Welfare assessment of broiler chicken flocks from different hatching systems

I.C. de Jong, H. Gunnink, P. de Gouw, F. Leijten, Mariël Raaijmakers, Lisa Zoet, L.J.F. van de Ven, H. van den Brand

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingAbstract


On-farm hatching of broiler chickens is increasingly applied in The Netherlands. Eggs are transported to the farm at E18 and chicks are provided with feed and water immediately after hatching, in contrast to chickens hatched at the hatchery. The aim of the study was to assess the welfare of broilers hatched on-farm as compared to hatchery hatched broilers. Sixteen broiler flocks hatched on-farm in the X-treck system (X) were paired to 16 control flocks (C) from the same parent stock, reared in identical houses on the same farm and subjected to similar management. Welfare indicators, based on the Welfare Quality broiler assessment protocol, were measured at d21 and slaughter age. In addition, behavioural observations were carried out and technical performance was registered. Analysis of variance was used to test effects of treatment and age; data were transformed if necessary. X broilers had a lower incidence of foot pad dermatitis at d21 and at slaughter (p<0.05) and had numerically better hock burn scores at slaughter age than C broilers (P=0.56). X broilers were more dirty at d21 and at slaughter age than C broilers (p=0.08). Litter quality was better in Xhouses than in C houses at d21 (P=0.07), which seems to be in contradiction to bird cleanliness but in agreement with foot and hock scores. An age x treatment interaction was found for gait score, with X broilers having worse scores at d21 but having better scores at slaughter age than C broilers. Significant differences in behaviour were found at d21 and slaughter age, indicating that X broilers were less active than C broilers. Although technical performance of X broilers was better during the first weeks as compared to C broilers, no significant differences were found at slaughter age. This study indicates that on-farm hatching may positively affect broiler welfare.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationWelfare quality network seminar
EditorsAnna Valros, Laura Hänninen, Eija Kaukonen
Place of PublicationFinland
PublisherUniversity of Helsinki
Number of pages1
Publication statusPublished - 2016
EventWelfare quality network seminar 2016 - University of Helsinki, Fabianinkatu 33, Helsinki, Helsinki, Finland
Duration: 24 Nov 201624 Nov 2016


SeminarWelfare quality network seminar 2016
Internet address


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