During the writing of my bachelor thesis, I came across several fascinating articles about the current research of chicken welfare. But this research paper about the hatching methods of chicks was too damn interesting to not write a blog post about. You can read the whole paper at the Wageningen University Website.
Usually the hatching process starts one or two days before the chicks are delivered to a farm to grow. The eggs are kept at a temperature of 37 °C in an high humidity environment to hatch. Because of the genetic difference of each chicken the hatching starts a day earlier or later than the common estimation. You can see an example of the different hatching times in this video.
Keep in mind that the chick has a yolk sac that contains nutrients for the first 72 hours. While estimates vary, this should in theory keep the chickens healthy until they arrive at the farm.
The thing is, that chicks could in theory interact with stuff in hatchery and during transport to contract bacteria such as Escheria Coli. Even thou E. coli is pretty common, most strains are not contagious. But there is always the possibility of contagious strains floating around in the hatchery and on the workers that handle the chicks before and after transport. Moreover providing feed at the hatchery could reduce the possibility of intestinal infections.
Reducing these risks and improving the welfare of the chicks could be done by hatching the chicks on the farm.
Results of the study
The study compared the performance of chicks that are hatched in the hatchery with and without feed and chicks that are hatched on the farm. Overall the body weight and the devolopment of the the fed and on farm hatched birds was better than the hatchery chicks. Providing feed had a positive effect on the development of the birds body weight. Although barn hatched chicks had a worse quality it did not effect the mortality.
The study was conducted in one barn during three fattening periods. There could be an influence of the husbandry environment on the performance or hatching of the chicks. Though the results are promising, the positive effects may have to be tested under different conditions.
There is still a lot to be done to improve animal welfare for broilers. But this study shows no negative impact of on farm hatched chicks compared to the compared to the conventional hatchery. Therefore hatching chicks on the farm can reduce stress during transportation.
Check out the paper for more information and the statistical analysis.
Be aware that this blog post is influenced by my own view on agriculture. Moreover I may be biased, because of my agricultural background. You may disagree with a lot of stuff especially in regards to animal welfare. But that is totally fine. I am eager to discuss the current state of agriculture. Just write an email to email@example.com or hit me up on other social media channels.