Alternative hatching systems have been developed for broiler chickens to provide immediately feed and water after hatch and reduce the number or severity of early life stressors. Besides beneficial effects of these alternative hatching systems on chick quality and performance, broiler health and welfare may be positively affected as well. Especially offspring from young broiler breeder flocks may benefit, as they have been shown to be more sensitive to preturbations than offspring from older breeder flocks. This study evaluated effects of hatching systems on chick quality, health and welfare of young breeder flock offspring, using 3 different hatching systems: conventional hatchery-hatched (HH), hatchery-fed (HF), and on-farm hatching (OH). A total of 24 pens were used in a completely randomized block design, with 8 pens per hatching system and 30 chickens per pen. Chick quality at hatch and performance until 35 d of age was improved in the HF and OH compared to HH treatment, but only minor effects were found on the welfare indicators: footpad dermatitis, hock burn, cleanliness, skin lesion and gait score. No effect was observed on the dynamics of a humoral immune response after NCD vaccination, given at d 0 and 14 of age, as no differences between NCD titers were found at d 18. Animals were vaccinated with a live attenuated infectious bronchitis vaccine virus (IBV) at d 28 to address treatment related differences to disease resilience. The expressions of inflammation and epithelial integrity related genes in the trachea and histo-pathological changes in the trachea were examined at 3 d after vaccine administration. No differences between treatment groups were observed. Although beneficial effects of HF and OH systems were found for young breeder flock offspring on chick quality at hatch and body weight posthatch, only one effect of alternative hatching systems on welfare and health indicators were found. No effect of hatching system on humoral immune response or disease resilience was found.


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