Optimising Poultry Production from Egg to Chicken

Advice on setting quantifiable criteria for each stage of incubation are offered by Marleen Boerjan of Pas Reform.
calendar icon 25 May 2012
clock icon 4 minute read

Hatching egg quality and incubation conditions influence broiler performance. It is, therefore, important to optimise continually every stage of incubation management, based on specific protocols for quality control and best performance.

In addition to data collection and data analysis, open and regular communication between breeder farm, hatchery and broiler farm is essential, both for quality control and to produce first-class results in integrated poultry meat production. The hatchery is a natural hub for communications between separate production links because hatchery management receives production data both from the breeder farm and the broiler farm.

The basis for optimisation is found (1) in quantifiable criteria and (2) in references or standards for each of these criteria (see table).

Step in incubation Quantifiable criteria:
Egg handling at the farm and during transport
  • temperature and relative humidity at the farm and during transport; egg temperature on arrival (use portable dataloggers)
  • flock specific data: strain and age, lay%, health status
  • percentage of first class hatching eggs
  • percentages of dirty eggs, floor eggs, cracked eggs and eggs with hairline cracks, upside down eggs
Egg storage
  • temperature and relative humidity
Preparation for ­incubation: egg traying, prewarming, preheating
  • flocks age and length of storage
  • average egg weights and coefficient of variation (CV)
  • temperature and duration of preheating in the setter (or of prewarming in the setter room)
Incubation in the setter
  • start of incubation and time to reach the temperature set points
  • incubation program (temperature, relative humidity, ventilation profiles)
  • egg weight loss
Transfer to hatchers
  • incubation time at moment of transfer
  • percentage of clear eggs
  • results of break-out of clear eggs
Incubation in the hatchers
  • hatcher climate (temperature, relative humidity, ventilation profiles)
  • time point increase of humidity and maximum level of relative humidity
  • time point of first chicks
  • time point of chick collection
  • hatch window
Chick collection
  • total number of saleable chicks
  • percentage culled
  • average chick weights and coefficient of variation (CV)
  • chick yields (ratio chicken body weight and initial egg weight)
  • chick quality expressed in Pasgar-score units
Chick quality expressed in Pasgar-score units
  • temperature during transport measured with small data loggers
  • temperature during transport measured with small data loggers
  • weight of chicks upon arrival
  • percentage of dead chicks at day 7
  • weight of chicks at day 7
  • relative growth during the first week
  • at the breeder farm
  • vaccination day old chicks before delivery

Reference data may be based on general standards provided by incubation consultants or breeder companies. Highly practical references are usually provided by the hatchery itself. Hatchery managers generally collect data on egg quality, fertility, hatchability and first-week mortality per batch of eggs - and from this data, hatchery specific standard curves can be produced.

Optimisation protocols are then directed to perform above the hatchery specific standards. A disadvantage of hatchery specific standard curves is that structural failures and mismanagement may be hidden and not found. For this reason, it is still advisable to compare hatchery specific data with more general reference data from consultants or companies periodically.


  • Record key data on specific forms designed for this purpose
  • Record information on medication at breeder farm and hatchery, including vaccination
  • Define hatchery standards with reference to egg quality, hatchability, chick quality and first-week mortality
  • Compare data from each batch with the hatchery’s own reference data
  • Regularly compare hatchery specific data with more general reference, for example from consultants or breeder companies
  • Take appropriate action if quantifiable data falls below reference data
  • Investigate for structural failures if hatchery specific standards deviate below the standard curves provided by consultants or breeder companies, and
  • Always evaluate the results of any measures taken to improve or alter standards.

May 2012
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