Broilers that hatch in the housing show less mortality and fewer footpad lesions. We already knew this. But more recently, it has come to light that the positive effects also seem to be long term. This is evident from a study by Wageningen Livestock Research.

The project compared traditional hatching and a home hatching system, which we know as the patio system. The research was carried out at the Belgian ‘Proefbedrijf Pluimveehouderi’ (Poultry Keeping Trial farm).

The results indicate that the broiler chicks have better health. ‘It seems plausible that conditions in early life affect the health and behaviour of broilers over the longer term. However, little is known about the underlying mechanisms.’ says Ingrid de Jong, project leader on behalf of Wageningen Livestock Research.

The trial showed that some effects also dissipate when the broilers get older. For example, up to day 21, broilers hatched in the housing were heavier than ones from a hatchery, but not after that.  This broadly confirms previous findings.

No difference in behaviour

Birds from the two hatching systems showed no difference in behaviour. But there were differences in the response when the broilers were exposed to a test situation. This is the case with both young and older birds.

Follow-up research will also look into this. This will be done in collaboration with the Adaptation Physiology specialist group, in the EU Healthy Livestock project.

Text: Bas Lageschaar (