Inspirational ideas: On-farm hatching improves welfare and health of broiler chicks
Broiler chicks hatching in natural and stress-free conditions with direct access to feed and water. This is the main idea of on-farm hatching. Three hatcheries located in Belgium and the Netherlands started a project on this idea to improve welfare and health of broilers. One of the poultry farmers involved in the project is Gerard Witlox. He owns two broiler farms in the south-east of the Netherlands.
“Several years ago our broilers were suffering from Enterococcosis, which slowed their growth and meant we had to use a lot of antibiotics. I had heard about on-farm-hatching and I was wondering if this could work on my farm. By chance, one of the hatcheries that I was working with was developing new on-farm hatching techniques, one called NestBorn and the other One2Born. When they were ready to test, I told them that I would be very happy to pilot these methods on my farm. We started with on-farm-hatching in two broiler houses. In the other two, we worked with the previous method, where we received hatched chicks from the hatchery. During this process the hatchery assisted me in exchanging knowledge and specific data on the technique”, says Gerard.
On-farm hatching improves the health, development and welfare of the chicks since the stressful post-hatching period and processing in the hatchery is cut out of the production process. The pre-hatched eggs are gently placed in a natural litter bed. A real-time monitoring platform of the egg shell temperature in the broiler house allows the farmer and hatchery to team up in order to create optimal temperature and humidity conditions for the hatching chicks.
Gerard: “The first thing that we noticed in the broiler houses, was that the chicks were very calm. In addition, in the first 14 days their weight was 15 gram heavier than normal. The broilers also needed less antibiotics, they had fewer leg problems and their immunological and gut development improved. This resulted in stronger and more robust broilers.”
Gerard would recommend the on-farm hatching method. “It doesn´t cost more than the usual procedure. The only thing you have to pay attention to is planning. The broiler houses should be equipped with food and water and heated 3 days earlier than with the conventional method where you receive the hatched chicks. You also need to spend extra time during the hatching, to monitor the process and intervene if needed. Data from the poultry veterinarian who is assisting in this project showed reductions in the use of antibiotics of 50% to 62%. I have now been using on-farm hatching since 2 years and I consider it the most significant innovation in broiler production during the past 30 years. In my case, it resulted in more work joy and satisfaction, because of the easier production cycles with healthier and more lively chicks.”
If you would like to disseminate this inspirational idea in your own network, please have a look at the full press article, which includes a shorter version and pictures provided by Nestborn you can use.
/eip/agriculture/en/file/agri-challenge-reducing-antimicrobial-use-poultryAGRI challenge: Reducing antimicrobial use in poultry farming