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Delay in feed access and spread of hatch: importance of early nutrition

  • H. WILLEMSEN (a1), M. DEBONNE (a1), Q. SWENNEN (a2), N. EVERAERT (a1), C. CAREGHI (a1), H. HAN (a3), V. BRUGGEMAN (a1), K. TONA (a4) and E. DECUYPERE (a1)...

In a commercial hatchery, chicks (or poults) hatch over a 24-48 hour period. All chicks remain in the incubator until the majority of the chicks have emerged from the shell. Once removed from the incubator, the newly hatched chick has to undergo several hatchery treatments and is then transported before being placed on the broiler farm. This means that, under practical conditions, chicks are deprived of feed and water for up to 72 hours. In addition, the time of hatch within the hatching window and the spread of hatch cause variability in the amount of time that chicks are feed deprived. Literature on feed deprivation after hatch clearly demonstrates the detrimental effects of any delay in feed access on performance of the chicks with respect to growth, immune system activation, digestive enzyme stimulation and organ development. Improved management strategies, such as shortening the hatching window or the time to first feeding by specific management measures, provide an alternative in dealing with the negative effects caused by a delay in feed access. The development of pre-starter diets that better meet the needs of the newly hatched chicks or in ovo feeding to bridge the gap between hatch and first feeding provide other alternatives in overcoming these problems. However, speculation remains regarding the importance of in ovo or early feeding, or whether the in ovo or early feeding itself is responsible for the beneficial effects reported. The aim of the following review is to discuss the current status of research into early feeding and to stimulate future and further research regarding these topics.

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World's Poultry Science Journal
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