White Leghorn hens were maintained on diets containing 0, 4, 12 or 36 p.p.m. Hg as HgCl2 from hatching in an effort to confirm (with a second species) our previously reported effects on Japanese quail reproduction. In the quail study both onset of laying and rate of egg production were accelerated by 16 and 32 p.p.m. Hg as HgCl2, but ferti ity was depressed. After 1 year on diets containing HgCl2 none of the Leghorn hens manifested any observed signs of Hg poisoning. Hens fed 4 or 12 p.p.m. Hg began ovipositing an average of 10 days earlier than the controls (P < 0.05). Young hens (< 9 months old) fed 4 or 12 p.p.m. Hg laid significantly more eggs per hen-day than did either controls or those fed 36 p.p.m. Hg. Beyond 9 months of age there were no perceptible differences in rate of egg production among the treatments. These findings support our quail results. When the hens were inseminated with pooled semen from untreated roosters fertility, embryonic development and hatchability appeared to be unaffected by the treatments. This contrasts with our previous experiment with quail in which both sexes were fed HgCl2.
Additional Publication Details
Reproductive responses of white leghorn hens to graded concentrations of mercuric chloride