Effect of low incubation temperature and low ambient temperature until 21 days of age on performance and body temperature in fast-growing chickens

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Thermal manipulation during embryogenesis was previously reported to decrease the occurrence of ascites and to potentially improve cold tolerance of broilers. The objective of our study was to explore the effects of the interaction of cold incubation temperatures and cool ambient temperatures until 21 d of age on performance and body temperature. Ross 308 eggs were incubated either under control conditions I0 (37.6°C) or with cyclic cold stimulations I1 (6 h/d at 36.6°C from d 10 to 18 of incubation) or with 2 cold stimulations I2 (30 min at 15°C) at d 18 and 19 of incubation. These treatments were followed by individual rearing and postnatal exposure to either standard rearing temperature T0 (from 33°C at hatching to 21°C at d 21) or continuously lower temperature T2 (from 28°C at hatching to 21°C at d 21) or exposure to cyclically lower temperature T1 (with circadian temperature oscillations). Treatments I1 and I2 did not significantly alter hatchability compared to control incubation (with 94.8, 95.1, and 92.3%, respectively), or hatching BW and overall chick quality. Hatching body temperature (Tb) was 0.5 and 0.3°C higher in I1 than in I0 and I2 groups, respectively (P = 0.007). A doubled occurrence of health problems was observed with T2 condition, regardless of incubation or sex. At d 3, BW was 2% lower with treatment I1 than with I0 and I2 and was 3% higher in T1 and T2 groups than in T0, but these effects disappeared with age. Group T2 presented a 5% higher feed intake than the control group T0 between 3 and 21 d of age (P = 0.025). Feed conversion ratio (FCR) was affected by experimental conditions (P < 0.001), with low FCR values obtained with I2 incubation in control or cyclically cold postnatal conditions. Maximal FCR values were observed in the continuously cold postnatal conditions, in males submitted to control incubation and in females submitted to I1 incubation, revealing sex-dependent effects of the treatments on performance.

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