Monday, March 2, 2015

Supplying Food and Water in the Hatcher?

Less than one year ago, a company from the Netherlands, Hatchtech, introduced a new type of hatcher. What is so special about this hatcher? It has food and water in the hatcher so the birds can start eating and drinking immediately after hatching – and not have to wait for all birds to hatch and be transported to the farm!
Eggs ready to hatch with feed in the back.
I know that most readers of this blog are not looking for incubators and hatchers that can hatch 70,000 chicks at a time but I was impressed with the novel concept and wanted to share it with my readers. Besides, with a little ingenuity, the concept can probably be incorporated into a small, hobby size hatcher, too!

Chick drinking its first water in the hatcher basket.
It is generally accepted that the natural hatch window (the time between the first bird hatching and the last bird hatching) is 24 to 36 hours. Normally, during this period, the newly hatched chicks have no access to water and feed. However, their bodies are in the process of intensive development, during which they need water to prevent dehydration and feed (energy) for basic maintenance and general growth and development.

Chicks starting to eat while others are still hatching.
In the special HatchCare Basket, there is water along two sides and feed troughs on two sides which contain enough feed for 24-36 hours. When chicks are able to start eating immediately after hatching, the feed helps move the residual yolk into the intestinal tract, naturally stimulating the absorption of the important nutrients it contains. In this way, the external feed provides the chicks with the energy it needs for basic maintenance, while the high-value nutrition of the yolk can be used for its most important purpose: critical organ and immune system development.

Normally in large hatcheries, the eggs are transferred from incubator trays (where the eggs are held individually) to hatching baskets (where all eggs are loose and lying on their side) before they are placed in the hatcher. With the HatchCare system, however, eggs are not placed loose in a basket, but are individually held - just as in the incubator trays. This prevents eggs from bumping into each other and developing cracks, which can often occur during handling of loose eggs in a basket. The point-down positioning also makes it easier for chicks to pip out of the shell and hatch. 

You can see in the egg arrangement that every egg has two openings beside it for the chick to escape to the HatchCare Basket below it.

In addition to food and water, HatchTech also provides a well lit hatcher, which means the chicks experience less stress when the hatcher door is opened and the hatcher is flooded with light. HatchCare also uses fan motors with a noise level that is 18% less than those traditionally used. The sound of the motor, which can also create anxiety in chicks, is reduced to just a soft hum.

The way the HatchCare Tray and HatchCare Basket fit together functions as a natural separator. The shells and unhatched eggs stay in the Tray and the chicks escape to the Basket. This makes the traditional mechanical separator, as well as the counting machine, completely redundant. To determine the number of newly hatched chicks in the HatchCare Basket, simply count the number of unhatched eggs left on the HatchCare Tray. When chicks do not have to be handled or put through automated machines in the processing area, it further reduces the stress effects – and associated energy loss – that chicks experience in traditional systems.

Chicks starting to hatch.  They will drop through the holes to dry in the basket below and start to eat and drink.
Chicks never have to leave the HatchCare Basket – with its integrated feeding troughs – from the moment of hatching to their arrival in the poultry house. This means it is possible to continue offering them feed and water during storage and transport as well. Chicks hatched and transported with traditional methods in large commercial hatcheries never see feed and water until they arrive at their final destination.  We, however, offer GroGel which gives nutrition to the ducklings and goslings of those customers that choose this option.

HatchTech feels that the combination of optimal temperatures, constant access to feed and water, and a generally more comfortable environment leads to healthier and stronger chicks – and this results in a lower mortality rate and a reduced need for antibiotics and other medicine throughout their lifetime.

If you would like to study this method more or are interested in their machines, you can go to the HatchTech website at: 

So did you ever think about providing food and water in your hatcher? Unique idea isn't it?  I don't even use these machines - but thought them interesting enough to share with you.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Insuring Poultry Flocks In Case Of Catastrophic Disease

Funding was included in the 2014 Farm Bill to determine the feasibility of insuring poultry producers for a catastrophic disease event.  As you know, USDA has offered crop insurance for many years - but never for poultry.   

Chickens put down with carbon dioxide due to Avian Influenza infection

Part of the required research is gathering input from those that might be involved or interested.  Watts and Associates (W&A) of Billings, Montana was hired to do this research.  W&A is interested in gathering information on the level of concern associated with catastrophic diseases in the poultry industry, risk management techniques related to such diseases, share of risk held by integrators and growers, and impressions about the current programs to assist with the costs associated with depopulation, cleaning, disinfection, and heightened surveillance procedures when there is a catastrophic disease event.

Besides a fire in our hatchery or a duck building, my biggest worry is a major disease -  specifically a "bad" salmonella or avian influenza.  Depopulation is the answer to these situations and with all our birds on one farm, we are very susceptible to this solution.  Therefore I am very interested in this type of insurance and will be attending the meeting in Atlanta as I will be at the International Poultry Expo.

Depopulating a chicken farm with Avian Influenza

As you may know, Avian Influenza has recently been discovered in Oregon, Washington, California and British Columbia, Canada.  Many commercial flocks of poultry have been destroyed in Canada.  So far the only birds destroyed in the US are large backyard flocks and a commercial turkey flock in California.  But what if you had a pastured poultry operation, your birds became infected with Avian Influenza from wild ducks and lost all your birds due to the infection or depopulation by the authorities?  Would you want insurance for something like this?  If you are a contracted grower, does your contract cover you should this happen to you?

Pair of wild Mallards.  Are they carrying AI?  Have they visited your birds?
I understand many of you do not have large enough flocks to insure, but if you do, you might want to attend one of these meetings.  Or if you know someone that would be interested, please tell them.  If there is not enough interest shown in insuring poultry at these meetings, it will be difficult for the USDA to pursuit it further.

Meetings are scheduled in the following locations:

January 26    1:30pm     Georgia World Conference Center (preceding the
    Monday                       International Poultry Expo)
                                        Room 410-A
                                        Atlanta, GA

February 3    2:00pm     St. Cloud Holiday Inn and Suites, St. Cloud Room
    Tuesday                      75 37th Avenue South
                                        St. Cloud, MN 

February 10  10:00am   Stanislaus County Harvest Hall, Modesto, CA
    Tuesday                       THIS MEETING HAS BEEN CANCELED.  IT WILL BE
                                        RESCHEDULED AFTER THE AI THREAT IN CALIFORNIA
                                        HAS BEEN BROUGHT UNDER CONTROL

February 12  9:00am      Farm and Home Foundation of Lancaster County
    Thursday                      1383 Arcadia Road
                                         Lancaster, PA

If you cannot attend a meeting and have input for W&A, email Randy Landgren.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Sebastopol Geese Hatching and Raising Their Own Goslings

The following story was written by Susan Valdina and is about her pair of Sebastopol geese that successfully hatched and raised several sets of goslings.

No-Work Hatching in New England
“Shrek and Fiona arrived in the mail all the way from Metzer Farms in California to a small island in Maine. That was May of 2011. This has been my second winter raising goslings and learning how to sit on my hands and not help my adult Sebastopol geese.

This photo was taken after I allowed Fiona and Shrek to get in too much water.  Oh Dear!  Then we warmed them up.  Photo by Louis Segal

This year Fiona hatched her babies almost two weeks earlier than last year (March) and built her
nest in the old shed. Her incubator savvy is perfect. I would see her leave her nest at least twice a day (although it may have been more often and I didn't witness it. She would go to the water and dip her head and then put water on her breast feathers. Proper humidity you know.

Fiona on her nest.

I looked for an opportunity to peek at the nest and get an egg count and finally got it. Looking at the nest is quite amazing. They put goose down and straw or hay and other bits of "yard" to both build their nest and to make a thick blanket over the eggs, which appears to have an R-value of 50. I exaggerate - however, it is amazing how warm it is under that blanket. 

One new gosling peaking out.

She hatched nine out of ten eggs! 

More goslings!!
When her babies hatched in the deep cold, I resisted grabbing the whole family and bringing them in the house with me. I told myself over and over that they would be fine and to resist that urge. It was torture until I saw them all out one cold day walking around on their own!! They were only a day old then and seemed fine. Every few minutes they would all huddle under both Shrek and Fiona, then wander again.
Shrek with the goslings

I feed hay before the grass is up and game bird crumble. Shrek takes on as much of the watching as Fiona. They both warm cold ones and take them for walks. I'm learning too. I set out shallow water dishes for the goslings so they can't get too wet. I wonder how they manage around ponds in the wild?”

Supplying water to the goslings.
Until I received this letter from Susan I was not sure if Sebastopol would hatch their own eggs and make good parents. This answers that question - they can make excellent parents. Look what Fiona and Shrek did in Maine in March!  We have found that Sebastopol are very broody – meaning they want to make nests and sit on eggs. As we collect eggs every day, they will end up sitting on empty nests or nests with clods of dirt or chunks of wood as eggs. The problem with broodiness is they stop laying eggs while they are broody.

Hey!  Who is that?
Some of the unique characteristics of Sebastopol geese is they start laying earlier than all other breeds, peak in egg production earlier than all other breeds and then abruptly drop off in production much earlier than all other breeds of domestic geese (probably because so many go broody). So if you want Sebastopol goslings, it is best to order them to arrive early in the season. Usually our peak Sebastopol gosling production is in late March.

Thank you Susan for this wonderful story.  If you have a story about your ducks or geese and have pictures, send it all to us!  Maybe we can get yours published, too.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Comparing the Nutrients of Duck Eggs and Chicken Eggs

People often ask how duck eggs compare nutritionally to chicken eggs.  Basically, duck eggs are packed with more nutrients than chicken eggs.  The only major nutrient that chicken eggs have more of than duck eggs is ..... water! 

Following is information taken from the USDA analysis of duck eggs and chicken eggs.  Note that these numbers represent the nutrient level in 100 grams of egg.

Of the ten major minerals, duck eggs surpass chicken eggs in nine of those minerals.  Overall, duck eggs average 10% more minerals than chicken eggs.

For the top 13 vitamins, duck eggs have higher levels in ten of them.  If you compare all thirteen vitamins, duck eggs average 40% more vitamins - and that does not even count carotene of which chicken eggs have none.

Duck eggs have a higher overall protein level and surpass chicken eggs in eleven of the eighteen measured amino acids.

Duck eggs also have a higher fat content - which gives them their rich flavor and texture.  It is interesting that duck eggs have 18% more of the saturated ("bad") fats than chicken eggs.  But they also have 39% more of the unsaturated ("good") fats! 

Friday, November 28, 2014

Fresh Duck Egg Survey Results

As explained in our prior post, we emailed a survey on fresh duck eggs to 93 of our customers that had purchased ten or more female Khaki Campbell, Golden 300 Hybrid or White Layer ducks.  The response rate was fantastic as we received 89 completed surveys! 

We felt the most important question in the survey was what services and products our customers wanted that would help them produce and sell more fresh duck eggs.  We gave them twelve choices and they ranked them from most important to least important.  More detailed descriptions of these questions was in our prior post.  In the following graph, the longer the bar, the higher average ranking it received.

Services Our Customers Want So They Can Produce and Market More Duck Eggs

Items in the Other category were requests on how to keep the pens drier, how to manage ducks on pasture, provide sample advertising, conduct a survey of pricing, and explain why duck eggs cause fewer allergic reactions than chicken eggs.

As we develop answers or products to meet these needs, we will provide them in this blog.  We are also developing an email list of those interested in the production, marketing and use of fresh duck eggs.  We hope to involve these people in our fresh duck egg program.  We may ask for their favorite duck egg recipes and quotes from chefs or bakers to whom they sell so we can produce a marketing brochure everyone can use.  Or we may ask for comments on a redesigned duck egg carton.  Or we may conduct another survey on pricing so those just starting in the business know what others in the nation are charging for duck eggs.  If you want to be included in this group, please email us at 

The following chart shows where our customers sell their duck eggs.  With duck egg brochures, recipes and marketing ideas, I would suspect more will start selling to bakeries, restaurants and grocery stores.

Where Our Customers Sell Their Duck Eggs 

We were also interested in the flock sizes of those responding to the survey.  As you can see, most of have flocks of from 11 to 100 females.

Flock Size for Survey Respondents

Our last question was their prediction of sales for next year.  The number on the left is the number of respondents for each category.  Over 60% of the respondents predicted sales increases of 10% or more. If you weight the responses according to their flock size, the overall prediction is an increase of 12.3% in sales next year.

Responders were given five choices for next year's sales forecast

Many duck eggs are also sold in Asian stores as balut and salted eggs.  Less than 5% of our respondents sold balut and salted eggs.

As we said earlier, we feel there is a tremendous potential for fresh duck egg sales.  Now that we know what our customers need, we will start working on these services so our customers can meet this market demand.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Fresh Duck Egg Survey

We feel there is a tremendous potential for fresh duck egg sales throughout the United States.  Our sales of fresh duck eggs are growing both locally through Farmers Markets and the eggs we ship throughout the country.  In addition, we sell more and more of our egg laying strains of ducklings throughout North America: Golden 300 Hybrid, White Layer and Khaki Campbell.

A Pair of Khaki Campbell ducks

We want to promote these sales but did not know what was most important to our customers.  So we designed a survey.  It was sent to all customers that purchased 10 or more females of one of the breeds listed above within the past two years.

I will describe our questions in this blog and give the results in our next blog. 

The first question was the most important.  It listed twelve services or products we can provide and asked them to rank these in importance to them.

Nutritional Data On Duck Versus Chicken Eggs  This would compare the levels of vitamins, minerals, fatty acids, lipids, etc. in chicken and duck eggs.

Duck Layer Management Guide  We would write a management guide describing how to maximize your duck egg production.

Our management guide for raising ducks for meat.

Fresh Duck Egg Brochure  We would design and print a brochure that would be used to promote your eggs - whether you sell at farmers markets, grocery stores, bakeries or restaurants.  It would have pictures, nutritional information and testimonials of chefs and bakers.  These would be provided at our cost.

Recipes Using Duck Eggs  These would be recipes we have collected or have had developed by chefs or cooking schools to use with duck eggs.

Duck Egg Cartons  We would find sources of egg cartons that hold the larger duck eggs.

Jumbo duck eggs in the largest egg carton available.
Medium duck eggs in the same carton.  No cartons are available that hold Large or Jumbo duck eggs.

Improved Genetics So The Ducks Lay More Eggs   We would work with a poultry geneticist to gradually improve egg production.

University Research  We would work with a university to determine how duck eggs are better than chicken eggs for baking and general cooking - facts not just opinions.

Egg Production Forecasting Tool   We would develop an egg production forecasting program for our website that would give you expected weekly egg production if you entered your flock sizes, breeds and starting dates for each flock.  What would your production be if you had a flock starting every six months or smaller flocks every three months?  If you have a peak demand during the summer, when do you start your flocks and how many ducks should be in each flock?

This shows the weekly fresh duck egg and duckling production if you started 1000 White Layer females in production every two months.

Improved Genetics So The Ducks Lay Larger Eggs   We would work with a poultry geneticist to increase the egg size.

Internet Duck Egg Chat Group   This would be set up exclusively for individuals that produce and sell fresh duck eggs.  You would be able to ask questions and share solutions to problems with other fresh duck egg producers.

Duck Egg Washing Machines   We would list sources of duck egg washers and compare their effectiveness and costs.

We also asked where they sold their eggs:
  On the farm
  Farmers Markets
  Delivery Route
  Grocery Stores
  Wholesalers that buy from me and resell
  Asian Stores (fresh eggs)

In addition we asked how many ducks they had laying this year and how much they expected their sales to increase next year.

The final question was if they also sold balut (partially incubated duck eggs) or salted duck eggs.

Please check our next blog for the results.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Post Office Proposing 75% Increase in Postage for Day-Old Poultry !!

The following blog was written when the USPS was considering increasing the postage drastically for live animals in 2013.  They did not act on this proposal.  We have no idea if or when they will reconsider it.

The Post Office is proposing that we start paying an additional $9.00-11.95 for every shipment of day old poultry (which amounts to a 75% increase).  They are accepting comments on this proposal through this Friday, May 24th.  We are asking you to contact the USPS and protest this additional charge.

US Postal Commission

Why do we oppose this postage increase?

1) The average postage we now pay for all our duckling and gosling shipments is about $12.00 per shipment.  If they add this additional charge, your postage charges will go up at least 75%!  How often has the USPS raised rates 75%?

The USPS gives no indication how this new income will improve service in any way.  It will not make shipping faster or easier.  It is not designed to better track shipments.  It is not for better ventilated trucks to carry your birds.  It is only a way to increase their income at your expense.

3) This new regulation will only affect day old poultry shipments and bee shipments.  Was either industry notified in advance or was our input requested?  Absolutely not.  It was only when an AP reporter phoned another hatchery that we learned the USPS was proposing this 75% increase in fees.  As mailing is our only option, hatcheries such as ours work closely with the USPS and we have our own Live Shipment Representative in Washington, DC.  The only response I received when I asked my local representative about it was "Who sent this to you?"  It appears to me the Post Office was trying to hide this proposed regulation until it was too late!

Let us make sure this joy continues!

We are asking you to send a quick email to the USPS to protest this exorbitant and heavy handed increase! 

  • The subject line must read Live Animals
  • It must be received by this Friday, May 24th
A sample email is below that you can copy, paste, edit, personalize it, sign your name and send.  At the very bottom is a link to the actual regulation language.

Thank you very much for your efforts.  If we all do our part, we can prevent this unfair increase from happening.
John Metzer

To Whom It May Concern:

I am very much against the additional postal charges you are proposing for the live animal shipments.

Do you realize this is an average increase of over 75% in what I now pay to receive my day old poultry?

Your proposed regulation does not indicate how this money will be spent.  Will it speed service?  Will it making tracking of my birds easier?  Will it provide a better environment for my birds during shipping?  What does this 75% increase do for me?

I am also very disappointed you did not contact the day old poultry and bee shipping industries prior to or after your posting of the regulation.  Unfortunately it gives the impression that: 1) you don't care about me and 2) you don't care about any input from the hatcheries directly affected by your new rates.

Are you proposing a 75% increase in rates for any of your other customers?  Or is it only us?

I do not feel this 75% increase in my postage rates for receiving day old poultry should be implemented.

Thank you for your time.

Your name

A link to the USPS proposed regulation: