Synthetic pheromone sprayed before hatch helps to protect a day-old chick against stress
This article first appeared in the Poultry Health supplement to August’s issue of Poultry Business magazine
SecureChick is a synthetic analogue of the mother hen appeasing pheromone, MHUSA (Mother Hen Uropygial Secretion Analogue), produced by the uropygial gland, also called the preening gland, that is located on the dorsal base of the tail. When sprayed on embryonated eggs two days before hatch, it has been shown to have an appeasing effect on the day-old chick, helping them to better tolerate the hatchery processes.
To demonstrate this effect, day old chick vocalisations have been recorded in the hatchery and then analysed to give an indication of chick comfort. A vocalisation algorithm is used to assess sound frequency patterns to classify the chick vocals as either a comfort or distress vocalisation.
Three rounds of trials were conducted in a UK broiler hatchery, comparing audio recordings from treated and non-treated control groups. The treated and control groups were from the same parent flocks and were placed in neighbouring hatchers.
SecureChick was sprayed over hatcher surfaces and eggshells 48 hours before hatch using Desvac Eleckit and was applied at a rate of 20 ml for 1,000 eggs. The spray application took approximately 3 minutes per hatcher.
Vocalisations from day old chicks were then recorded throughout the hatchery process using a calibrated MiniDSP microphone (UMIK-1), with 108, 72, and 30 individual recordings being taken for rounds 1, 2, and 3 respectively. These recordings were then analysed, and graphs produced showing the probability of the production of comfort vocalisations over time for the two groups.
From these visualisations, it was possible to see that the probability of chicks making comfort vocalisations was higher in the groups that were treated with SecureChick in the hatchers. Giving a strong indication that these chicks were less stressed by the hatchery processes.
Bird vocalisation is a helpful tool and can provide a measurable assessment of broiler chick welfare. Sound analysis on hatch day, enables, confirmation of response to the appeasing mother hen pheromone sprayed in hatchers, and allowed the differentiation of two patterns of vocalisations between the chicks responding to SecureChick versus the non-treated control group.
The appeasing effect of SecureChick is demonstrated by the more frequent identification of comfort vocalisations in chicks treated with SecureChick.
The methodology used to measure vocalisation in day-old chicks consistently showed the beneficial effect of SecureChick on a chicks’ ability to adapt to their new environment. It suggests a potential role in helping the day-old chick to better tolerate hatchery process and provide them with favourable conditions for a great start.