Increase Egg Productivity
The chicken hatchery is a vital part of poultry farming as it handles the delicate process of turning eggs into viable chicks. Get it right and you will have a successful farm filled with healthy chickens. Get it wrong and you might not see any returns on your investment. No matter what the scale of your operations might be, you need to have a good structure and implement a solid management system. Below are details of chicken hatchery basics to help novices reduce losses and increase egg productivity.
Natural vs. Artificial Egg Incubation
Eggs will hatch naturally with proper attention from their mother hen. A single hen may be able to take care of up to 15 eggs at a time. For very small backyard farms, relying on the mothers could be enough to carry them through. It’s simple and cheap. It requires minimal intervention from the owner. On the other hand, this method requires a good amount of space and the risk of disease transmission from mother to child is high. For larger operations, the use of an incubator is necessary to streamline the process, speed up the hatching, and increase the success rate. The purchase cost can be quickly recouped after a few hatchings.
Building the Hatchery
It is best practice to have a chicken hatchery that is separate from the rest of the poultry. This structure can be as plain or as complex as the situation dictates. The important thing is to provide adequate room for the eggs to properly develop during the three weeks or so that they will be spend there. The space should be kept clean at all times. Temperature and humidity should be kept within the optimum range for best results. The ceiling must be high enough for proper ventilation. Consider possible future expansions in the design of the structure.
Chicken Egg Incubator
A lot of backyard poultry farmers choose to take the DIY route and create their own incubator. This allows them to have complete control over the design and operation of the machine. There are plenty of instructional guides online that can help people with this project. However, most will want to rely on tried and tested products just to reduce the risks. People with little experience are better off with commercial incubators. Even experienced farmers who are conscious of productivity will err on the side of caution. Flat incubators have small capacities while cabinet incubators are capable of handling large volumes.
If you are already taking care of hens, then your own farm can be the primary source of eggs for the chicken hatchery. Be on the lookout for signs that hens are ready to lay so that you can take better care of them and prepare accordingly. These include the discoloration of their yellowish parts such as the legs into a paler hue, the widening of the space between their pelvic bones, bright red combs and wattles, soft abdomens, and moist vents. An alternative would be to source eggs from other farms that are selling them at the right age. This makes it possible to fill the chicken hatchery any time of the year.
Egg candling refers to the use of light to take a peek into the current condition of the egg inside the chicken hatchery. The device can easily be made at home as it is nothing more than a small box with a light source inside and hole where the egg can be placed on. Commercial products will usually have better build quality. The conventional method is to candle the eggs twice during their incubation period. Between the fifth and seventh day, this is useful for the removal of the infertile eggs and the dead embryos. Between the fourteenth and eighteenth day, it is repeated to take out the eggs that died since the initial candling.
Eighteen days are usually enough time inside the incubators. Many begin to transfer the eggs to the hatching area after this. Then it will be another few days wait until the chicks are ready to hatch and go out into the world. It’s an exciting time for any breeder. Note that some will hatch early than others with the time between the first and the last possibly being more than a day. Take good care of the new chicks as they come out. Be sure to keep them warm and clean their surroundings to prevent them from catching any diseases during this vulnerable time.
Chicken Sanitation and Disease Control
Disease can quickly spread around the farm if sufficient control measures are not put in place. Fumigation is recommended soon after the eggs are collected. Sort out those that are dirty and have cracks. Dispose of them properly. Be careful when sourcing eggs from elsewhere. Ensure that they are free from diseases and have good quality. Handlers and visitors should practice good hygiene. All of the trays used for setting and hatching should be washed well after every batch. The same should be done for the incubator and the entire chicken hatchery for peace of mind.