All eggs laid by parent flocks are collected and delivered to the hatchery where they are incubated at a controlled temperature and humidity in setters.
Good air circulation is provided and the eggs are turned regularly to encourage development of the embryo and to prevent it from sticking to the inside of the shell.
After 18 days the racks of incubated eggs are taken out and candled to detect and remove any infertile eggs and damaged embryos. Candling involves shining a light through the egg from behind.
The perfect eggs with growing chick embryos are placed on special trays which are put into the hatchers and kept at a controlled temperature and humidity until they start to hatch out of their shells on about the 20th day.
Turkey poults hatch on the 27th day of incubation and all emerge within a few hours. Hatchery hygiene is important to ensure the newly hatched chicks do not pick up an infection.
Day-old chicks may be sorted by sex in the hatchery depending on whether the rearing farm they are destined for has separate-sex rearing. The tips of the chicks’ wing feathers show if the chick is female or male.
The day-old chicks or poults are then transported to chicken or turkey rearing farms in specially designed covered trays and in dedicated temperature-controlled vehicles.
When a chick hatches it has some remains of the yolk inside its abdomen which provides it with all necessary nutrients for up to 40 hours. For this reason chicks do not require any feed or water during the short delivery time from the hatchery to the rearing farm. Newly-hatched chicks can live healthily off the yolk sack for up to two days.