Previous studies have shown that RH during incubation of chicken eggs influences water loss from the egg and embryonic mortality. In those studies, eggshell temperatures (EST) were not monitored or controlled. Because RH influences the egg’s heat loss through evaporation, EST might have been different between RH treatments, influencing embryonic mortality and development. To eliminate the effect of EST, in the current study eggs were incubated at an EST of 37.8°C from embryonic d (E) 0 until E18 and at a high (55 to 60%) or low (30 to 35%) RH from E2 until hatch. Embryonic mortality, hatch curve, and several chick quality characteristics (length, weight, navel quality, organ weights, and DM of the yolk free body mass and yolk) were determined on E18 and at hatch. Low RH increased egg weight loss between E0 and E18 (+3.0%) and third week embryonic mortality (+3.0% of fertile eggs) and decreased hatch of fertile eggs (-2.9% of fertile eggs) compared with high RH. Hatch duration and chick quality characteristics did not differ between RH treatments. To assess the effect of RH during incubation on posthatch performance under suboptimal conditions, hatchlings were brooded at a normal (35.0°C at d 0, decreasing to 27.0°C at d 4) or cold (27.8°C at d 0, decreasing to 25.6°C at d 4) temperature until 4 d posthatch. Incubation RH and brooding temperature significantly interacted with posthatch growth but not development. Both low and high RH × cold brooding temperature resulted in lower (-6.9 and -6.0 g, respectively) BW than high RH × normal brooding temperature at 4 d of age. The cold brooding temperature resulted in lower daily feed intake (-1.3 g/chick) than the normal brooding temperature. In conclusion, incubating eggs at a low RH compared with a high RH and maintaining the EST at 37.8°C decreased hatch of fertile eggs, but had little effect on chick quality or posthatch performance.
- constant temperatures
- oxygen concentration
- broiler performance
van der Pol, C. W., van Roovert-Reijrink, I. A. M., Maatjens, C. M., van den Brand, H., & Molenaar, R. (2013). Effect of relative humidity during incubation at a set eggshell temperature and brooding temperature posthatch on emryonic mortality and chick quality. Poultry Science, 92(8), 2145-2155. https://doi.org/10.3382/ps.2013-03006