A great deal of meticulous care goes into making sure those yellow balls of chirping fluff hatch from their shells as healthy chicks ready to be raised on a broiler farm.
Hatcheries purchase fertilized eggs from hatching egg producers. Hatcheries are registered with the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA), and they must abide by the Hatchery Regulations. The regulations govern the cleanliness of the hatchery, which is especially important to keep the incubators free of pathogens that might cause the chicks to become ill or result in foodborne illness.
When they arrive from the hatching egg farm, eggs are placed in incubators where they are kept warm and automatically turned gently at regular intervals. Eggs hatch around the 21 day mark. The incubators, or hatchers, are then opened to reveal thousands of chicks who have pecked their way out of their shells. The remainder of the yolk sac, that fed the growing chick during incubation, has now been absorbed into the chick’s body and provides it with adequate nourishment for the first 72 hours of life.
Fertilized eggs are not like the ones you get at the grocery store. The grocery store eggs are unfertilized and come from hens raised specifically to lay eggs for human consumption. Fertilized eggs that hatch into chicks raised for meat production are called broiler hatching eggs, and they are fertilized naturally with the male (rooster) mounting the female (hen).
At the hatchery, the chicks can be vaccinated to protect them from common poultry diseases, just like we are vaccinated as babies against common human diseases.
It is really important that the chicks are kept warm and protected from any drafts as they are readied for transport. They are carefully placed in clean and disinfected crates, free of any sharp edges that might injure them. Once in the crate and on the clean, climate-controlled transport truck, they are ready for the journey to their new home: a barn where they will be raised for about 35 days until they become broiler chickens ready for market.