Temperature during the last week of incubation. I. Effects on hatching pattern and broiler chicken embryonic organ development

Poult Sci. 2016 Apr;95(4):956-65. doi: 10.3382/ps/pev447. Epub 2016 Jan 19.


We investigated the effects of an eggshell temperature (EST) of 35.6, 36.7, 37.8, and 38.9°C applied from d of incubation (E) 15, E17, and E19 on hatching pattern and embryonic organ development. A total of 2,850 first-grade eggs of a 43-week-old Ross 308 broiler breeder flock were incubated at an EST of 37.8°C until E15. From E15, E17, or E19 onward, eggs were incubated at an EST of 35.6, 36.7, 37.8, or 38.9°C. Moment of internal pipping (IP), external pipping (EP), and hatch was determined, and organ development was measured at E15, E17, E19, IP, EP, and hatch. A lower EST extended incubation duration compared to a higher EST. The lower incubation duration was mainly caused by the extended time until IP, whereas time between IP and hatch hardly varied between treatments. Relative heart weight was affected by EST already from 2 d after the start of EST treatment on E15, and effects became more pronounced at longer exposure time to various EST treatments. At hatch, the largest difference in relative heart weight was found between an EST of 35.6 and 38.9°C started at E15 (Δ=64.4%). From E17 onward, EST affected yolk-free body mass (YFBM) and relative stomach weight, where a lower EST resulted in a lower YFBM and relative stomach weight before IP and a higher YFBM and relative stomach weight after IP. From E19 onward, a lower EST resulted in a higher relative liver and spleen weight regardless of start time of treatment. Yolk weight and relative intestine weight were not affected by EST before and at E19, but a higher EST resulted in a higher yolk weight and lower relative intestine weight from IP onward. Based on the higher YFBM and higher relative organ growth found at hatch, we concluded that an EST lower than 37.8°C from E15 onward appears to be beneficial for optimal embryo development.

Keywords: embryonic organ development; incubation; temperature.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Chick Embryo / embryology
  • Chick Embryo / physiology*
  • Chickens / growth & development
  • Chickens / physiology*
  • Egg Shell / embryology
  • Egg Shell / physiology*
  • Embryo, Nonmammalian / embryology
  • Embryo, Nonmammalian / physiology*
  • Organ Size
  • Temperature