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Optimize your value chain (2) - Nature’s guidance to maximizing the genetic potential of the egg

Last e-news, you could read how the concern to bring quality to the value chain in the poultry industry keeps growing. This time, we will dig deeper into how incubation results can be maximized with the help of the most ingenious inventor on earth: nature.

In essence, the hatchery should maximize the genetic potential that is inside the egg, delivered by the previous parts of the chain, in order to bring maximum value to the parts further down the chain. To maximize the genetic potential, we are guided by the most ingenious inventor on earth: nature. Nature has programmed the mother hen so she instinctively knows how to best take care of her offspring, this way making sure her genes are passed on. The attentiveness of the mother hen in the nest varies during incubation, leading to changes in temperature, CO2 levels and humidity.

Taking nature as a reference, Petersime builds incubators and equips them with technology to listen to the embryo like a mother hen would do and to respond to these signals accordingly. Via automated monitoring, the system continuously interacts with its current incubation environment, using real-time data to adjust incubation parameters for an optimal environment specific to each batch of eggs. Scientific research and extensive field trials have proved that chick quality and hatchability as well as post-hatch performance benefit substantially from this active control during incubation. Aptly, Petersime baptised this technology Embryo-Response Incubation™ technology.

In order to better grasp how we can maximize the genetic potential of a hatching egg, let us have a look at the natural incubation behaviour of chickens first and then see how we can learn from this natural process to improve our own hatchery results.

1.       Day 1 – 9: intensive brooding

In nature, once the whole clutch is laid, the mother hen starts to brood on them intensively for around nine days. The bird heats up the eggs, which will reach a temperature that stabilises at 100°F during the incubation process. This is the signal for the embryos to start developing. Because the hen sits on top of the eggs, ventilation is limited. Consequently, gaseous and fluid exchange of the eggs is restricted and CO2 and humidity levels get high. In the same way, Petersime’s Embryo-Response Incubation™ technologies precisely control the environment by keeping the eggs at an egg shell temperature of 100°F and by keeping CO2 and humidity levels high during the first days of incubation, this so-called endothermic phase of incubation.

2.       Days 10 – 18: less attention

After nine days, when the eggs start producing heat, the hen leaves the nest on a regular basis, looking for food and water. Consequently, more fresh air surrounds the eggs, allowing the embryos to radiate their excess heat better so they maintain a temperature of 100°F. As oxygen intake is no longer restricted because the hen is no longer brooding that intensively, CO2 build-up diminishes and the air around the eggs becomes less humid. Based on real-time monitoring of the embryos, Embryo-Response Incubation™ technology adapts the environment in the same way, keeping the eggs at the correct egg shell temperature and lowering CO2 and humidity levels.

3.       Day 18-21: intense attention and hatch

At the 20th day, the first chicks start to hatch. The hen wants to make the time window wherein all her chicks hatch as short as possible. This is important because the hen doesn’t want her first-born chicks to starve while waiting for the other chicks to hatch. But she also doesn’t want to let her first-borns wander off on its own in search for food because predators could prey on the vulnerable newly hatched chicks. So, she starts brooding intensively again, triggering all chicks to hatch simultaneously by intensively responding on their signals and adjusting the conditions in the nest.

The attentiveness of the mother hen in the nest varies during incubation, leading to changes in temperature, CO2 levels and humidity.

Now, how exactly do temperature, CO2 and humidity help to optimize the genetic potential that is already inside the egg, so you will get the most viable chicks? And how can you check if your hatchery and hatchery management techniques are still in good shape? Discover it in our next e-news in September, where we will explain how you can influence the health and growth rate of embryos by regulating temperature and where you can find a handy checklist for best practices in temperature management.