Written by: Dr. Jacquie Jacob, University of Kentucky

Bitter vetch plant
Bitter vetch plant (Image by Martin Fowler on

A major factor limiting the use of bitter vetch in poultry diets is the presence within bitter vetch of antinutritional factors, including L-canavanine, lectins, protease inhibitors, and tannins. For bitter vetch to be more extensively used in poultry feed, a method needs to be developed that can neutralize the effects of these antinutritional factors.

Feeding raw bitter vetch adversely affects the performance of broiler chickens and laying hens. The most important effect is reduced feed intake. Use of a ration containing high levels of bitter vetch grain has proved to be effective in inducing a molt to recycle a laying flock.