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Keeping an open nose in the hatchery

Keeping an open nose in the hatchery

Written by Martin Barten, Senior Hatchery Specialist

When I’m involved in the Hatchery Management Training I often mention that hatching is 'looking, listening and smelling', even though sensor technology is gaining popularity. I say this to encourage young hatchery managers to sometimes get out of their hermetically sealed office and take a slow, attentive walk through the hatchery. 

Since a visit to a small hatchery in Asia to discuss switching from multi-stage to single-stage incubation, I know that it’s worth being on 'smell alert' even before entering the hatchery. On opening the car door, the pungent smell of ‘exploding’ eggs was immediately noticeable. So, after taking the compulsory shower, I headed straight for the egg arrival area to identify the underlying cause of the stink. But there I found the opposite of what I had expected: very nice and clean looking eggs. So, what was the cause of the smelly welcome?

In the egg storage room, the temperature was normal (18 °C) but the relative humidity was extremely high (93 %RH). Wondering about that, I noticed immediately that the floor was very sticky and that the eggs felt ‘greasy’. The hatchery manager pointed to a jerry can hanging under the egg cooler and explained that they had started spraying three times a day with a quaternary ammonium solution to decrease the incidence of exploders. However, he continued, this hadn’t helped – things actually seemed to be getting worse and hatchability was even declining! He explained that one of the reasons he wanted to switch to single-stage incubation was because he was unable to clean up the mess caused by exploding eggs in the setters. While I agreed that this is a disadvantage of multi-stage incubation, I pointed out that simply switching to single-stage would not address the underlying cause of the exploding eggs.

I advised the manager to...

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