First seven days key determinant in ensuring layer-chick quality

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The intention of all commercial layer hatchery is a maximum hatchability of first quality chicks.

The evaluation of chick quality in the hatchery provides important information on the whole production process.

Quantitative or qualitative behaviors can be used for the measurement of chick quality. Quantitative traits are; the chick weight, the chick yield, chick length and feather length.

Chicks of premium quality are lively and have a good body tension. In determining the outcome of chick quality experts’ advice in conducting regal process of poultry practice in the first 7 days for outsized importance.

“If you’re able to make it through that first week, there is a relatively low mortality throughout the pullet period,” says an expert, pointing to the importance of routine hatchery testing of both healthy chicks and mortality to catch and mitigate issues early.

Managing farm conditions

Farm management issues can be a cause of mortality, especially with the move to cage-free and free-range production.

Water access is an important factor necessary for growth.

Humidity pivotal

Experts recommend 32° C to 33° C for leghorns and 35° C to 36° C for browns as optimal temperatures, with reductions thereafter of 1° C to 2° C per week to 21° C.

Regardless of the temperature and humidity achieved, observation of the chicks to make sure they are comfortable still remains key, with cameras used where necessary so as not to interfere with chick behavior.


On the first 7 days


To minimize stress, day-old-chick processes from mating to vaccinations need to be managed effectively. With producers no longer able to use antibiotics for day-old chicks, more effort is required to make sure birds are disease-free.

To achieve this, the farmer requires a tremendous amount of work upstream, working with breeder flocks, working with eggs coming into the hatchery and working with the hatchery to reduce that overall bacterial load.

Optimizing vaccination, disinfection approaches

Having the right vaccination program in place makes a difference, he said, making particular note of the importance of using Rispens-strain vaccines against Marek’s disease.

Spray vaccination against respiratory diseases such as infectious bronchitis and Newcastle Disease is common, but poor application can lead to reactions and early mortality.

Faced with the choice of gel or water options for spraying, water can result in more chick stress in situations with inadequate ventilation.

Bacterial and fungal infections are issues to look out for, bacterium Enterococcus and the fungus Aspergillus as notable pathogens.


With bacterial infections, mortality curves differ depending on whether infection occurred in the hatchery or farm. Hatchery-related mortalities tend to peak 3 to 6 days and fall off rapidly after 14, while with farm-related infections the peak will occur between 5 and 8 days.

In the move toward antibiotic-free hatcheries, having a lack of disinfectants will make the constant surveillance of microbiological levels ever-more important.

While producers have become good at managing bacterial issues, there remains no effective treatment for fungal spores.


After the first 7 days


Looking beyond the first 7 days, hatchery egg-storage time has a strong correlation with hatchability and chick quality, short period incubation during egg storage (SPIDES) for increasing hatchability especially for those stored beyond 10 days.

The role of the breeder farm

Parent flocks can have an impact on commercial chick livability, with freedom from vertically transmitted diseases such as Salmonella and Mycoplasma essential. Non-vertically transmitted respiratory viruses affect egg quality and may affect livability too.

It’s also critical that breeders get nutrition right, he added, with deficiencies in fat-soluble vitamins and B-complex vitamins impacting embryo and shell quality. Breeder environment also counts for a lot, with links between heat and cold stress and drops in egg quality and hatchability.


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