Gerard Witlox, in Tienray (NL), has been keeping broilers for 35 years. He considers hatching chicks in the housing to be the most important innovation he has experienced in the broiler sector in all that time.

“I could talk a lot about this, but it is very simple. Fattening broilers has never been easier than it has been since we started hatching the chicks in the housing.’ an enthusiastic Gerard Witlox tells us. Working with his wife Marja, he keeps 190,000 broilers, in five houses. They started keeping broilers more or less by accident 35 years ago. ‘There was a broiler unit near the house where we wanted to live, and that’s how it came about.’ This Limburg farm has expanded through the course of time.

Hatching in the housing
Enterococci related leg problems in his broilers prompted Witlox to switch from setting up day-old chicks to hatching eggs on in the broiler house. ‘We haven’t regretted this even for one day, because we were free of these problems very quickly,’ says Witlox, who started a home-hatching trial three years ago. He currently applies home hatching in all the houses, using the One2Born system with hatching eggs from the Schotman broiler hatchery in three of the houses. ‘Putting the trays into the houses goes well. It’s easy work. The chicks use them as a distraction material. The trays decay in the barn, and you don’t have to do anything else with them, it composts..’ Witlox says about the One2Born system.

‘Hatching in the barn is quite an improvement compared to setting up day-old chicks. Now, we can fatten broilers with very little effort. The technical results are improving. The mortality rate easily remains below 3%, which saves a lot of labour on selecting out lame broilers. Healthy animals also give us much more job satisfaction.’ says Witlox. He enjoys working with his strong and robust broilers, which grow well. “The daily growth is 1 to 1.5 grams higher and the antibiotic use has been practically reduced to zero. And that saves a few cents per broiler too.’ The Limburg poultry farmer explains that the technical results vary somewhat per round, depending on the season and origin of the chicks (hatchery and/or breeder). ‘It is clear that the broilers have a good start. We immediately see a head start in growth under stress-free conditions, where they can access water and feed directly. Putting the eggs in place and removing non-hatched ones is extra work. But reduced use of antibiotics, better technical results and easy and pleasant broiler fattening more than make up for that.’