"The transport of incubated eggs is of course much better than transporting chicks, you are not moving around living chicks that are sometimes without food and water for hours. The consequence is that the incubated eggs have to hatch at the poultry farm, which we call 'on-farm hatching'."
Freek Leijten is Product Manager at Vencomatic, he has done a lot of research on 'on-farm hatching' and the transport of 18 days incubated eggs. Below some tips.
What is on-farm hatching?
"In 2004 Vencomatic developed, together with the Kuijpers family, a solution where you integrate hatching into the housing system. On-farm hatching fulfils three basic natural needs of the chick from hatching onwards: feed, water and fresh air."
"On-farm hatching has several advantages, mainly that the broilers are a lot healthier because they have direct access to feed and water. This promotes organ development, there are fewer risks of cross-contamination and better animal health makes it easier to manage the chicks. That includes transporting the incubated eggs."
What should you consider when transporting incubated eggs?
"We distinguish different phases of the transport of incubated eggs: preparing the truck, waiting at the hatchery, the transport itself and the arrival at the farm. At the bottom of this article all the tips are put together, I will discuss the most important ones here."
"The truck should be disinfected and preheated, but not too much: if the eggs get too hot, the chicks hatch too quickly. Too cold is even better than too hot. We recommend transporting with setter trays, which are trays on which the hatching eggs are positioned, with different dimensions. The trays are transported in special trolleys, which are used in an incubator. We advise you not to stack the eggs, to prevent them from getting too warm. In an incubator or transport trolley, this has the least chance of happening."
And the transport itself?
"During transport, the hatching carts must of course be properly secured, you also have to drive carefully. There is a maximum of 14 hours from incubator to broiler house, but we have good experiences with up to 8 hours. A room temperature between 28 and 32 degrees Celcius is recommended, then they do not get too hot. On arrival at the farm, you have to put the hatching eggs in the house as soon as possible, otherwise the incubation process is delayed by the cold."
"The room temperature in the house should be between 28 and 35 degrees. You then heat up the house further to a maximum of 35 degrees. You measure the egg shell temperature with a special ear thermometer, on the side of the egg. These measurements are also sometimes done with infrared, but there is still some discussion about the reliability."
So transporting incubated eggs is doable?
"If you stick to our guidelines, yes. It's mainly about temperature, we now know that CO2 or humidity play no significant role during transport."
"We even have customers who have their own incubaters and have taken the complete hatching process to the farm, mainly because of the lower cost price and shorter chain. In North Holland there are two poultry farmers who use the Patio system, they share an incubator. They do the incubation themselves, which means less transport. That is the ideal situation of course."
Overview of guidelines 18-day incubated eggs:
Prepare conditioned truck
- Use a truck that is designed for the transport of day-old chicks
- The truck should be cleaned and disinfected before transporting the incubated eggs.
- The truck should be preheated to 30.0- 32.0°C (86.0- 89.6°F) Start on time!
Waiting at the hatchery
- It is advisable to fill the empty spaces in the setter trays with fertilized eggs after the candling.
- If the eggs are not transported immediately, place the eggs back in the hatchery to prevent them from cooling down.
- Pre-hatched eggs should be transported on hatchery trolleys or on specially designed transport trucks. DO NOT transport on stacked trays or in boxes to prevent overheating of the eggs during transport.
- Trolleys must be properly secured in the truck.
- Drive carefully: Excessive shaking of the eggs due to abrupt braking or poor road conditions can negatively affect the outcome.
- The room/air temperature during transport should be between 28.0- 32.0°C (82.4- 89.6°F)
Arrival at the farm
- Wagons with incubated eggs should immediately be placed in the pre-heated broiler house between 28.0 - 35.0°C (80.0 - 94.0°F) to prevent the eggs from cooling down.
- After insertion of all eggs, the temperature in the house should be raised to 34-35°C (93-95°F).
- Regularly check the temperature of the eggshells in the middle and at the edge of the hatching windows.