Poultry Genetics – Chick Quality: An Update
Chick quality is still a term than many breeder, hatchery and broiler people still have a hard time defining. Most everyone can identify poor quality chicks from good quality chicks. However, when three people are asked to define chick quality, three different descriptions would be received. Currently chick quality is mainly based on observations such as whether or not the chick is alert, dry or wet, whether the navel is completed sealed, and deformities. While these are a good start, there are chicks than can be dry, have completely sealed navels, no deformities but still do not perform well. Researchers will continue to search for an objective measurement (one that will not vary from person to person) but in the mean time the best measurement is to use a combination of observations. Most people working to evaluate chick quality agree that first week mortality may be the best measure available. However, the information if after the fact and growers and broiler flock supervisors need the information as soon as possible to make management decisions need to optimize that flock’s performance.
There are several factors that can affect chick quality. These are listed in Table 1. Since there is no objective way to measure chick quality at this time, it is important to define how chick quality is determined. One group in Belgium has been evaluated chick quality from three different broiler breeder lines. In order to report and compare chick quality they have come up with a system that has been successful in their observations. It should be noted that there is still a possibility that the information will differ from person to person, but this appears to be a good start. Table 2 describes the parameters they used for determining chick quality and Table 3 demonstrates the scoring system. The score level for each parameter was determined based on the importance to chick survival and the severity of any anomaly it may carry.
While this system was useful to this project, some alterations could be made to fit a companies needs. The important thing to remember is consistency when evaluating each parameter. Other methods for determining chick quality have been developed and tried and are quite similar to the one described above. The common feature is that each method used multiple parameters to assess chick quality.
Tona, K. F., Bamelis, B. De ketelaere, V. Bruggeman, V. M. B. Moraes, J. buyse, O. Onagbesan, and E. Decuypere, 2003. Effects of egg storage time on spread of hatch, chick quality, and chick juvenile growth. Poultry Sci 82:736-741.
Tona, K., O. Onagbesan, Y. Jego, B. Kamers, E. Decuypere, and V. Bruggeman 2004. Comparison of embryo physiological parameters during incubation, chick quality, and growth performance of three lines of broiler breeders differing in genetic composition and growth rate. Poultry Sci 83:507-513.
Table 1. Factors that can affect chick quality
Table 2. Parameters used to assess chick quality
Table 3. Scoring system used in chick quality determination
By Brian D. Fairchild, Extension Poultry Scientist
Poultry Tips – College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences
The University of Georgia Cooperative Extension Service