The chicks, which hatched intermittently throughout August 25-27, had immediate access to water, certified organic food, light and fresh air, a unique advantage of being born at Bell & Evans’ hatchery.
In traditional poultry practices, chicks have to wait until they’ve all hatched and been transported to the farm to eat and drink, the company noted in a press release. For those chicks that hatch first, that could mean starvation. By having feed and water available to the chicks immediately after birth, they’ll be stronger and healthier when they arrive to Bell & Evans farms.
On August 28, the chicks were transported to the company’s farms in climate-controlled trucks with feed and light, most of which are within an hour’s drive. The chicks traveled within the same trays in which they were hatched and were never handled by machinery, unlike standard practices which use conveyor belts and other machines to sort, count and move chicks.
“Every practice we put into place is to establish the best possible conditions and lowest stress for our chickens,” said Scott Sechler, chairman and president of Bell & Evans. “We invested in the well-being of these chicks with the most innovative, modern-day hatchery equipment you can buy. From the moment the chicks hatch, they will enjoy the highest welfare standards we could imagine.”
Sechler has put an extensive amount of time, research and money into his commitment to raising chickens humanely. Many of the processes being used in the hatchery are based on those he saw in person in the Netherlands. He hired two Dutch companies – HatchTech and Viscon Group - to complete the Hatchery project. Sechler’s concept of having an organic, animal-welfare focused chicken hatchery with continuous access to organic feed, water and light is the first in the world.
The $40 million, 160,000-square-foot hatchery will be capable of hatching 2.8 million chicks per week at full capacity.
An emphasis on biosecurity
Bell & Evans stated that it takes additional biosecurity measures to ensure that its chicks are positioned to thrive. Unlike many other hatcheries, this one is 100 percent formaldehyde free. The Bell & Evans staff cleans and disinfects the hatchery and incoming eggs only with organic disinfectants. After eggs incubate for 18 days, they go through advanced candling and heartbeat detection to make sure that only viable eggs are placed in the hatchers, which is vital to avoiding excessive bacteria exposure to the baby chicks. Furthermore, all employees and visitors are required to shower and put on hatchery clothing before entering the facility, again eliminating possibilities to drag bacteria in that could be harmful to the eggs and chicks.
The Bell & Evans Humane Animal Welfare Standard encompasses all phases of its chickens’ life cycle and is the highest set of standards for poultry production in the world.