East Anglia-based poultry integrator Crown Chicken has adopted on-farm hatching across its entire business, using a Belgian-Dutch system supplied by NestBorn.
The NestBorn system takes pre-incubated eggs, which are transferred from setter trays directly onto a natural litter bed in the poultry house. This completely removes the need for a hatchery, and according to NestBorn results in robust chicks, “born in natural and stress-free conditions” and which have direct access to feed, water and light.
“After the first contact with NestBorn in September 2018, our first trial with this concept already took place in November of that year,” said Matthew Ward, Agricultural Director of Crown Chicken.
Daniel Bush, senior broiler production manager for Crown Chicken, said these tests confirmed prior positive experiences with on-farm hatching. “What is particularly attractive with the NestBorn system, is that we observe all the advantages and clear benefits of early feeding and on-farm hatching, but that no specific installations or investments are needed in the poultry house, making it very accessible.”
“This results in excellent technical performance, less mortality and morbidity and a lower use of antibiotics,” said Ward. “The results were very clear and convincing and have led to an update of the Red Tractor Poultry Standard, permitting on-farm hatching as from 1 October 2019 on broiler chicken farms”.
The first NestBorn egg placing machine became operational at Crown Chicken in December 2019 and in January, a second machine was installed.
“The hatch of day-old chicks in our hatchery has completely ceased now,” said Bush. “All 600.000 chicks a week that were coming from the hatchery in Kenninghall are now hatched on-farm”.
“These machines are battery-driven and every machine has the capacity to place up to 200,000 eggs per day; furthermore they are easy to clean & disinfect,” said Bush. “Our ambition is to obtain in the near future, that all the day-old chicks intended for our processing plant, are hatched on-farm.”
Kees van Oers, chief executive of the NestBorn company, said: “An ambitious poultry integrator such as Crown Chicken with high focus on animal welfare and quality products is an ideal entry for us in the United Kingdom and together we will turn animal welfare into profit.”.