The small intestines of hatching chicks undergo rapid developmental changes in the immediate post-hatch period when the birds are making the transition from endogenous nutrient supply from yolk to dependence on exogenous feed. This transition usually only begins 48 h or more after hatching, owing to logistical considerations of production. The effects of fasting for 48 h at different times during this critical period on small intestinal development and enterocyte dynamics were examined by morphometric determinations and use of staining for proliferative-cell nuclear antigen and 5-bromo-2-deoxyuridine. The effects of fasting were specific to both time of fasting and the intestinal segment examined. Decreased development was found in the duodenum and jejunum, but was less apparent in the ileum. Fasting between 0 and 48 h decreased crypt size in the duodenum and jejunum, the number of crypts per villus, crypt proliferation, villus area and the rate of enterocyte migration. Fasting at later times resulted in smaller effects, although the jejunum appeared to be the most sensitive of the intestinal segments. Growth was correlated with the number of cells in the crypts, the number of cells along the villus and the segment surface area. The common practice whereby feed is first available to chicks more than 48 h post-hatch may depress subsequent development.
- Small intestinal development