Page 19 - British Hen Welfare Trust - Chicken & Egg Issue 3

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THE BEST START IN LIFE
We all know that laying hens live in one of four main systems: enriched cages, barns, free
range units and finally in smaller free range flocks on organically farmed land where they
are fed an organic diet.
But what about before they reach their place of work, what happens in the early stages?
Hatching eggs is a highly specialised technology using a military style approach in order to
maximise the best possible start for the chicks. Incubation equipment runs at 37°c, with a
high humidity and as soon as the chicks are hatched their access to food and water is
immediate. In a commercial environment this can often mean that chicks hatched in the
morning are delivered to their ‘rearing farm’ by early afternoon and it is here they will stay
until they are ready to lay eggs. The precision applied to hatching has been proven by
scientists to give chicks the maximum resilience against common health issues such as
intestinal parasites.
The ‘rearing’ stage sees chicks go from hatching to 16 weeks old, the point at which they
are delivered to farms and ready to start egg production, commonly known as ‘point of lay’.
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