Better Chick Storage, Better Welfare
How important are chick storage conditions for chick welfare? Very important, according to HatchTech hatchery coach Rick Stigter. “Some waiting time between hatching and transport is inevitable and it is vital to make the chicks as comfortable as possible during this time. This may sometimes be underestimated, but I really believe that good chick storage can make the difference in chick welfare and health.”
There are two main factors determining the impact of chick storage time: the actual time spent waiting and the climate during this period. “You can never fully avoid holding time, but it’s obvious that you want to minimize the time in storage. Especially for chicks that haven’t been fed and watered yet. The importance of a controlled climate should be just as obvious, but is still sometimes forgotten”, notes Rick.
Climate is vital
In the ideal situation, the climate is stable and uniform for every chick, in every tray and every trolley. “This is a major part of our philosophy at HatchTech and our MicroClimer technology. The Laminar Airflow ensures an optimal climate throughout the setter, the hatcher and also throughout the chick storage room. After all, we know how important optimal, uniform conditions are around and after hatching.” Nonetheless, in many hatcheries chicks are still stored in rooms with insufficient cooling or ventilation, causing a big variation in body temperature. Rick explains. “On days with longer waiting times, higher chick density or high outside temperatures, the chicks are very vulnerable to a higher body temperature and that has a direct impact on their wellbeing. But even under ideal circumstances, you will always see a variation in climate. The average temperature may be perfect, but the chicks close to the fans are still too cold, whereas the ones further away will experience heat stress. This has a direct negative impact on chick performance, but also on welfare. Short term and long term.”
Heat stress in chicks is quite visible. Chicks start panting and if the body temperature really rises dangerously, the chicks become inactive. The discomfort is very visible but also causes invisible damage on the inside of the chick. Rick explains that the body temperature of day-old chicks should be between 40.0 and 40.6 °C. “Under suboptimal conditions, this can rise up to 42 degrees, causing damage to the intestines and the immune system. This lowers the growth potential of the chicks immediately and increases the risk of first-week mortality.”
As a hatchery coach, Rick spends his days finetuning the performance of hatcheries across Europe. Welfare is a very important aspect, from both an ethical and an economical point of view. “The whole business model of our hatcheries is based on uniformity and quality. With suboptimal chick storage, you will never reach optimal performance.” Rick sees the HatchTech Chick Storage Room as a very effective management tool to ensure the same quality and welfare every day, for every chick. “By applying the MicroClimer technology for chick storage, you provide the chicks with the best start possible.”