Moment of Hatch and Feed Access Affect Chicken Development

Early hatchers developed and grew differently from mid-term and late hatchers within a 24-hour hatch window in this Dutch work, and even a short delay in access to feed after hatch impacted growth and development during the first seven days.
calendar icon 6 October 2014
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This study from the Netherlands evaluates the effects of hatch timing and immediate feed and water access within a 24-hour hatch window on chicken growth and development.

In a paper in the current issue of Poultry Science, David Lamot of the Cargill Animal Nutrition Innovation Center Velddriel and co-authors at Wageningen University and HatchTech BV explain that 504 male chickens obtained from a 49-week-old Ross 308 breeder flock were assigned to 72 cages based on hatching moment (early, mid-term or late; selected during periods of 475 to 481, 483 to 487, and 489 to 493 hours after onset of incubation).

At the end of each hatching period, chickens were moved to the grow-out facility and one-half of the chickens received feed and water ad libitum immediately. Remaining chickens received feed and water from 504 hours after onset of incubation (day 0).

Bodyweight gain and feed intake for each cage were recorded at days 0, 1, 4, 7, 11 and 18. Chickens were sampled on days 4 and 18 for organ and carcass development.

Early hatchers were lighter at placement than mid-term and late hatchers but compensated for this afterwards, resulting in a higher bodyweights on day 4 (112.8, 107.1 and 103.3g, respectively).

From days 0 to 18, early hatchers tended to have higher bodyweight gain than both other groups.

Relative breast meat yield on day 18, expressed as percentage of carcass weight, was higher for early (30.4 per cent) than mid-term (28.5 per cent) and late hatchers (27.8 per cent).

Up to day 7, direct feed access resulted in higher bodyweight gain (6.1 per cent) and feed intake (4.2 per cent) than delayed feed access.

No effect of moment of feed access on feed efficiency or organ weights was found.

Direct feed access resulted in a higher weight:length ratio of the jejunum (12.5 per cent) and ileum (7.5 per cent) on day 4 than with delayed feed access.

Lamot and co-authors concluded from their results that early hatchers have a different developmental and growth pattern than mid-term or late hatchers within a 24-hour hatch window.

Even a mild delay in feed access after hatch affects growth and development during the first week after hatch, they added.


Lamot D.M., I.B. van de Linde, R. Molenaar, C.W. van der Pol, P.J.A. Wijtten, B. Kemp and H. van den Brand. 2014. Effects of moment of hatch and feed access on chicken development. Poultry Science. 93: 2604-2614. doi: 10.3382/ps.2014-04123

Further Reading

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October 2014

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