Chick length to evaluate chick quality
Good chick quality is crucial to maximise the return on investment in the total poultry production chain. Day-old chick quality is influenced by breeder flock, egg handling, and incubation conditions and is directly related to field performance. Optimally developed chicks exhibit improved average daily gain, improved feed conversion, improved breast meat yield or egg production, and improved survival in the field.
Visual scoring is a subjective method that is often used to select the non-saleable chicks. This is not expressed by an objective number. Ongoing monitoring of the quality of day-old chicks is a key step in optimizing your hatchery results. To optimize your incubation process, it is important to use the correct method to evaluate chick quality.
Chick length is a fast, repeatable, and non-destructive method to evaluate chick quality. Routine chick length evaluation as a standard procedure evaluates the quality of your incubation process. It is a tool to use to maximize your incubation performance, the performance potential of your chicks, and the return on your investment.
Optimum performance potential
When incubation is optimal, the chicken embryo efficiently uses egg nutrients for development and growth. Common methods to evaluate chick quality are visual scoring, chick weight, Tona or Pasgar Score, and chick length at hatch.
Body weight is measured by weighing the whole chick. However, because chick weight includes an unknown amount of residual yolk, it does not express the development of the bird’s frame. A heavy chick can have a large residual yolk and a small yolk-free body mass. This embryo did not efficiently use the yolk for development and growth during the incubation process.
Chick length is a good practical method to predict chick development because it is positively related to yolk-free body mass at hatch. We recommend the use of the chick length in your Quality Analysis program. Routine chick length evaluation is a tool to monitor the quality and results of your incubation process. Ongoing chick length evaluation ensures that your chicks consistently have the optimum performance potential.
Effective and practical method
Chick length is an effective and practical method to evaluate chick quality. You only need:
- the chick length recording form
- a ruler
- digital chick length analysis program
In 7 steps you will have a clear evaluation of your chick quality. Chick quality can be used to evaluate two different goals.
- Goal A: To evaluate the incubation process, egg handling, shell quality, and breeder flock influence.
- Goal B: To evaluate the quality of the chicks delivered to the farm.
Step 1: Chick Sampling The method to sample chicks is different for each goal. Choose your goal, select the chicks and continue with Step 2
- Goal A: Select at random 5 baskets from the hatcher (before chicks are graded or culled). Randomly select 20 chicks from each of the 5 baskets (in total 100 chicks).
- Goal B: Take one basket with 100 chicks that is ready for transportation (after culling and selection).
Step 2: Align the tip of the beak on the end of the ruler and stretch the chick along the ruler.
Step 3: Measure the total length of the chick from the tip of the beak to the end of the middle toe. Stretch the chick to obtain an accurate measurement.
Step 4: Measure the chick length to the nearest 0.5 centimeter and record it in the correct category on the chick length analysis form. For example: when the chick length is between 19.5 and 19.9 cm, record it on the form in the category 19.5 < 20.0 cm.
Step 5: Count the total number of chicks per category.
Step 6: Enter the total number of chicks in each category in the digital chick length analysis program. The program will automatically calculate the percentage of chicks in each category, the average chick length, and the percentage of small chicks.
Step 7: Evaluate the chick length data.
Download example filled out form
Chick length analysis program
The collected data can now be analysed and evaluated with the chick length analysis program.
The program will automatically calculate the percentage of chicks in each category, the average chick length, and the percentage of small chicks.
Compare the results with the chick length guidelines in the table below.
When the average chick length or percentage small chicks does not meet the goals in the table below, the incubation process, the breeder flock influence, and the culling procedures must be further evaluated.
Continuous monitoring and optimization
When the percentage of small chicks does not meet the standard guidelines, it is necessary to further investigate the incubation conditions and egg handling and breeder management procedures, to identify the cause of the small chicks.
To hatch an optimally developed chick, the most crucial elements are:
- Embryo temperatures of 100°F until internal pipping
- Turning of the eggs
- Minimum average egg weight loss of 10% at day 18 of incubation
- Adequate gas exchange (O2 availability and removal of CO2)
If the above mentioned elements are correct, other areas that can impact chick quality must be investigated such as:
- Bad shell quality
- Breeder flock issues such as health, fertility, and management
- Egg storage duration and conditions
Continuous monitoring and optimization of these different areas ensures optimum and uniform chick length and field performance potential. HatchTech MicroClimer Setters and Hatchers provide the optimum incubation environment and produce the longest chicks with the highest performance potential.
Read more about HatchTech MicroClimer Setters and Hatchers.
1 cm difference = 264 grams more body weight
Chick development at day of hatch depends on how efficiently the embryo is able to utilize the available energy and nutrients that are available in the egg. An optimal incubation process in which embryo temperature was 100°F throughout incubation and oxygen supply was sufficient, will lead to the maximum body development and therefore maximum chick length.
Research has shown that a 1 cm chick length advantage at day of hatch can result in 264 grams more body weight with 45 grams more breast meat yield at 38 days of age, Molenaar et al. (2008). This, and the fact that an optimally developed chick will have a better feed conversion rate and increases the return on your investment.
HatchTech MicroClimer Setters and Hatchers
To hatch a optimally developed chick, the correct embryo temperature must be maintained throughout the entire incubation process. One of the advantages of the HatchTech MicroClimer Setters and Hatchers is the revolutionary technology of laminar airflow. Perforated radiators create the laminar airflow. Laminar airflow combined with uniform heating and cooling, maintains all eggs at the optimal embryo temperature of 100F during incubation. Chicks from HatchTech MicroClimer Setters and Hatchers are therefore able to maximize their growth and development during incubation and have the highest field performance and return on investment potential.
Read more about HatchTech MicroClimer Setters and Hatchers.