Chick Hatchery: modern concept of hatchery building

Chick Hatchery: modern concept of hatchery building

The modern concept of hatchery building is to provide the best physical environment to optimize the efficiency of conversion of a hatching egg into a live and healthy chick through the process of artificial incubation and hatching.

Location and site

  • Proper location and isolation of hatchery is important from the standpoint of modern biosecurity programs.
  • The hatchery should be situated at least 1500 ft (460 mts) away from poultry house; however it is better to keep the hatchery far away from breeder farms, feed mills and grain storage sites.
  • The hatchery area should be a separate unit with its own entrance and exit unassociated with those of the poultry farm as far as possible.
  • Size of the hatchery is dependent upon the number of chicken to be hatched in each setting or each week based on the local demand or supply of day old chicks.
  • The rooms must be arranged to give better use of the building, afford a shorter route for the eggs and reduce employee movement through the rooms.
  • Hatchery building should be such that hatching eggs may be taken in at one end and the chick removed at the other.

Change cum shower room 

To maintain a disease free condition, it is essential that all persons entering inside the building should have a shower and change into clean clothing in this room. Also, after they finish their duty, they may leave only through this room after changing back to their home clothing.

The shower cum change room would therefore be carefully constructed so that those seeking entrance and exit must have to pass through this room only. The room should also possess some area for disrobing and keeping clean clothes and personal belongings in safe custody.

Egg reception and Traying room

It must be large enough to permit storage of maximum number of egg cases (full and empty) likely to be held overnight. It should be accessible to concrete or pucca road or hard pavement. If the same room is to be used for traying, there should be sufficient provision of space for the same. The loading racks may be constructed along the side walls to support the setting trays at the right angle for easy working. To make things easier, it is necessary to provide some sturdy supporting bench of the right height to bring the egg cases to a convenient working position. Fumigation room should be as small as possible in order to reduce the amount of fumigant used.

Egg holding room

After proper fumigation, the hatching eggs should be stored in the egg holding room. It should be about 8 ft. (2.5mts.) high, ventilated with complete air movements, cooled and humidified. The walls and ceilings should have the ‘R’ values of 12 and 16 respectively (‘R’ value is a term used to denote thermal resistance power of a material).

Incubator room

There should be good access from incubator room to other rooms by means of sliding doors at the ‘work’ side of the hatchery. The actual size of the incubator room should be worked out on the basis of the egg capacity of all the machines in it, and should not be less than 5.6m3 (200 cubic feet) for each 1000 egg capacity. The ceiling height should not be less than 12 feet. It would be advisable to counteract the bad effects of high ambient temperature during summer season; then the ceiling height may be kept 15 to 18 feet instead of 12 feet. To ensure good air circulation throughout the incubator room, there should be atleast 1.2 m (3.5 ft.) gap between the incubator frame and any wall. The distance between two rows of incubators fitted front to front may be kept at least 1.83 m (6 ft.) and even more space may be needed with some machines if the work of loading and removing trays is to be efficiently performed.

Hatching room

The hatching room should have good fitting, air tight doors and be provided with a separate ventilation system, which should discharge to the outer air through some sort of filter to trap and disinfect the fluff of the hatch and to prevent disease dissemination. The fumigation system should be fan assisted which will also discharge the fumigant.

Chick sexing room

Sexing room for day old chicks should be warm, well ventilated and must have some form of easily washable shelves to hold the chick boxes. The sexing table must have metal, plastic, sun mica, or very hard wooden tops so that they can be efficiently cleaned and disinfected as often as necessary. The container for the different sexes if reusable must be easy to keep clean and disinfected. Each table must be equipped with a high powered overhead light which is adjustable for height. Cleanliness is of vital importance in the operation of sexing and the sexing room must be provided with ample washing facilities so arranged that each sexer can, without undue waste of time, wash between each batch of chicks, and as often as necessary.

Packing, vaccination and despatch room

The primary needs of the packing and dispatch room are adequate bench space and racks to enable the full hatch to be dealt with swiftly and efficiently. It must have direct access from the sexing room and from the hatching and incubator room. Space for record keeping is required and a room communicating direct with or nearer to the store is convenient. Before packing, necessary vaccination may also be done here. The despatch room should have a door leading directly to the road or hard standing pavement for vehicles. It should also be comfortable to staff.


Ventilation must be adequate and should be based on a minimum of eight complete changes of air every hour. No specific system is recommended, but the air inlets must be provided to prevent straight draughts; outlets whether fan assisted or natural draught must not be placed immediately above the upper outlets of the incubators since this will interfere with the proper internal ventilation of the incubators. Incoming air should be cooled in the summer to keep the room temperature around 18.3 to 21.1oC which is not too warm to the incubators. More air should be moved through the hatchery rooms during warm seasons than cool. Therefore, rheostats should be installed on all ventilating fans to provide increased or decreased air flow to help control room temperature.

Handling and care of hatching eggs

Hatching eggs should be collected atleast four times/day from breeder farm and brought to the hatchery. They should be cooled to a temperature well below Physiological zero to arrest the embryonic development. It is a temperature below which embryonic growth will be arrested, and above which it is reinitiated. Temperature in the egg holding room should be 65oF (18oC) to curtail embryonic development completely. The humidity of the cooling room should be around 75-80%. Abnormal eggs having ridges, rough surface, flat side, pointed at tip, too small or too large in size and also with abnormal shell e.g. thin, porous soft tip or soiled should be rejected.

Setting of hatching eggs

Approximately 6 hours prior to loading eggs in the incubator they should be moved from the egg cooler room to room temperature. Setting time should be adjusted as per the time the chick supply is scheduled to begin. Ordinarily, chicks should reach to the customer’s farm about 12 hours after they are taken out. If the chicks are scheduled to be supplied early in the morning, chicks should be removed from the hatchery at about 9.00 to 10.00 PM. Accordingly, eggs should be set at a time that will allow chicks to hatch and dry prior to 9.00 to 10.00 PM. This means that the average egg setting time will be about 5.00 to 6.00 PM. White Leghorn eggs require less than 21 days to hatch, and hence eggs from Leghorns should be set later than those from meat type breeders. In cabinet type incubators, the eggs are arranged in a vertical position with broad end up and hot air is circulated by fan or stirrer. The trays are turned by 40-45 degrees in either direction. They are run by electricity, coal or oil and have economy of space through the use of several layers of trays.

They have a setting compartment with setting trays and a hatching compartment with hatching trays in the same cabinet. They have thermocapsule arrangement with temperature, relative humidity control system along with turning arrangement. A successful flat type incubator must maintain 39.4°C with the centre of the bulb set 5cm above the floor of the egg tray. For cabinet type incubators it should be 37.5°C to 37.8°C at the centre of the egg, whereas in hatchers the ambient temperature may be reduced by 1°C to avoid late embryo mortality at too high temperature.

Optimum relative humidity inside the incubator for best results should be maintained at 65-70% in setter compartment for the first 18 days and 75-80 % relative humidity needs to be maintained during the last 3 days of incubation in the hatcher compartment. Embryo should gently but frequently be moved within the egg to prevent its settling and adhering to other structures, if left for 21 days in one position. The need for frequent turning appears to be the greatest in the earlier stages of incubation in setter compartment before the full development of the extra embryonic sacs and their fluids. The interval between turnings is 1 to 4 hours.

Removal of hatch

There exists a difference of about 36 hours between the time the first and last chicks hatch. From practical standpoint, chicks should be delivered to the farm about 12 hours after the entire group is removed from the hatcher. Excessive drying of chicks in the hatchery should be avoided as it may cause dehydration to chicks. Chicks should be removed from the machine as soon as all are hatched. When the chicks are removed from the hatchers the temperature of the chicks holding room should be 75°F (23.9°C) to reduce the danger of chilling and have a relative humidity of 75% to reduce dehydration. After counting the number of chicks, they will be placed comfortably in chick boxes for transportation.

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