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Principles of single-stage incubation (1)

Part 1: Is the multi- vs single-stage debate finally over? Single-stage incubation is the standard method in the modern hatchery industry. However, a lot of hatcheries are still using the multi-stage method. Running a single- stage hatchery requires some different skills and technologies than running a multi- stage hatchery. Therefore the Hatchery Development Department of Petersime will write some practical articles about the principles of single-stage incubation. This article is the first in this series and describes some general aspects between multi-stage and single-stage incubation.  

Roger Banwell, Hatchery Development Manager, Petersime nv

Evolution of the hatchery industry from multi-stage to single-stage incubation

For many years the commercial incubation industry was almost entirely based on the multi-stage incubation methodology and achieved good results. The logic of the concept in terms of the efficient thermal interaction between endothermic and exothermic eggs and the ease of use made this an ideal solution.

Petersime’s analog controller that is particularly used for multi-stage incubation.

However as chicken consumption increased throughout the world and the poultry industry intensified, it became clear the multi-stage method could not satisfy the level of bio-security demanded in the modern consumer marketplace. Added to this, the academic world was clearly demonstrating how multi-stage incubation was unable to offer the optimum conditions required by the developing embryo. 

For some time, there were many publications and articles that theorised the potential of single-stage incubation to be the solution to both the bio-security issues and the creation of optimum conditions required by the embryo. However the initial single-stage methodology struggled to produce the same results achieved with multi-stage. The challenge in single-stage for the commercial incubator manufacturers in conjunction with academia was to identify the optimum conditions for the embryo and to create an incubator that can provide these specific conditions on a large scale.

It was almost inevitable that during this period a debate would occur between the multi- stage and single-stage points of view, but there can be little doubt now that a well-run, modern single-stage operation can achieve both hatch and post-hatch results beyond the best achievable results by a multi-stage operation. 

Petersime’s first incubator especially developed for single-stage incubation: the AirStreamer™.

Single-stage incubation: basic parameters

The optimum bandwidths for key parameters such as temperature, humidity and CO2 for the developing embryo are shown on the graph below.

Variable requirements of the incubation egg in function of the incubation period

The primary parameter is temperature, or better described as energy absorption and dissipation through heat exchange. Many academic studies and commercial trials have shown how precise temperature control, which cannot be achieved in a multi-stage environment, significantly affects both chick quality and all aspects of post-hatch performance in a positive way.

Secondly, it is now well proven that the degree of gaseous and fluid exchange, both in terms of absolute values and with respect to the point of embryonic development, has an effect on final hatch and post-hatch performance.

As research continues other factors are becoming identified that have a significant effect, but important is that these factors are always relative to the embryonic development stage.

Single-stage incubation: challenges

In answer to the question “Is the multi- vs single-stage debate finally over?” it appears obvious that the answer is yes in terms of performance. However the story does not end there. The new challenge for the hatchery staff considering making the change from multi- to single-stage is acquiring the expertise to run a single-stage operation. 

Within a multi-stage incubator, there is a mix of embryonic development stages. This means that there is no flexibility to adjust the environment with respect to optimal conditions. In a single-stage incubator, this is no problem anymore. However, the modern single-stage demands the operator to know, through good data analysis and incubation knowledge, which conditions are required by the embryo throughout the different developmental stages. This sets the new challenge for the incubator manufacturer, to offer the equipment with the technology required and the ability to bring the necessary knowledge and support to the industry.

Petersime’s state of the art single-stage incubator: the BioStreamer™


Single-stage incubation is the standard in a modern hatchery and with the BioStreamer™ incubator, Petersime offers the state of the art single-stage incubator with the required modern technology. But running a single-stage hatchery also requires some personal expertise. Therefore Petersime offers different trainings to its customers in order to teach them the required skills to run a single-stage hatchery with a maximized profit for life.

This article is the first in a series about the principles of single-stage incubation. Following articles of the series will describe more details about running a single-stage hatchery.