From hatching to farm: ensuring good quality chicks
The aim of any hatchery is to produce a maximum number of quality day old chicks. Good chick quality results in low first week mortality with high flock uniformity. After hatching, all steps from chicks’ treatment up to farm delivery must be closely monitored to optimize the chicks’ condition. All these steps will ensure the good quality of chicks. Poor conditions can rapidly decrease the liveability and quality of chicks.
Ensuring optimal conditions in a hatchery is important for obtaining good performance and production of quality day old chicks. Air supply, temperature and humidity need to be well calculated to obtain full efficiency for the hatchery.
Environmental conditions after hatching are important to ensure the viability and welfare of the chicks.
Requirements for hatchery environmental conditions
Measuring the chicks body temperature is a good way to estimate their condition. Moreover, a visual examination must be performed:
- If the temperature is too low, chicks will settle in a corner and have a low activity to maintain their body temperature.
- If the temperature is too high, chicks will open their beak and start panting. This will cause rapid dehydration and will reduce the viability of the chicks.
Several chicks panting
Body temperature measurement
Vaccination in the hatchery is becoming more and more popular. Hatchery vaccination can be performed through different administration methods either by injection (‘in-ovo’ or subcutaneous) or local application (spray or eye drop) before the day-old chicks are being placed in farms.
The success of these vaccines depends on accurate application. Respecting these rules is as important as choosing the right products:
- Staff should be properly trained to carry out veterinary operations. It is useful to create a Standard Operating Procedure Manual, that describes the way to perform each vaccination or treatment in full detail.
- Vaccines and treatments should be stored in appropriate conditions, in suitable quantities considering the requirements and supply time.
- Report carefully in the flock records the details of all operations: date, time, vaccine batch number, application, etc.
- All the necessary equipment (sprayers, syringes, etc.) must be correctly maintained, disinfected and checked before each use.
- Each operation should be planned and supervised by a technically competent person.
Feeding day old chicks as soon as possible after hatching is a factor that positively affects the development of the intestinal tract. Early feeding aims to rehydrate and feed the chicks as soon as possible. It also contributes to improved absorption of the residual yolk sac. It has been shown that it has a positive impact on the survival rate of the chick at the beginning of the rearing period mainly due the absorption of the immunoglobulins stored in the yolk. Additionally, early feeding has a positive effect on the bursa of Fabricius development.
Conversely, delaying access to water and food will affect the average daily gain during the rearing period and might give rise to a higher mortality rate. This first feed provides the energy needed for the basic maintenance of the chick. Several commercial gels are available on the market, quality, availability and price will determine the choice. It helps chicks to start feeding more rapidly after arrival on the farm. Early feeding has an even bigger advantage when there is a long transportation duration or when chicks are kept in the hatchery before transportation.
Chick box with gel
Providing optimal storage and transport conditions for the chicks is important in order to maintain a good quality and viability of the chicks.
- Ensure good storage conditions by checking the body temperature and a visual examination regularly.
- The “density” of chicks per box should be lower than: 21cm2/day old chicks.
- Ensure there is sufficient air flow in the chick storage room. Avoid placing boxes directly on the floor or close to the wall.
- Ensure an optimum climate inside the truck during transport.
- Using data loggers can provide useful information about conditions during transport (sensors are usually placed under the lid, avoid direct contact between chicks and sensors)
- On arrival, record truck temperature and housing conditions at placement.
Box with temperature recorder
CHICK QUALITY ASSESMENT
Chick quality can be evaluated at hatchery level with quantitative and qualitative traits.
Scoring systems enables the hatchery quality staff to evaluate the visual traits and it is essential to point out weaker points in the whole production process. Chick quality investigation is a useful tool for improvement and help for obtaining an overview of incubation process. With sufficient data important hints can be identified to focus on improvement of the hatchery’s performance.
Monitoring and measures of chick quality from hatching to farm placement must be closely controlled. This optimizes the quality of chicks delivered together with flock start up performance. The use of scoring systems is also strongly recommended to improve hatchery performances. NOVOGEN’s technical team remains available to discuss these issues in greater detail.