Big problem – simple solution

Big problem – simple solution

Written by Dr. Marleen Boerjan

A hatchery got in touch with me recently about a worrying problem: 3-5% of the newly delivered chicks were dying during their first 3-5 days on the farm. As I arrived on site, chick boxes were being loaded onto a truck and even before entering the hatchery the noise was deafening.

The hatchery manager showed me around the hatchery, which was well organised and clean; the routing to the processing room was straightforward and logical. I noticed, however, that most of the doors were open, whereas I would have expected them to be closed. The chick-processing room was separated from the room where chicks were counted, boxed and spray vaccinated.

I stayed a while in the chick-processing room, observing the chicken take-off and selection. The smell was fresh, the chicks looked good and they were quiet. I also noticed that the shells were clean – an indication that pulling time was correct.

The first-class, saleable chicks that had been selected were placed on a conveyor belt, which moved the chicks through to the next room, where they were counted, and spray vaccinated.

After leaving the processing room, where the conditions (temperature and humidity) felt comfortable, entering the 'boxing' room was a shock. My immediate reaction was 'something is wrong here'. First, there was the overwhelming noise made by the chicks in the transport boxes stacked on the trolley, waiting to be transferred to the holding room next door. On closer inspection I could see that these recently vaccinated chicks were soaking wet, all huddled together, and their feet felt really cold. To make matters worse, the trolley was standing directly in a cold draught, caused by a big fan in the corner of the vaccination room. And in the holding...

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