Stiftung Tierärztliche Hochschule Hannover (TiHo)

Effects of early nutrition of hatched chicks on welfare and growth performance : a pilot study

Abstract

This study aimed to investigate the possibility of rearing newly hatched chicks with immediate access to feed and water in the same hatching unit one week prior to transferring them to the conventional broiler house with special regards to foot pad health and growth performance. Two trials were performed with a total of 6900/6850 (trials 1/2) broiler chickens (ROSS 308). A total of 3318/3391 chicks (trials 1/2) were transported from the hatchery (duration of about 3 h) and reared in a conventional broiler house (control group: delayed nutrition on-hatchery hatched). The control group did not receive any form of nutrition until they were taken to conventional broiler housing. Additionally, a total of 3582/3459 (trials 1/2) embryonated eggs (d 18) were obtained from the same parent flock of the same commercial hatchery and taken to the farm facility. After on-farm hatch, the chicks had immediate access to water and feed (experimental group: early nutrition on-farm hatched). After d 6/7 of life, the on-farm hatched chicks (trials 1/2) were transferred to the broiler house on the same facility. The delayed nutrition on-hatchery hatched groups displayed a significantly lower dry matter content in the litter compared to the early nutrition on-farm hatched groups (two-factorial analysis) at d 6/7 and d 14 of life. However, thereafter, no significant differences were noted. Based upon two-factorial analysis, the early nutrition on-farm hatched groups revealed lower foot pad lesions from d 14 of life onwards and showed a higher body weight (BW) throughout the rearing period compared to the delayed nutrition on-hatchery hatched groups (p < 0.05). Overall, early nutrition on-farm hatched chickens is of critical importance together with using new litter at d 7 to maintain healthy foot pads as well as to enhance nutrient utilization and optimize the growth performance.

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