By Shawna Weimer - Ingrid de Jong and Mona Giersberg have published recent research findings from experiments conducted in The Netherlands on the effects of conventional versus on-farm hatching on the behavior, welfare, and performance of broiler chickens.
The experiment was carried out at an experimental research farm in Belgium during 3 successive production cycles on a total of 27,780 Ross 308 broilers. Conventional broiler chicks were hatched at a commercial hatchery and transported to the experimental farm on day 0 to 3 post-hatch. On-farm hatched chick eggs were moved on embryonic day 18 from hatchery incubators to the on-farm hatchers (manufactured by X-treck) within the grow out house.
Dr. de Jong published the welfare, health, and performance data in Poultry Science.
Major findings indicated that, compared to conventionally hatched broilers, on-farm hatched broilers had:
Dr. Giersberg published the fear and behavior data in Applied Animal Behaviour Science.
Major findings indicated that, compared to conventionally hatched broilers, on-farm hatched broilers:
These results indicate that more research is needed to determine the benefits and challenges of on-farm hatching on bird behavior and welfare before best management practices can be provided to commercial broiler farmers.
Links to the full papers are below:
Effects of on-farm and traditional hatching on welfare, health, and performance of broiler chickens. (Poultry Science open access)
Comparative assessment of general behaviour and fear-related responses in hatchery-hatched and on-farm hatched broiler chickens. (Applied Animal Behaviour Science open access)