The pathophysiology of the ovarian dysfunction encountered in broiler breeder hens remains poorly understood but is similar to a condition in women known as polycystic ovary syndrome. This study reveals that metformin may provide a cheap and effective method of improving ovarian function in broiler breeder hens.
Broiler breeder hens, the parent stock of commercial broiler chickens, have poor reproductive efficiency associated with aberrant and excessive recruitment of ovarian follicles which results in sub-optimal egg production, fertility, and hatchability. The reproductive dysfunction observed in these hens resembles polycystic ovary syndrome in women, a condition wherein metformin is prescribed as a treatment. The main objectives of this study were to determine the effect of metformin on body weight, abdominal fat pad weight, ovarian function, and plasma steroid hormone concentrations. Broiler breeder hens were treated with 0, 25, 50, or 75 mg/kg body weight of metformin mixed in the diet for 40 weeks (n = 45 hens/treatment; 2565 weeks of age). At 65 weeks of age, hens that received the highest dose of metformin had significantly lower body and abdominal fat pad weights (P < 0.05) than the control. Metformin treatment, at all levels, normalized the preovulatory and prehierarchical ovarian follicular hierarchy. Metformin (50 or 75 mg/kg body weight) significantly increased the total number of eggs laid per hen during the entire production period and these hens had significantly greater fertility and hatchability at 65 weeks of age compared to the control (P < 0.05). Metformin treatment at all levels altered the plasma profile of reproductive hormones, with significantly lower plasma testosterone concentrations and a decreased testosterone to androstenedione ratio in hens that received metformin (P < 0.05). Future studies should focus on the mechanisms underlying the beneficial effects of metformin in improving the reproductive efficiency of broiler breeder hens.