Nutrition

Background

Early feeding to become mandatory

Broiler hatcheries in the Netherland have to implement some form of early feeding in the hatchery within the next 5 years. That was the ruling of a Dutch regulatory body. According to the rule, freshly hatched birds must have access to feed and water within 36 hours after hatch of the first birds

The case was brought forward by Dutch animal welfare organisation Wakker Dier in 2013 and applies to 2 specific hatcheries, named in the case. These 2 have been subject to a penalty payment, if they don’t comply within 5 years. However, in its ruling, the regulatory body decided that the 5-year period applies to the entire broiler sector.

Early feeding to become mandatory. Photo: Michel  Velderman
Photo: Michel Velderman

Until the current ruling, hatcheries where allowed a 60-hour period before chicks should have access to water and feed. In day to day practice that would mean that the chicks were provided with feed and water, after their arrival at the broiler farm. However, Wakker Dier argued that it is contrary to the Decree on the welfare of production animals and the Health and Welfare Act for animals.

Also read: Benefits of in ovo feeding - Early nutrition programming is one of the latest and successful methods to feed embryos and recently hatched chicks to prepare chickens with a healthy gut, favourable microbiota, improved immunity, and overall improved growth performance.

Enforcement

Welfare organisation Wakker Dier asked the Dutch food inspection agency NVWA to enforce this new rule. Initially, this was refused, but after years of legal battles, the regulator body established in 2018 on the basis of a study by the Wageningen University that chicks should have water and feed within 36 hours at the latest. As not all hatcheries have the possibility to supply water and feed in the hatcher, and procurement of the equipment cannot be immediate, a 5 year transition period was granted. That said, recent developments in on farm hatching are mitigating the need for an all out replacement of hatchery equipment.