УДК 636.5.034:591.16:636.084.1:636.087.73


A.B. Vyshtakalyuk1, V.F. Lysov2, M.S. Ezhkova2, V.F. Mironov1, A.I. Konovalov1, S.S. Khirug3

On hens of the P 6 and P 46 crosses of the White Leghorns breed the authors studied the influence of amaranth vitamin-grass meal (AVGM) on development of reproductive system and egg production of laying hens during initial period of oviposition. Remount young hens were fed with mixed fodder containing 1-7 % amaranth grass meal. In these hens, development of reproductive organs was accelerated compared to control hens. Moreover, delayed effects of amaranth feed were observed in young laying hens: egg-laying initiated earlier, egg production and egg mass were higher, and the quality of incubatory eggs and one-day-old chickens was improved compared to control group. These stimulating effects of amaranth feed were age-dependent as earlier feeding resulted in more pronounced effects.

Key words: laying hens, pullets, amaranth, reproductive system, oviposition, egg-laying qualities.


Amaranth is known in Russia as a non-conventional fodder crop (1, 2) with high yield and nutritional value (3-5) due to the rich protein content in its grain and green mass of (6, 7), not conceding on the amino acid composition to  soy protein and milk casein. Adding amaranth to diets of farm animals and poultry promotes efficiency and health of livestock (5). Amaranth grain and dried phytomass can substitute meat-bone and fish meals in composition of mixed fodder for pigs (8) and broiler chicken (9), as well as the high-protein vegetable food additives – soy and sunflower meals - in diets of laying hens (10).
Previously, we found that adding of vitamin-grass meal of amaranth to diet of adult laying hens increases egg production and egg weight (11, 12). In this connection, there was an idea to determine the effects from giving this feed additive to young hens-replacements during the period of formation of reproductive organs. According to our data (13, 14), amaranth beneficially affects the livestock vitality and increase in body weight in young stock. The important indicators of development of young laying hens-replacement are dynamics of egg production and egg weight during initial period of oviposition (for breeding stock – quality of incubatory eggs).
The purpose of our study - evaluation of morphofunctional status and development of reproductive system, as well as the egg production and quality of incubatory eggs in early oviposition in laying hens, fed the  vitamin-grass meal of amaranth as a feed additive in different age periods.
Methods. Scientific and industrial testing of vitamin-grass meal of amaranth Amaranthus cruentus L. (AVGM) was carried out on young laying hens-replacements and on young laying hens of the parental line P 6 and farm flock the cross P-46 the white leghorn breed, kept in cages at the poultry farm "Jubileynaya” (Laishevskij district, the Republic of Tatarstan), in 1997-1998. We studied egg productivity and quality of incubatory eggs in young laying hens during the initial period of oviposition when AVGM was added to the basic mixed fodder in quantities of 1, 2, 3, 5 and 7% of the total mass of a diet in different age periods. The control hens were fed the basic mixed fodder without additives or with 3% vitamin-grass meal (VGM). Keeping conditions of poultry in experimental and control groups (about 5000 in each group) were identical.
Composition and nutritional value of basic fodder varied in recommended limits for age groups of hens. Up to 7-day age, hens were fed the fodder containing basic metabolizable energy (ME) of 270-290 kcal/100 g, crude protein (CP) - 18-20% and crude cellulose (CC) - 3-4%, then (depending on diet composition and age of hens) - 250-270 kcal/100 g, 15-16 and 4-6%, respectively. Quality of AVGM used in experiments corresponded to Class I according to GOST 18691-88 (15): protein content - 17,5-19,5%, carotin - 120-250 mg / kg, cellulose - 18,0 - 19,8%. When AVGM was added to diets of chickens and laying hens, the livestock parameters of basic fodder ranged as below: the number of ME reduced by 2-19 kcal/100g,  CP – wasn’t changed or increased on 0,1-0,2%, CC - increased by 0,3-1,5%.
At the beginning of oviposition (estimated period - 20-30 days), egg production in each group was determined by the number of eggs laid per day in 100 laying hens,  at the statistical processing of data values were averaged by periods. Egg weight and incubatory properties, as well as the level of development of reproductive system were determined in laying hens of the parental line P6 at the age of 150-160 days. The development of reproductive system was evaluated on the basis of morphometric studies of samples taken after slaughter by acute blood loss in 155-days hens (3 from each group), morphofunctional state of reproductive system – by histological examination of the ovary in 40 - and 120-day-old birds ( 3 from each group). Tissues were fixed with 4% formalin, and dyed with hematoxylin and eosin.
The data were processed statistically using the program Origin 6.1. The significance of differences between averages was estimated by t-criterion of Student.
Results. The  morphometric study of reproductive system (Table 1) in young laying hens of parental flock of the line P 6

1. Results of morphometric study of reproductive system in 155-days-old laying hens of the line P 6 the white leghorn breed, fed with vitamin-grass meal of amaranth (AVGM) in growing period (35-130 days) and / or at the beginning of oviposition (since 131 day) (M ± m, scientific and industrial experiment, poultry farm "Jubileynaya”, Laishevskij district, the Republic of Tatarstan, 1997-1998).


Diet (feeding period, days)


AVGМ, 3 %

АVGМ, 7 %
(35-130th) and 3 %
(after 130th)

АVGМ, 3 %
(after 130th)

The number of follicles, pcs.:  
large (mature)
small (growing)









Weight of the ovary with follicles at different stages of growth, g










length, mm  
weight, g  





* and ** differences with values in the control group, are significant at p <0,05 and p <0,01,  resp.

fed with diets containing AVGM during the 2nd age growing period (35 -130 days) and / or in the initial period of oviposition (131 –155 days) in the ovary, the increase in number of large (mature) follicles (p <0,05) was observed. The number of small  follicles are at different stages of growth increased as well as the weight of ovary, though,  differences of these values from control were statistically insignificant. In all experimental groups, amaranth induced statistically significant increase in length of oviduct (see Table 1.), which can be the morphological prerequisite for increasing egg weight; the weight of oviduct wasn’t influenced.
The micromorphological structure of the ovary in hens-replacements fed with AVGM from 4-day age, on the 40-th day performed an increase in number of growing follicles and more intense expansion of interstitial tissue compared to control (Fig. 1). Even the greater differences in structure of the ovary between the experiment and control groups were found at the age of 120 days. The detected changes suggest the earlier maturation of the ovary in hens fed AVGM during a growing period.

Fig. 1. Morphology of the ovary in a young laying hen of the cross-P 6 the white leghorn breed in a control group (A) and growing follicles stimulated by the diet containing 3% of amaranth vitamin-grass meal (Б) (age - 40 days). Staining with hematoxylin and eosin, an increase ½ 640.

The results of morphometric and histological studies of reproductive system are in good agreement with data on egg productivity in young laying hens. For example, in breeding flock hens fed AVGM during 35 - 166 days, stimulating effect was observed through all the period, but ceased to manifest itself shortly after the end of adding AVGM to the control diet (Fig. 2, A). In the group of laying hens fed AVGM till the 130-day age, this effect was revealed only at the very beginning of oviposition (142th day), that is, the aftereffects of AVGM not exceed 2 weeks.
Stimulating effects of amaranth on egg weight (see Fig. 2, B) were longer (at least 4 weeks) at the duration of aftereffect of 6 weeks. However, in the group, to which feeding AVGM was started immediately prior to oviposition (since 131-days age), during all 5 weeks of giving the additive was found no significant difference with control in egg production and egg weight (see Fig. 2, A, B). These data conclusively prove the fact, that stimulating effect of amaranth on egg productivity of laying hens in the initial period of oviposition is mediated by its influence on formation of reproductive system in growing period.
Biological control of quality of incubatory eggs showed (Table 2) that adding AVGM to diets of laying hens during the growing period (35-130 days) and / or in early stage of formation of parent flock (after the 130-th day), leads to the decrease in number of unfertilized eggs, higher hatchability of eggs in the initial period of oviposition and the higher survival ability of new chickens, as was evidenced by the increase in average weight of new chickens and size of their yolk sacs (see Table. 2).
In laying hens of the parental line P 6, whom AVTM was added to diet at an early age - from 17 days (see Fig. 2, B), amaranth effects were more prolonged (at least 3 weeks after oviposition). At the beginning of estimated period, egg production in experimental groups exceeded control in more than 1.5 times; this advantage reduced to the end of estimated period remaining statistically significant (p <0,01). In laying hens fed  7% AVGM for 20 days (17 – 38th day) and 3% AVGM within 103 days (17 – 120th day), egg production was almost identical at the beginning and after the end of estimated period. The diet with 7% AVGM stimulated almost a week earlier start of egg-laying (on the 126-th day) than in other groups (see Fig. 2, B).

Fig. 2. Effects of amaranth vitamin-grass meal (AVGM) on egg production (A and Б) and average egg weight (B) in laying hens of the parental lines P 6 the white leghorn breed, fed AVGM in different growing periods (17-38th day, 35 -130th day – the 1st and 2nd periods, 131-166th day - the beginning of oviposition): a - control, б - 3% AVGM (35-130th day), в - 3-7% AVTM (35-166th day), г - 3% AVTM (131-166th day), д - 7% AVTM (17-38th day), e - 3% AVTM (17-120 th day).
A horizontal line under abscissa highlights the duration of final period of feeding AVGM.
*, ** and *** differences with control are significant at  p <0,05; p <0,01 and p <0,001, resp.

А, Б, В - abscissa  - Age of laying hens, days;
ordinate  А, В – Egg production, % Б - Average weight of an egg, g         

In the farm flock hens of the cross P 46, fed AVGM from 1 – 7-days age (in average after 4 days), egg production in the initial period of oviposition was significantly higher than in control (Table . 3). Duration of feeding AVGM and its dosage affected the level of manifestation and duration of effects.

2. Quality characteristics of incubatory eggs and viability of new chicks in 150-160-day-old laying hens of the line P 6 the white leghorn breed, fed with amaranth vitamin-grass meal (AVGM) in growing period (35-130th day) and / or in early oviposition (since 131th day) (M ± m, scientific and industrial experiment, poultry farm "Jubileynaya”, Laishevskij district, the Republic of Tatarstan, 1997-1998).


Diet (feeding period, days)


AVGM, 3 % (35-130th)

AVGM, 7 %
(35-130th) and 3 %

AVGM, 3 %
(after 130th)

Share, %: unfertilized eggs
dead embryos
weak chicks




Number of eggs per nest, pcs. (n)

146-155 (2)

155-162 (3)

Hatchability of eggs, %



Weight, g:



1-day-old chicks (n)
yolk sucks (n)

32,27±0,24 (57)
3,44±0,42 (15)

32,96±0,24* (71)
4,33±0,19* (21)

Note:  For each measurement values are calculated as a percentage from the number of eggs laid in incubation; n - number of measurements.
* Differences from control are statistically significant with p <0,05.

In the control group at 20-weeks age (139-143th day), egg-laying had just started, while in laying hens fed 5% AVGM during the whole growing period (120 days), egg production was already exceeding 10%. When replacements were fed AVGM only in the 1st growing period, their egg production significantly did not exceeded control even at 21-weeks age (144-148th day). In hens fed with amaranth till the end of 2nd age period, egg production at 21-weeks age exceeded control in 1,6 times (3% AVGM) and approximately in 3.0 times (5 and 7% AVGM). In the control group, egg production reached the level found in group with 7% AVTM in 2 weeks later (at 23-weeks age). (see Table. 3).

3. Dynamics of egg production in laying hens-replacements of farm flock of the cross P 46 the white leghorn breed, fed diets with different doses of amaranth vitamin-grass meal (AVGM) during the 1st (4-40th day) and 2nd (42-120th age) age periods (M ± m, scientific and industrial experiment, poultry farm "Jubileynaya”, Laishevskij district, the Republic of Tatarstan, 1997-1998).

Age during the oviposition, days


AVGM dosage for the 1st and 2nd age periods, %


































































Note: B – basic diet, VGM – vitamin-grass meal (grasses). The number of eggs laid per day is accounted per 100 laying hens. A dash means the absence of measurements.
*, **, *** and  ~ for the age period, differences with control group are significant at p <0,05; p <0,01; p <0,001 unreliable, resp.

At 22-weeks age (151-155th day ), the laying hens fed AVGM during the growing period, demonstrated egg production significantly exceeding control. The most pronounced effect was observed in the groups fed with amaranth up to 120-days age (2,7-2,8 times higher than in control), the less expressed effect  - from adding AVTM to replacements’ diet until 40-days age (1,8-2,1 times higher than in control) (see Table. 3).
At 23-weeks age (158-162th day), the aftereffects of diets with 5 and 7% AVGM retained, and disappeared - at low doses of AVGM (1-3%) (see Table. 3). In the group fed 7% AVGM up to 120-days age, egg production was significantly higher than in group fed the same diet up to 40th day, reflecting the accumulation of  amaranth effects at prolongation of its application. At the end of estimated period (165-169th day), the aftereffects of applying amaranth during the 1st age period retained only for the highest dose AVGM (7%).
The found results indicate that adding amaranth phytomass (as a vitamin-grass meal) to diets of laying hens-replacements during the period of growing and formation of parent flock, stimulates development of reproductive system and improves  quality of incubatory eggs. The intensity and duration of the effect depends on age period of feeding AVGM, dosage (within a period), and duration of application (at the same doses).
The highest effects were performed at feeding AVGM during the 1st age period  (up to 35 – 40-day age) as the earlier development of reproductive system. During oviposition, amaranth aftereffects were manifested in higher egg production for 1-4 weeks (depending on AVGM dosage). In the 2nd age period (up to 120-130-day age), the acceleration of effects was manifested as the earlier start and prolongation of oviposition up to 5-6 weeks.
When amaranth was fed only in the 2nd age period (35-130th days), its aftereffects on eggs production were very short (a few days in the start of oviposition), while the higher weight and quality of incubatory egg were observed much longer (at least 4-5 weeks). The prolongation of feeding amaranth during the formation of parent flock of laying hens provides the higher productivity until the exclusion of amaranth from the diet. First feeding with amaranth after the end of growing period (131- 166th day) did not affect egg productivity, but stimulated the development of reproductive system and quality of incubatory eggs.
We assume, that stimulatory effect of AVGM is connected with  high nutritional value of amaranth proteins, rich in essential amino acids, as well as the specific action of its physiologically active substances. Ferula tenuisecta L. causes the similar changes in reproductive system of laying hens (longer oviduct, earlier start of oviposition and higher egg production) (16). Phenolic compounds with estrogenic activity, found in plants, are of the special interest. Small amounts of isoflavones with estrogenic activity (formononetine, biohanine A daydzeine, genisteine) and benzocumarines stimulating the normal functioning of reproductive system of farm animals, were found in alfalfa and goat grass (17). Amaranth also contains the complex of phenolic compounds (18), but its composition and biological properties have not been studied enough so far.
Thus, amaranth vitamin-grass meal (AVGM) is an extremely valuable fodder additive, which specifically stimulates the development of reproductive system in young laying hens-replacements: oviposition initiates earlier, egg production and egg weight is higher. For this purpose, we recommend feeding replacements with diet containing 5-7% AVGM from the first days of life.



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Scientific Research Institute of Physiology, Biochemistry and Nutrition of Farm Animals,
Russian Academy of Sciences, Borovsk 249013, Russia
e-mail: bifip@kaluga.ru

August 14, 2008