Aviagen Turkeys is pleased to announce the completion of its Turkey Hatchery and Incubation Management Course. Twenty-seven students from twelve countries participated in this intensive four day course held at our new Select Genetics hatchery in Terre Haute, Indiana.

Through a mix of classroom work and practical sessions in the hatchery, students gained a better understanding of factors that impact hatch and poult quality. Course Director, Dr. Michelle Behl, Director of Poult Quality for Select Genetics, worked with the Select Genetics Hatchery group and the Aviagen Turkeys, Inc. Technical Services Team to develop this comprehensive program.

According to Dr. Behl, “The goal of the course was to provide information and experience in areas that will have a real impact on hatchability, poult quality, and subsequent commercial turkey performance.”

Christy Puffenbarger, Vice President of Technical Services for Aviagen Turkeys, said, “When we started talking about a hatchery course, Michelle was the natural choice to be the director. She has a real passion for poultry and hatcheries and loves to tell the story of growing up incubating and raising ducks and chickens and studying embryonic development.”


Dr. Behl has over 22 years of experience in the poultry industry and earned both a MS and a PhD in Poultry Science from Texas A&M University.

Learning in the Classroom

Guest speaker Dr. Lynn Bagley, Director of Production for Pitman Family Farms in Utah, kicked off the classroom sessions with the egg – how it is formed, its structure and impact on embryo development.

Dr. Bagley shared some of the knowledge he has gained through his many years in the poultry industry and his Ph.D. from North Carolina State University where he researched fertility and hatchability of turkeys.

Classroom sessions also included, “Egg Handling and Embryonic Development” by Dr. Behl, and “Timing is Everything” by Doug High, Director of Hatcheries for Select Genetics. Doug incorporated his 35 years of poultry experience in this presentation on planning egg sets taking into consideration egg age, flock age, and other factors that can impact embryonic development.

Phillip Perry, Technical Consultant / Advisor with Jamesway Incubator Company, finished up the morning with a session on Hatchery Mechanics. Phillip has been working with hatcheries for 35 years including 26 with BUTA then Aviagen Turkeys in Lewisburg, West Virginia. With this background Phillip provided information on single-stage vs. multi-stage, calibration, and incubator and hatcher room ventilation.

Rounding out the classroom sessions included a presentation by Dr. Bagley on “Poult Yield and Moisture Loss” as well as an overview of “Cleaning and Disinfecting the Hatchery” by Laura Hagedon and Brianna Dierdorff, QA/QC Specialist for the Terre Haute Hatchery.

Hands-on Experience

A key feature of the course was “learning by doing.” The 27 participants were divided into six teams for the practical sessions in the hatchery. The students came from hatcheries around the world and had a broad range of experience allowing the teams to be mixed so students could learn from both their instructors and their classmates.