Canadian Poultry Magazine

The Hatchery has become the centre of the Poultry Industry

By K. F. Wells - Supervisor Hatchery Sanitation and Pullorum Control Dept. of Agriculture Ottawa   

Features 100th anniversary Key Developments Poultry Production Poultry Research Production Research

November 1946

As this is a meeting of men interested in hatching and selling baby chicks, let us start with a box of baby chicks as they arrive on the farm.

Upon arrival a baby chick is a bundle of possibilities and it is partly your duty as hatcherymen to see that the purchaser gets everything possible out of the chicks.

We are convinced that most losses in baby chicks are due to mismanagement and a great deal of these losses can be prevented by proper instruction, on the handling of baby chicks.


Baby chicks upon arrival should immediately be taken out of their box and put in a brooder which has previously been thoroughly prepared by cleaning and heating for 3 days before the arrival of the chicks so as to insure an even temperature of 95 to 100 degrees F. Baby chicks should be kept separate from all other poultry. A baby chick’s first need is water; as it body is comprised of 55% water. Water is needed for the following purposes; as a solvent for food stuffs, transportation of food stuffs, to chemically aid digestion, in the regulation of body temperature and the elimination of body waste. Water is more essential to poultry than feed. A chicken will live longer on water alone than on feed alone. A properly balanced chick starter should be regularly fed.

All drinking fountains, feeding troughs and other equipment should be washed once per day in boiling water.

Pullorum Losses

If there are any pullorum losses in the chicks, they will commence at about 2 weeks. Unfortunately there is nothing that can be done at this time to prevent these losses except putting strict sanitation measures into effect and immediately removing any sick or dead chicks. Be sure of your diagnosis when losses appear in your flock. There is operated by each province, a Provincial Laboratory where you may send sick or dead, preferably sick, chicks and chickens and obtain a proper diagnosis. Make full use of this service supplied by your Provincial Government.

Checking and Preventing Coccidiosis

From figures gathered from every province in the Dominion it is evident that there has been less pullorum chick mortality this year than ever before. In fact pullorum losses this past season have been negligible, but let us not be lulled into a false sense of security. We must still be on the alert for any increase in pullorum outbreaks.

The Coccidiosis danger period starts at three weeks of age. The Division of Animal Pathology, Science Service of the Dominion Department of Agriculture have just completed but not yet published a long and thorough study of Coccidiosis and it is their findings that certain of the sulpha drugs will control coccidiosis. These sulpha drugs however must not be used promiscuously in large amounts or for too long periods, as harmful results, such as chronic bleeding, upset nutritional balances, lack of egg shell, etc. may result.

The drugs, sulphamerazine and sulphamethazine will check coccidial infection even after it has progressed to the stage when bleeding has commenced. These drugs when given in smaller doses during the time when birds are exposed to infection will prevent disease.

The dosage of sulphamerazine and sulphamethazine for preventive treatment is one ounce per 30 lbs. of feed thoroughly mixed and fed for 6 days. It must be remembered that it is essential for birds to be exposed to infection while they are getting the preventative treatment; otherwise they will not become immune.

The amounts of drug necessary for curative treatment is one ounce per 15 pounds of feed thoroughly mixed, and treatment should be started at the first sign of bloody droppings and continued for three days.

These sulpha drugs if obtained by the poultryman at a cost of $18.00 per pound, and we hope this will be possible by next spring, can be used for either a three-day curative treatment or a six day preventative treatment at a total cost of less than .01c per bird.

Practical systems are now being worked out by the Division of Animal Pathology, and these will be available before the coming spring. These coccidiosis control measures will, when ready, be given adequate publicity and instructions for their use will be available to any one.

Pullorum Reduced to One Percent

Speaking now of pullorum control, we wish to emphasize that it is not accident that the pullorum reaction in hatchery supply flocks has been reduced from 20% at the start of organized pullorum testing to less than 1% today.

This sharp reduction in reaction percentage is the result of a carefully planned and closely followed control or eradication policy and we cannot emphasize too strongly your responsibility in seeing that these control measures are followed at all times.

How Percentage Should Be Figured

It is the custom in most provinces to figure the annual pullorum percentage on the final test figures of each flock. While this gives us the percentage of hatchery supply flocks at the start of the hatching season, it does not give us a true picture of the pullorum reaction in a province. To properly determine the effect of the control policy, all reactors in the first tests of each year should be used in figuring the provincial percentage of reaction and that percentage then compared to similar percentages of previous years.

We know what should be done for a sound pullorum control program, and so let us follow that program, but at the same tie we should now turn our minds to other diseases and problems of poultry. Let us attempt to work out sound practical programs for other diseases that are now just as important to our industry.

Hatchery Needs Four Departments

Turning to the hatchery, we must all realize that the chick hatching industry is now a main street proposition and every effort must be made to keep it where it is today. The chief function of a hatchery is to change the raw product, hatching eggs, into baby chicks. The steps in this process all follow in sequence and each step should be kept separate from each other; thus making necessary at least four separate departments-

1) Egg receiving room, which if necessary can also be sued for traying the eggs, but it is preferable to have a separate room for this purpose.
2) The incubating and hatching room, in which nothing but the machines should be kept.
3) Chick grading, boxing and shipping room.
4) The wash up room, where all trays and other essential equipment should be thoroughly washed after each use.

If brooding is to be carried on, it is absolutely essential that a separate brooder room with no direct entrance to the machine room be maintained.

Hatching Chicks Now Big Business with 9000 Approved Flocks

In Canada during the past year there were approximately 3,000,000 birds comprising some 9,000 poultry flocks, that were approved in order to ship hatching eggs to Canada Approved Hatcheries. This means that during the hatching season, approved hatcheries are the marketing agents for 9,000 Canadian poultry farmers who supply the hatching eggs for the poultry industry as a whole. In addition these 9,000 supply flock owners buy back chicks produced by approved hatcheries, so that hatchery operators are doubly responsible to their supply flock owners primarily for their initial raw product and secondly because they constitute a portion of their market.

The Servicing of Supply Flocks

The first essential to the success of a hatchery operator is the exercise of care in the selection of sound, progressive poultrymen as supply flock owners and then treat them as partners in his business, as indeed they are. It is also the duty of an approved hatchery operator to service his supply flocks.

A qualified hatchery service man visiting supply flocks regularly is in a position to advise owners of any needed changes in their program to produce better hatching eggs, and at the same time the hatchery gains the protection of knowing al the approved flock regulations are being followed.

Supply flock owners should feed a good breeding ration and start feeding it at least four weeks prior to the first hatching egg delivery. As most of the nutritional factors required for normal embryo growth are also essential for normal chick growth, high livability of chicks is closely associated with high hatchability of eggs.

To produce good hatching eggs there must be a sound breeding program and good flock management. Parasites can, for example, reduce hatchability; dirty eggs are a nuisance as well as a potential source of disease to the hatcheryman; poor shell texture does not enhance hatching eggs. All these and many other related problems can be cleared away by a qualified hatchery service man.

Flock owner meetings can and should be held, with a few short talks on mutual problems giving the flock owner an opportunity to have his questions answered and pointing out to him the benefits of better hatchability from a properly cared for flock. An insight into the hatchery operations and all they entail should be given the flock owners in order that they may appreciate the hatchery operator’s side of the picture.

A circular letter service can be set up by the hatchery operator as a means of passing out to his supply flock owners new information, suggestions and ideas. The trend in chick demand and production can also be given as an aid to flock owners, along with interesting bits of information about individual flock owners, or any information about the hatchery and special orders that have been received. It will be found that every effort put forward to increase the flock owners’ interest in the production of better hatching eggs and to promote confidence in the hatchery will pay good dividends.

It is the duty of an approved hatchery operator to operate the hatchery in such a manner that the hatching egg shipper gets the best possible returns on his hatching eggs ad that the chick buyers get the best possible chicks that can be produced. Good hatchery management consists of constant attention to a multitude of small details; the neglect of any one of which may lead to serious losses.

Infection and Sanitation

One of the important factors in producing quality chicks is sanitation and this is important in a hatcher as most diseases are spread through the presence of filth and dirt. In a hatchery with the constant flow of people, egg cases, eggs, chick boxes, chick incubator waste and in some cased feed and other poultry supplies, dirt is bound to accumulate and if this dirt remains, bacteria or disease producing organisms can thrive and spread.

Some of the most common sources of infection to hatcheries are dirty eggs, dirty egg cases, visitors, the use of used chick boxes, refuse from incubators, used feed bags, sick chickens and poultry coops.

A properly operated hatchery can overcome potential sources of infection and produce better chicks by the application of a few simple rules.

(1) Keep the hatchery clean and tidy at all times. Don’t let supplies pile up on top of the machines and be dust collectors. After each hatch is taken off, wash up the entire premises using plenty of water and a good disinfectant. Keep the premises swept clean and free of cobwebs at all times.
(2) Have incubator refuse removed as soon as possible from the hatchery and if necessary to hold it overnight, hold outside in tightly closed refuse cans.
(3) Fumigate the machines regularly. It must be remembered that the sole function of fumigation is to create a disease free atmosphere in which the chicks can be hatched. Fumigation cannot destroy organisms inside an unhatched egg, nor will fumigation cure pullorum once established in a baby chick. Chick embryos are susceptible to formaldehyde only during the 24th to 72nd hour of incubation, that is the 2nd and 3rd days.
How to Fumigate Incubators

For proper fumigation use 1 ½ cu. Centimeters of formalin and 1 gram of potassium permanganate per cubic foot of incubator space (inside measurements). Machine to be aired after 20 minutes.

A simple and satisfactory fumigation program is as follows:

(i) Fumigate so as to expose each set to a gassing, being careful not to expose embryos to formaldehyde on the 2nd or 3rd day.
(ii) If separate hatchers are used, fumigate after transferring the eggs, but before any chicks have pipped.
(iii) Fumigate after each hatch has been taken off, but before any cleaning up has been commenced. This renders all debris harmless.
(iv) Do not allow visitors in the incubating room. Have a counter or public room where all business can be transacted.
(v) Do not brood chicks in the incubator room ad do not have the started chicks travel back through the hatchery on their way out.
(vi) Do not receive hatching eggs in the incubator room. If possible have a separate room for receiving eggs and other hatchery supplies. Tray either in the receiving room or a traying room. Do not take egg cases into incubator room.
(vii) Do not allow employees to wear the same clothes for flock field work and inside work.
(viii) Supply adequate washing facilities for all employees.
(ix) Do not allow sick or dead chickens or poultry coops inside the hatchery. If sick or dead birds must be examined, do this outside the hatchery.
(x) Have convenient washing facilities for chick sexers, and have them used regularly. Be sure that clean boxes are used for sexing and that chicks are carefully handled.
(xi) Operate the incubators in a manner that will hatch the best possible chicks. The present day incubator, as fully automatic as it is, still requires a competent and conscientious operator.

In general the higher percentage of hatch, the higher percentage of husky and strong chicks will be produced. Overheating, chilling and improper moisture in incubators at hatching time will result in poor quality chicks.

Print this page


Stories continue below