Trace mineral transfer from hen, to egg, to chick: At last, seeing the big picture

Throughout this series, we have looked at the phases in which trace minerals play a vital role in almost all metabolic processes surrounding a broiler breeder hen’s reproductive cycle, including promoting the performance of her progeny. Given their importance, it is imperative that the animal is supplemented with trace minerals in a highly bioavailable form in the diet to satisfy her requirements under commercial production conditions. We have focused on zinc, manganese, and copper as the most essential trace minerals, but also looked at the roles iron, selenium, and chromium play in improved mineral status.  

In the first instalment, we overviewed the specific metabolic functions of the breeding hen that require trace minerals to ensure she remains in optimum health. These nutrients support many physiological functions, including immunity, nutrient absorption, cellular protection, and enzymatic reactions. Supplementing trace minerals in the diet may improve the mineral status of a hen, bringing her closer to requirements and thus promoting the optimum functioning of all her physiological systems. Optimising the overall health and productivity of a breeder hen promotes her reproductive performance, ensuring a high-quality product – a fertile egg with a healthy hatchling. 

Thereafter, in the second instalment, we established that a healthy breeding hen will efficiently produce fertile eggs that are incorporated with all nutrients, especially trace minerals, to satisfy the developing embryo’s requirements to grow and survive incubation up to hatch. Mineral deposition into the egg and eggshell is higher in hens supplemented with highly bioavailable trace minerals. The egg is better constructed, making it more robust and a providing greater source of minerals for the developing embryo during incubation. The embryo will exhibit better mineral absorption, as well as increased survivability and hatchability, producing a high-quality chick.

Finally, the third instalment and fourth instalment of the series summarised how critical optimum mineral status is for a newly hatched chick. A broiler chick with improved mineral status at hatching will have a better start in life because it is better able to cope with nutrient scarcity, pathogenic threats, and competition for food and water. Having more minerals stored in the body, overall health will be boosted. Optimum nutrient absorption, growth, and immune function will ensure that the chick survives, and exhibits high feed efficiency, strong immune function, and resistance to stress. Ultimately, the goal is to obtain optimum carcass characteristics at slaughter.


Feeding highly bioavailable sources of organic trace minerals, as opposed to inorganic forms, ensures increased bioavailability and, therefore, improved mineral status and increased efficiency. Improved mineral status of the breeder hen will lead to a higher and more constant transfer of minerals into the egg, and improved transfer of minerals to the developing embryo. The progeny will thus benefit from the mineral status of the hen and may be more productive due to higher amounts of minerals being stored in its body.

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