In a global poultry industry faced with different challenges it is of utmost importance that risks with regard to food safety, animal health, animal welfare, sustainability (reducing waste) and performance are limited to the minimum.

Breeder and hatchery management focusing on quality

It is the objective of any broiler breeder and hatchery manager to produce as efficiently as possible healthy and active day old chicks with the potential to perform excellently on broiler farms. Hatcheries are crossroads where day old chicks from different origins get into contact with each other increasing the risk of cross contamination. Even with the most stringent biosecurity program the performance of hatcheries strongly depends on the quality of the hatching eggs.

A lot of effort is being made to prevent contaminated hatching eggs entering the hatchery. Day old chick quality not only depends on the degree of contamination with e.g. E. Coli or Salmonella but also on the embryonic development and hatch window during the incubation process. For these main factors both outside and inside egg quality are essential and need to be maintained high during the production cycle.

Khabisi et al. (2011) have shown that even minimal defects of the egg shell like hairline cracks and star cracks significantly effect hatchability and day old chick quality in broiler breeders. The incidence of these type of eggshell defects increases as the hen ages due to a reduction of shell thickness and shell breaking strength. Adnan Jabar et al. (2019) executed a large field trial under commercial conditions comparing hairline eggs to normal eggs. Besides the effect on hatchability and day old chick quality, hairline cracks also decreased broiler performance in a significant way by negatively affecting mortality, feed intake, weight gain and feed conversion. All of these observations were confirmed in our own research and experiments.

In addition to these effects on performances, direclty affecting profitability, there is an increased risk of eggs becoming contaminated with E. Coli or Salmonella, hence being detrimental to food safety. Simset et al. (2009) have indicated that the rate of contamination with hairline cracks can be at least 5 times higher than in normal eggs.

In broiler breeder and layer breeder egg production it is key to develop a proactive strategy to maintain hatching egg production, hatchability, day old chick quality and maintaining broiler performance on a high level. Also a good
start in the rearing period of commercial layers as well safeguarding food safety needs to be high on the agenda and egg shell quality is crucial to accomplish this all.

Understanding genetics

In contrast to what many people believe, focusing on calcium absorption will not be the solution. Under normal practical circumstances calcium absorption is not negatively affected by age and for certain not the quantity of calcium available for egg shell formation. It is the need for calcium which mainly determines the absorption rate (Bar, 2009). Increasing calcium levels can even have negative effects on shell quality as is mentioned by Negoita et al. (2017). Also it is clear as indicated in figure 1 that given a certain calcium intake shell weight becomes constant after reaching maximum egg output indicating that calcium deposition is constant in time.

Keeping this in mind it is evident that a strategy to maintain egg quality, both internally as externally, built on improving calcium or protein absorption as the hen ages will not guarantee to be successful. Therefore specialists of Agrimprove developed a totally different strategy in line with the ongoing genetical improvements. This means that given the shorter intervals between ovulations and ovipositions (as performance improves year by year) facilitating and improving the process of shell calcification results in the best possible improvements.

Figure 1: Evolution of shell weight in relation to flock age (commercial layers, 4 different feed formulations) (Negoita et al. 2017)


By improving physiological responses and the immune responses of hens to (environmental) stressors, Shellbiotic improves the albumen quality which is not only the nutritional source for developing embryo’s but also the foundation
for a solid shell deposition. As such Shellbiotic improves the shell quality as is measured by a significant reduction of eggs having hairline and star line cracks but also improves day old chick vitality. On average broiler breeder managers and hatchery managers using Shellbiotic notice improvements in number of hatching eggs (1,5 to 2,5 ), in hatchability (1 to 1,5%) finally resulting in 2,5 to 3 more first grade day old chicks. In doing so, Shellbiotic contributes to a more sustainable day old chick production.

Your Agrimprove Expert

Jan Vervloesem
Global lead poultry