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March 02, 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.

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.

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.

January 01, 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.