Tags: Chick handling | Whitepaper
12 October 2020,
The term "chick quality" is rather vague, as it can refer to various aspects – from directly visible physical traits to hidden ones, such as antibody levels, physiological disorders, infections and nutritional deficiencies. Many of these originate long before the eggs reach the hatchery. Environmental conditions and time can have a detrimental effect on chick quality. A chick-quality score is only a reflection of a temporary status and an expression of current prospects for the farm results.
The hatchery’s legal responsibility is usually limited to the first week of a chick’s life – a sensitive period, when development is its fastest. A good, smooth start is essential and determines the final result. As time passes, farm-related factors start to prevail over those of the hatchery. Nevertheless, vertically transmitted diseases found later on may still adversely affect the hatchery's reputation.
From the hatchery's perspective, a good day-old-chick is free from physical disorders, and shows the following traits: strong, standing on its legs; fluffy (including standing fluff on the head); active but relaxed; clean; open, round eyes; soft, supple belly; well-closed, invisible navel; not bony; not dehydrated; free of injuries and deformations.
These traits are related to and correspond with different aspects of incubation and hatchery procedures. While a trait score can have a wide range (e.g. to describe the size of belly or level of fitness), it is best to minimise subjectivity and simplify assessment to a 0/1 system. Either the trait is correct or not.
Today’s hatchery business is a mass operation processing thousands of chicks per day. A daily hatch frequently consists of many sub-groups (based on flock, age, egg age). A quality control system must be comprehensive, quick, easy and repeatable. It should enable batches to be compared and provide a numerical expression of quality.
An example is the Pasgar©Score, based on 5, easy to evaluate, traits. Some of them, like a red beak or hocks, may seem cosmetic but actually indicate serious problems.
In the Pasgar©Score system, one point is subtracted from the initial 10 for each of the above 'errors'. The average score of 50-100 chicks represents a final quality score for the batch (a good quality score is at least 9.0) and allows key issues to be identified.