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Published on May 6, 2021

Hatchery management techniques to ensure excellent flock performance

A recent article in Poultry Health Today discussed the importance of incubation with Hybrid Turkeys Hatchery Specialist Dr. Juan Lopez DVM, PhD. By focusing on a few key areas, hatchery managers can ensure that each poult can get off to a great start.

Managing hatchery conditions is extremely important for later performance of a flock. When temperature and humidity is controlled correctly, the yolk sac is properly absorbed by the poult, which gives them a better head start once placed on the farm. Good hatchery management also ensures the poults will be uniform in size and can effectively break out of their shell. What can hatchery managers do to deliver the best results and ensure good livability?

Hatchery management

  • From day 1 to 25 of incubation, turkey eggshell temperature should be between 99.4°F and 100°F (37.4°C to 37.7°C).
    • Because not all hatching eggs are the same, incubation temperature profiles must be adjusted; eggs from older hens have bigger yolks, which produce more heat than eggs from younger hens.
  • Avoid placing eggs on the highest shelf in the setter. Fewer eggs can be placed in each tray, and eggs can be removed from the setter at day 22, versus day 25, if they are getting too hot.
  • Pay attention to the hatch window:
    • 36 hours before the scheduled pulling time: between 1% to 3% of the poults — but not more than 5% — should have hatched. If more than 25% of the poults have hatched 36 hours before the scheduled pulling time, this means that the poults will be small due to dehydration. Flock uniformity may be impacted, since the later-hatching poults will be heavier.
  • Calculate poult yield:
    • A newly hatched poult should be 67% to 68% of the original egg weight. If a poult weighs less than that, say 63% to 64% of the egg weight, it is an indication they have been out too long, either because of high temperatures or incorrect incubation time.

All these tools — eggshell temperature, hatch window and poult yield — give hatcheries the ability to ensure the correct conditions are in place throughout the hatching process for a great poult start and ultimate flock performance.

Poult survival on the farm

Once on the farm, it is recommended to maintain poult internal temperature between 103° F and 104° F (39.4°C to 40°C). It has been determined this is their optimal comfort level where they will have the energy to look for feed and water. Poults that eat soon after arrival at the farm develop robust digestive and immune systems and are more likely to show strong performance throughout their life.

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