Canadian Poultry Magazine

Hatching concept gives poults a wing up

By Melanie Epp   

Features Turkeys

New hatchery concept for turkeys a collaborative effort.

HatchCare for turkeys incubates eggs and provides poults with instant access to food and water. PHOTO CREDIT: Next Nest Hatching

When Dutch equipment supplier HatchTech’s new hatchery concept first came to market in 2014, it was well received, but only available for broilers. Now Next Nest Hatching, a company born out of a three-year collaboration between HatchTech Incubation and Life-Science Innovations in Minnesota, has released a similar hatchery system, this time intended for turkeys. 

Preliminary studies show turkey poults hatched using the Next Nest system are larger and healthier. Peter Gruhl, a 30-year veteran in the Canadian turkey sector and director of sales at Life-Science Innovations, and Jonathan Huisinga, general manager at Next Nest Hatching, explain how the system works.

The HatchTech concept ‘HatchCare’ has already been proven in broilers. Because chicks hatch under optimum and uniform conditions and are provided with fresh water, feed and light as soon as they hatch, overall chick quality is improved. The system has been adopted by two major hatcheries in Canada, Trillium and Synergy Agri Group. Globally, the HatchCare system has hatched over 3.2 billion chicks. 


Similar to HatchCare for broilers, HatchCare for turkeys incubates eggs and provides access to food and water immediately after poults hatch. Under conventional systems, the farm is the first-time poults have something to eat and drink. This can cause great challenges for farm managers, says Jonathan Huisinga, as farm managers have to teach weakened, dehydrated birds to find feed and water. For early-hatching birds, the wait from egg to food can be up to four full days. 

“Their egg yolk sac will help them survive but using those critical nutrients up to stay alive limits the potential for more robust early development of critical systems,” Huisinga says. 

Customized for turkeys
Using the HatchCare system for broilers in turkey hatcheries wasn’t possible. A whole new system needed to be developed to account for the size of their head and feeding height. The Huisinga family, with their 75 years of experience in turkey production, were the right people to take on this task. 

“The details make all the difference,” Huisinga says. “Millimeters of width or height of many different aspects of the HatchCare basket mean the difference between an ideal environment and failure.”

During its development, temperature and humidity profiles had to be completely re-evaluated, too, Huisinga explains. “Birds on feed and water kick off far more heat and need to be treated differently,” he says. “Manure is tricky, too. Birds poop a lot more once they start eating.” 

“With turkey eggs, the early production eggs are 70 to 72 grams,” Gruhl explains. “End of production eggs can be 105 to 108 grams, so you definitely have different amounts of heat being produced.” 

To address this issue, HatchTech included a laminar airflow system in the HatchCare system. While a typical hatchery would use just one main heat source, HatchCare for turkeys passes air through 14 radiators to provide ideal temperature control. 

“Every section has a thermostat on it so you can add temperature or take temperature away as you need,” he adds. “And because of how the machines are set up, we run a lower CO2 level, which is good for the poult. We know at higher CO2 levels, birds do not eat and grow optimally.”

Preliminary studies show turkey poults hatched using the Next Nest system are larger and healthier.
PHOTO CREDIT: Next Nest Hatching

What research shows
HatchCare for turkeys was first tested on the Huisinga family farm, Willmar Poultry Farms. But as they only raise about four flocks of toms each year, they decided to partner with third parties. 

“We wanted to focus our initial tests on tom’s because that’s where most of the value comes out of the turkey industry,” Huisinga says. 

Next Nest completed three multi-pen tom trials in a regional research facility with a third party. The trial followed turkeys from hatching to maturation. Posted birds on day of servicing or delivery day show feed in the digestive system of every bird, Huisinga says. 

“The body weights at the end of one week are actually 20 to 40 per cent bigger,” Gruhl adds. 

The studies also show that growth continues throughout maturation. Turkeys under the new system are 400 grams heavier once they reach 140 days of growth and five points feed conversion better than control birds. 

“That’s a big deal at historical-average feed costs, but right now it’s an even bigger deal,” Gruhl says. “This growth advantage was accomplished with the same amount of feed as standard-hatched birds, providing a significant cost savings.”

Come processing, toms grown under the turkey HatchCare system were two per cent larger than those grown under conventional systems, as well. 

But the benefits aren’t just for the birds. “Farmers have already recognized the advantages of brooding on a more convenient schedule for their farm team,” Huisinga reveals. 

“On service day, you can feel the difference between Next Nest and control birds,” he continues. “Our gender identification techs have said they could tell which birds are on feed/water if they were blindfolded, there’s that much difference. In fact, identifying gender is easier because of improved organ development, lending speed and accuracy to a challenging role.”

Under the turkey HatchCare system, the intestine, the largest immune organ in the bird, is also better developed. That improved organ development could confer improved immune status as well in the long term. 

Progress for turkeys
Both Gruhl and Huisinga are excited about the introduction of HatchCare’s new system for turkeys. Gruhl says it’s the first real value-add for turkey hatcheries in over four decades.

“As our industry becomes more under the microscope, this is a big step in a direction that nobody else has gone before,” he said. “It will help with the challenges of the economics of turkeys today because it’ll be getting better final performance.” 

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