hens. In: XII Eur Poult Conf: 2006: 10-14

  20. 20.

    Yildiz A, Lacin E, Hayirli A, Macit M (2006) Effects of cage location and tier level with respect to light intensity in semiconfined housing on egg production and quality during the late laying period. J Appl Poult Res 15(3):355–361

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  21. 21.

    Duncan IJ (2001) The pros and cons of cages. World Poultry Sci J 57(4):381–390

    Article  Google Scholar 

  22. 22.

    Nys Y (1986) Relationships between age, shell quality and individual rate and duration of shell formation in domestic hens. Br Poult Sci 27(2):253–259

    Article  Google Scholar 

  23. 23.

    Johnston SA, Gous RM (2003) An improved mathematical model of the ovulatory cycle of the laying hen. Br Poult Sci 44(5):752–760

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  24. 24.

    Johnston SA, Gous RM (2007) A mechanistic, stochastic, population model of egg production. Br Poult Sci 48(2):224–232

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  25. 25.

    Park SY, Birkhold SG, Kubena LF, Nisbet DJ, Ricke SC (2004) Review on the role of dietary zinc in poultry nutrition, immunity, and reproduction. Biol Trace Elem Res 101(2):147–163

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  26. 26.

    Huang L, Li X, Wang W, Yang L, Zhu Y (2019) The role of zinc in poultry breeder and hen nutrition: an update. Biol Trace Elem Res:1–11. https://doi.org/10.1007/s12011-019-1659-0

  27. 27.

    Olgun O, Yildiz AO (2017) Effects of dietary supplementation of inorganic, organic or nano zinc forms on performance, eggshell quality, and bone characteristics in laying hens. Ann Anim Sci 17(2):463–476

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  28. 28.

    Abd El-Hack ME, Alagawany M, Amer SA, Arif M, Wahdan KMM, El-Kholy MS (2018) Effect of dietary supplementation of organic zinc on laying performance, egg quality and some biochemical parameters of laying hens. J Anim Physiol an N 102(2):E542–E549

    CAS  Google Scholar 

  29. 29.

    Abd El-Hack ME, Alagawany M, Salah AS, Abdel-Latif MA, Farghly MFA (2018) Effects of dietary supplementation of zinc oxide and zinc methionine on layer performance, egg quality, and blood serum indices. Biol Trace Elem Res 184(2):456–462

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  30. 30.

    Tabatabaie MM, Aliarabi H, Saki AA, Ahmadi A, Siyar SA (2007) Effect of different sources and levels of zinc on egg quality and laying hen performance. Pak J Biol Sci 10(19):3476–3478

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  31. 31.

    Liao X, Li W, Zhu Y, Zhang L, Lu L, Lin X, Luo X (2018) Effects of environmental temperature and dietary zinc on egg production performance, egg quality and antioxidant status and expression of heat-shock proteins in tissues of broiler breeders. Br J Nutr 120(1):3–12

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  32. 32.

    Favier AE (1992) The role of zinc in reproduction. Hormonal mechanisms Biol Trace Elem Res 32:363–382

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  33. 33.

    Amen MH, Al-Daraji HJ (2011) Influence of dietary supplementation with zinc on sex hormones concentrations of broiler breeder chickens. Pak J Nutr 10:1089–1093

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  34. 34.

    Lindskog S (1997) Structure and mechanism of carbonic anhydrase. Pharmacol Ther 74(1):1–20

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  35. 35.

    Hincke MT, Nys Y, Gautron J, Mann K, Rodriguez-Navarro AB, McKee MD (2012) The eggshell: structure, composition and mineralization. Front Biosci-Landmrk 17:1266–1280

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  36. 36.

    Hincke MT, Nys Y, Gautron J, Mann K, Rodriguez-Navarro AB, McKee MD (2012) The eggshell: structure, composition and mineralization. Front Biosci 17(1266):80

    Google Scholar 

  37. 37.

    Lavelin I, Meiri N, Pines M (2000) New insight in eggshell formation. Poult Sci 79(7):1014–1017

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  38. 38.

    Xiao JF, Zhang YN, Wu SG, Zhang HJ, Yue HY, Qi GH (2014) Manganese supplementation enhances the synthesis of glycosaminoglycan in eggshell membrane: a strategy to improve eggshell quality in laying hens. Poult Sci 93(2):380–388

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  39. 39.

    Solomon SE (2010) The eggshell: strength, structure and function. Br Poult Sci 51:52–59

    Article  Google Scholar 

  40. 40.

    Carrino DA, Rodriguez JP, Caplan AI (1997) Dermatan sulfate proteoglycans from the mineralized matrix of the avian eggshell. Connect Tissue Res 36(3):175–193

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  41. 41.

    Rodriguez JP, Rosselot G (2001) Effects of zinc on cell proliferation and proteoglycan characteristics of epiphyseal chondrocytes. J Cell Biochem 82(3):501–511

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  42. 42.

    Nys Y, Gautron J, Garcia-Ruiz JM, Hincke MT (2004) Avian eggshell mineralization: biochemical and functional characterization of matrix proteins. Cr Palevol 3(6-7):549–562

    Article  Google Scholar 

  43. 43.

    Linares LB, Broomhead JN, Guaiume EA, Ledoux DR, Veum TL, Raboy V (2007) Effects of low phytate barley (Hordeum vulgare L.) on zinc utilization in young broiler chicks. Poult Sci 86(2):299–308

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  44. 44.

    Wood RJ, Zheng JJ (1997) High dietary calcium intakes reduce zinc absorption and balance in humans. Am J Clin Nutr 65(6):1803–1809

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

Download references


This study was sponsored by the Guangdong Provincial Natural Science Foundation for Starting Ph. D (2017A030310398 and 2018A030310202), National Natural Science Foundation of China (31802080 and 31972584), National Waterfowl Industry Program in China (CARS-42-15), National Key Research and Development Projects in China (2018YFD0501502), and Open Project Program of Key Laboratory of Feed Biotechnology, Ministry of Agriculture, Beijing, 100081, China.

Author information




YWZ, LH, and JJS were responsible for the planning of the study, sample collections, analyses, and the manuscript writing. DQL, WCW, and YF were involved in the sample collections, biological analysis, and statistical analyses. LY and YWZ were involved in the experimental design and data interpretations. All authors read and approved the final manuscript.

Corresponding authors

Correspondence to Lin Yang or Yongwen Zhu.

Ethics declarations

All procedures of our experiments were approved by the animal care and welfare committee institute of South China Agricultural University.

Competing Interests

The authors declare that they have no competing interests.

Additional information

Publisher’s Note

Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Huang, L., Shen, J., Feng, Y. et al. Effect of Dietary Zinc Level on Egg Production Performance and Eggshell Quality Characteristics in Laying Duck Breeders in Furnished Cage System. Biol Trace Elem Res 196, 597–606 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12011-019-01927-9

Download citation


  • Duck breeders
  • Eggshell microstructure
  • Eggshell thickness
  • Zinc