Hatching egg storage and transport

Optimum hatchability and chick quality can only be achieved when the egg is held under ideal conditions between laying and setting in the incubator. The fertile egg contains many living cells. Once the egg is laid, its hatching potential can be only maintained, but not improved. On farm egg storage and transport to the hatchery sometimes presents challenges which must be addressed, or the hatching potential will quickly deteriorate.

Eggs should be collected from the farms and transported to the hatchery at least twice a week. There are three storage areas: farm egg room, transport, and hatchery egg room. It is important to stage the conditions in each of these situations as closely as possible to avoid sharp changes in temperature and humidity. Recent research at the University of Arkansas, USA, shows that eggs should be gradually cooled from the point of lay to the hatchery egg room, which should be the coolest point for the egg. From that point, the eggs should be pre warmed to incubation temperature before setting in the incubator. These temperature changes should happen in a steady pattern decreasing from lay to the coolest point, then in a steady pattern upward from the egg storage to setting in the incubator.

Temperature fluctuations during egg storage time will cause a higher early embryonic mortality and poorer quality chicks. Condensation will form when cold eggs are taken into a warmer environment. This is most often overlooked when eggs are being transported from the farm to the hatchery and can be prevented by using temperature controlled egg transport vehicles A relationship exists between the length of time eggs are stored and the optimum temperature and humidity needed for the best hatchability. Generally, the longer eggs are to be stored, the lower the storage temperature.

  • Storage prolongs incubation time. On average, one day’s storage adds one hour to incubation time.

  • Hatchability is depressed by prolonged storage. After six days of storage, one can expect to lose 0.5 to 1.5% hatchability per added day of storage, with the percent increasing as storage extends further. Chick quality will be affected and broiler weights can be depressed in chicks hatched from eggs that have been stored for 14 days or more.

Storage and transport conditions must be designed to minimize these losses. Temperature and humidity levels must be closely controlled at all stages to avoid variations. This is most challenging during egg transport, particularly at times when eggs are transported in weather extremes. Special storage considerations need to be implemented when eggs are stored more than 6 days prior to setting. All of these details will help maximize overall hatch and chick quality.

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