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Not all chicks need early feed

Not all chicks need early feed

Timing is everything. Using Nature as a Reference to Optimise Welfare

 By Roger Banwell, Hatchery Development Manager, Petersime NV

As the discussion around the welfare of new-born chicks and the optimum time to give them access to food and water grows, I think it is time to dig deeper in the issue. Using nature as a reference to what are the optimum requirements of the day-old chick, we found that the hatching chick has no requirement for immediate access to feed and water. Welfare of birds and profit go hand in hand, but we should always look to nature for inspiration.

Natural environment as the strongest indicator for optimum requirements

When looking at the commercial breeds used in the modern poultry industry, it is important to always keep in mind what are the evolved genetic requirements or needs of the species. This principle applies when considering both maximum production and optimal welfare conditions. The two are inextricably linked. One of the strongest indicators as to what are the optimum requirements of the developing embryo and subsequent needs of the day-old chick, is the activity and interactions of the parent bird in its natural environment. This approach has always been the driving force behind the Petersime Embryo-Response IncubationTM ethos and will remain so for the foreseeable future.

Technology as replicator of nature

The Re-StoreTM system replicates the re-sitting of the mother hen during the process of building her clutch of eggs. The non-linear rate of fluid and gas exchange mimics the attentiveness of the parent bird during the incubation process. Synchro-HatchTM replicates the interaction between parent bird and hatching chick during this difficult and exhausting phase in the process. In addition to this, throughout the entire developmental and growth periods during incubation, the OvoScanTM system ensures real time temperature control in the same way as the attentive parent bird. All of these elements offer the well managed hatchery the tools to produce the maximum number of the highest quality chicks possible. This assumes, of course, it is in turn supported by a well-managed production chain, which in the current climate is perhaps the most important statement to make.

Feeding time and welfare

When looking at the current evolutionary point, nature has enabled the chickens to cope with a hatch window of some 24-36 hours. The mother hen can happily hold the first hatchling until the final chick arrives and comfortable keep her clutch together until they are all ready for the ultimate “pecking” lesson with a view to them finally acquiring feed and water – an essential...

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