Today our team visited the Dutch poultry farm owned by Rob and Egbert Wingens. At the Wingens farm, broiler chicks are hatched inside the barn. This is rather unique as normally broiler chicks are hatched in hatcheries and then transported live to poultry farms to be fattened. By hatching the birds at the poultry farm there are some positive results: 1. There is no need for live transport and 2. Mortality rates are notably lower. In hatcheries chicks are fed only 1-2 days after birth, at Wingens the chicks can eat and drink immediately after birth so less chicks die. Another positive outcome is a considerable reduction in footpad lesions. A better start in life clearly seems to have a positive effect on the chick’s immune systems.
Wingens fattens 260,000 standard broilers at two locations. Within 40 days the broilers reach a slaughter weight of more than 2.5kg. At Wingens the density is 22 broilers per square meter. Eyes on Animals expressed their concern around welfare issues caused by fast growth rates, high densities and rough loading before transport. And, although we did not always agree, it was useful to discuss and exchange thoughts with the Wingens. We respect their transparency and the efforts they have made to improve the welfare of the young chicks.
Later this year we will revisit Wingens farm to observe the hatching process and the catching and loading of the broilers before transport.