Getting to the bottom of sex-related first week mortality

"Why are so many chicks dying in their first week?" I could hear the worry in his voice when I received a call from the manager of a single-stage broiler hatchery in southern Brazil. It was a cold winter (yes, even in this tropical country temperatures can go below 10°C) and he was getting reports of 3-5 percent of chicks dying in their first week, and in some cases even 10 percent.
calendar icon 20 May 2020
clock icon 4 minute read

We've learned some valuable lessons from this story. It's important to check the temperature in different parts of the chick delivery room, and chicks must not be exposed to cold draughts. If necessary, direct inlet air upwards away from the chicks so that it warms up first. It's not worth destroying all the effort that has gone into incubation by careless handling of newly hatched chicks.

We set up a makeshift trial using cardboard funnels to direct the cool air upwards, avoiding direct air flow over the chicks. A few hours later, when we measured the temperature of the air around the chick boxes near the air entrance, conditions had improved, and this was confirmed by the chicks' more normal rectal temperatures.

The hatchery manager has now devised a more permanent solution: aluminium air conductors have been fitted. And even in winter there have been no more complaints of chicks dying from the cold.

We've learned some valuable lessons from this story. It's important to check the temperature in different parts of the chick delivery room, and chicks must not be exposed to cold draughts. If necessary, direct inlet air upwards away from the chicks so that it warms up first. It's not worth destroying all the effort that has gone into incubation by careless handling of newly hatched chicks.

Lenise I. de Souza

Incubation Specialist at Pas Reform Academy
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