Hatchery Operations in Poultry


The operation of a chick hatchery involves the production of the largest number of quality chicks possible from the hatching eggs received at the hatchery. In addition, chicks must be produced economically. The sequences of hatchery operations followed in commercial hatcheries are


  • Securing hatching eggs
  • Traying hatching eggs
  • Fumigation
  • Cold Storage
  • Warm eggs prior to setting
  • Loading of eggs
  • Candling
  • Transfer of eggs
  • Pulling the hatch
  • Hardening
  • Grading
  • Sexing
  • Vaccination
  • Chick delivery
  • Washing and cleaning
  • Disposal of waste

1) Securing hatching eggs
Hatcheries can get the hatching eggs from any one of the following ways:

  • From own breeder flock
  • From other breeder flocks
  • From other hatcheries

2) Traying hatch eggs

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Traying hatch eggs

The eggs from the breeder flocks should be transferred to the egg setter trays in the hatchery immediately after receiving.

3) Fumigation of hatching eggs
After traying, eggs are to be kept in the fumigation chamber for fumigation. Fumigating with 3x concentration of formaldehyde for 20 minutes will kill about 97.5 to 99.5% of the organisms on the shells. One ‘x’ concentration means 20 g of KMnO4 with 40 ml of formalin for 100 cubic feet (3x means 60 g of KmnO4 + 120 ml of formalin for 100 cubic feet).

4) Cold Storage
When the eggs are not set immediately after receiving, they should be kept in cold rook at the temperature of 65 oF and 75% relative humidity.

5) Warm eggs prior to setting
Approximately 6 hours prior to placing eggs in the setter they should be moved from the egg-cooler room to normal room temperature. Here, atmospheric air condenses over eggshell and form water droplets over eggshell, which is called as ‘ Sweating ’. It is advantageous to warm eggs before placing them in the incubator by avoiding creation of low temperature in the machine by placing cool eggs directly.

6) Loading of eggs
Placing of eggs in the setter is called ‘ Loading of eggs’ . Eggs can be set in the setter either all-in all-out basis or batch basis. Most of the commercial hatcheries are practicing batch system of loading eggs in the setter that will minimize the initial time taken to reach normal incubation temperature in the setter. In this case, each setter is having hatching eggs with different stages of embryonic developments.

7) Candling

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Candling is a process in which eggs are kept in front of a light source to find out the defects in eggshell, embryonic development etc. Candling can be done as early as five days of incubation, but errors in candling often occur at this time. Under commercial operations, candling is done when the eggs are transferred from setter to hatcher (at 19th day for chicken eggs). There are two methods of candling that can be used. The fastest method involves the use of a table or mass candler . An entire tray of hatching eggs may be placed on the mass candler and examined with one observation. Candling with a spot candler or individual candler is a little slower, but it is more accurate.

8) Transfer of eggs
In modern incubators, eggs are transferred from setter to hatcher at 19th day of incubation (for chicken egg) or when approximately 1% of the eggs are slightly pipped. In general, one-seventh of total incubation period is needed to keep eggs in the hatcher.

9) Pulling the hatch
The process of removing the chicks from the hatcher is often called pulling the hatch. Chicks should be removed from the hatcher as soon as all are hatched and about 95% are dry. Excessive drying in the hatcher should be avoided.

10) Hardening the chicks
When the chicks are first placed in the chick boxes they are soft in the abdomen, are not completely fluffed out, and do not stand well. They must be “hardened” by leaving them in the boxes for 4 or 5 hours. Such hardening makes it easier to grade the chicks for quality, and the chicks are more easily vent-sexed.

11) Grading the chicks
No chick below the minimum standard must be allowed to go to a customer. Some standards for quality are, 1) No chick deformities 2) No unhealed navels 3) Above a minimum weight 4) Not dehydrated and 5) Stand up well.

12) Sexing the chicks

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Sexing the chicks

Layer type day-old chicks are need to be sex separated either by vent sexing or auto-sexing (feather sexing). In case of meat-type day-old chicks sexing is not practiced.
13) Vaccination

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Most chicks are vaccinated against Marek’s disease in hatchery before delivery. Most common method of vaccination of day-old chicks is by subcutaneous method in the nape of the neck.

14) Chick delivery
Baby chicks should reach the customer’s farm early in the morning. Not only the weather is cooler during this part of the day but the early arrival allows a full day for close observation of the chicks by the caretaker.

15) Washing and cleaning

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Washing and cleaning

Cleaning the hatchery between hatches is of primary importance. The process must be complete. Except for the setters and setter room, every piece of equipment must be thoroughly vacuumed, scrubbed, disinfected and fumigated.

16) Disposal of waste

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Disposal of waste

Hatchery wastes include infertile and non-hatched eggs, and dead and cull chicks that should be disposed in such a manner not to create problem to the neighbors and also not to contaminate the hatchery premises.

Steps Involved In Commercial Hatchery Operations

Source: Expert system