Eggshell temperature (EST) during incubation greatly affects embryo development, chick quality at hatch, and subsequently various broiler physiological systems. Until now, a constant EST of 37.8°C seems optimal. Data on effects of EST patterns on immune organ development and subsequent broiler immune response are, however, scarce. A higher EST of 38.9°C in week 2 and/or a lower EST of 36.7°C in week 3 of incubation potentially positively affect embryo immune organ development and broiler immune response post hatch. Broiler eggs (n = 468) were incubated at 4 different EST patterns (n = 117 eggs/treatment) from week 2 of incubation onward. Week 1 (embryonic age (E)0 < E7) EST was 37.8°C for all eggs. Week 2 (E7 < E14) EST was either 37.8°C (Control) or 38.9°C (Higher), and week 3 (E14 – /hatch) EST was either Control or 36.7°C (Lower). At hatch, histology of bursal follicles and jejunum villi and crypts were determined as well as heterophil to lymphocyte ratio (H:L) (n = 49). Posthatch, both sexes were grown in 8 pens/treatment for 6 wk (n = 320). Natural antibodies (NAb) were determined at day 14, 22, and slaughter (day 41 or 42) as an indicator of immunocompetence and response to a Newcastle disease (NCD) vaccination was determined by antibody levels at day 22 and slaughter (n = 128). Results showed no interaction EST week 2 × EST week 3, except for jejunum histology. Higher EST in week 2 resulted in lower cell density within bursal follicles (P = 0.02) and a tendency for lower H:L (P = 0.07) at hatch, and higher NCD titers at slaughter (P = 0.02) than Control EST. Lower EST in week 3 resulted at hatch in higher cell density within bursal follicles, higher H:L (both P < 0.05), and a tendency for a higher posthatch mortality rate than control EST (P = 0.10). In conclusion, higher EST in week 2 during incubation may benefit embryonic immune organ development and posthatch broiler immunocompetence, while lower EST in week 3 showed opposite indications.

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