Hatching chicks in the poultry house using the One2Born system helps prevent enterococci infections and feet and leg problems, according to Marij Fermont, poultry veterinarian at AdVee Dierenartsen in Ysselsteyn. 

Enterococci infections are the cause of many problems on poultry farms. “Once problems are detected, we have to treat these infections using antibiotics. The treatment works fast, but the same infections often recur in the same rearing cycle”, says poultry veterinarian Marij Fermont, who favours a more preventive approach to this issue.

There are 50 different species of enterococci gut bacteria. One species that is responsible for many problems is Enterococcus cecorum.This causes inflammation of the joints (hip, knee or hock) and bone tissue in broilers which can lead to lameness or result in a vertebral abscess or inflammation of the heart sac. The extent of damage caused by E. cecorum can be as high as 10% mortality, particularly from week three. The percentage of rejected birds can also quickly rise to 10%. The financial consequences are serious – a situation that poultry producers would rather avoid.

Much uncertainty surrounds the infection route taken by E. cecorum. It can spread via the air, beak, skin or foot sole lesions. The beak is considered to be the most likely route of transmission. “Enterococci are normally found in the gut and only start to cause problems when they enter the bloodstream from the intestinal tract. That probably occurs in the first days of the chick’s life, when the intestinal wall is still permeable to bacteria “, explains Fermont. The veterinarian sometimes visits poultry farms that suffer from high levels of feet and leg problems. “If these producers start to use a system of hatching in the poultry house, like One2Born, they will often see a positive impact on preventing infections caused by enterococci. This provides a better start for the chicksand mortality in the first week is usually low.”

Intestinal wall closes faster

So what explains the positive effects of hatching in the house on reducing the incidence of enterococci-related problems? There are three explanations. Firstly, the infection pressure is lower. The chick hatches from the egg in the house and not at a hatchery, where there is always a risk of cross-infection with other newly hatched chicks. Secondly, immediate access to feed also has a positive effect. Chicks use the yolk as a source of nutrition, but if they hatch in the house, they have direct access to feed and water. “That more closely mimics the natural situation leading to the hypothesis that the intestinal wall closes faster as the first feed is available sooner. This reduces the risk of enterococci being transferred from the gut into the bloodstream,” says Fermont. Research reveals that chicks with immediate post-hatching access to feed and water also absorb the yolk residue faster. This provides extra nutrients and a smooth transfer of maternal immunity. Finally, the reduced stress experienced by chicks that hatch in the house is probably the major factor. The chicks do not suffer from stress caused by transport and withholding feed and water. They hatch straight into the spacious living environment of the poultry house. Lower stress levels ensure a properly functioning immune system, which consequently reduces the risk of outbreaks of bacterial infections. The One2Born system delivers robust, healthy chicks that grow faster and achieve a high end weight. Improved animal welfare, lower antibiotic use and higher returns are all in the interest of the entire sector and poultry farmers in particular.