Skip to main content
SLU publication database (SLUpub)

Research article2021Peer reviewedOpen access

Effect of hatching time on time to first feed intake, organ development, enzymatic activity and growth in broiler chicks hatched on-farm

Boyner, M.; Ivarsson, E.; Franko, M. Andersson; Rezaei, M.; Wall, H.


The conventional commercial hatcheries used today do not allow the newly hatched chicks to consume feed or water. Combined with natural variation in hatching time, this can lead to early hatched chicks being feed-deprived for up to 72 h before being unloaded at the rearing site. This study investigated the effects of hatching time on time to first feed intake and development of organs, digestive enzymes and productivity in terms of growth and feed conversion ratio in chicks hatched on-farm. Chicks were divided into three hatching groups (early, mid-term and late), and assessed over a full production cyde of 34 days. The results revealed that chicks remain inactive for a considerable amount of time before engaging in eating-related activities. Eating activity of 5% ( i.e. when 5% of birds in each hatching group were eating or standing dose to the feeder) was recorded at an average biological age (BA) of 25.4 h and a proportion of 50% birds with full crop was reached at an average BA of 30.6 h. Considering that the hatching window was 35 h in this study, the average chick probably did not benefit from access to feed and water immediately post-hatch in this case. At hatch, mid-term hatchlings had a heavier small intestine (30.1 g/kg bw) than both early (26.4 g/kg bw) and late (26.0 g/kg bw) hatchlings. Relative length of the small intestine was shorter in late hatchlings (735 cm/kg bw) than in mid-term (849 cm/kg bw) and early (831 cm/kg bw) hatchlings. However, the relative weight of the bursa fabridi was greater in mid-term (130 g/kg bw) than in early hatchlings (1.01 g/kg bw). At hatch, late hatchlings were heavier than early and mid-term hatchlings (P < 0.05), but by 3 days of age early hatchlings were heavier than mid-term and late hatchlings (P < 0.01). The only effect persisting throughout the study was a difference in the relative weight of the small intestine, where late hatchlings had heavier intestines than early hatchlings (P < 0.05). Thus, while there were differences between hatching groups, this study showed that the hatchlings seemed capable of compensating for these as they grew. (C) 2020 The Authors. Published by Elsevier Inc. on behalf of The Animal Consortium.


alpha-Amylase; Crop fill; Early feed; Eating activity; Hatching window

Published in

2021, Volume: 15, number: 2, article number: 100083
Publisher: ELSEVIER