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International Innovation: The significance of prenatal conditions - Tackling obesity and associated diseases

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Innovation in poultry incubation – "temperature training for poultry embryos"
European patent for new incubation method

From modern hatcheries 1 to 2 million chicks per week are transferred to the broiler farms. During the embryonic development of fast growing poultry species in the hatchery, which includes more than 30% of the total lifespan, incubation climate can significantly influence the ontogeny of body functions and finally hatchability, chick quality, later adaptability, performance and meat quality. One of the most important factors is the incubation temperature. Especially during so-called 'critical periods', changes in incubation temperature may induce long-lasting effects.

During the last days of incubation, poultry embryos have well-developed thermoregulatory mechanisms and other body functions (Tzschentke, 2007). Further, dramatic changes in the quality of regulatory processes occur. During pre-hatching development, most regulatory systems develop from open loop systems without feedback control into closed control systems with feedback mechanisms. The development of feedback mechanisms is a "critical period" in the development of physiological control systems (Tzschentke and Plagemann, 2006). During this period environmental stimulation could improve the maturation of body functions ('training effect'; Nichelmann and Tzschentke, 2002) and adaptability to environmental changes (robustness).

Modern chicken industry needs robust chicks, which are resistant to environmental variations associated with decrease in mortality and reduced loss of performance as well as improved animal welfare. So far, different incubation programs for broiler chicks and other poultry species do not include daily variations of incubation temperature, especially during the last days prior hatching. Finally, a new incubation method which includes temperature stimulations resembles natural conditions and corresponds with the physiological needs of the embryo and thereby with animal protection demands.

In our study with ROSS 308 broilers, short-term mild temperature stimulation during the last 4 days prior hatching improved the hatching rate, changed the secondary sex-ratio in favour to male hatchlings and increased body weight at slaughter in male broilers as well as improved feed conversion rate in both male and female broilers (Tzschentke and Halle, 2009).

An incubation temperature profile including short-term temperature variation was developed by Barbara Tzschentke in co-operation with Ingrid Halle (Friedrich-Loeffler-Institute (FLI) for Animal Health, Institute of Animal Nutrition, Braunschweig). For this method the European patent was granted on 24th August 2011 (EP: 2105048: a method for growing poultry). This method will be of high relevance for improving poultry performance and could be a future method of commercial poultry incubation.

To improve the protocols for temperature stimulation ("training") in practice, a collaborative research project on "Circadian Incubation" is running between Humboldt-University (Barbara Tzschentke/Sabrina Tatge), PasReform Hatchery Technology, The Netherlands (Marleen Boerjan) and the FLI of Animal Health, Institute of Animal Nutrition, in Braunschweig (Ingrid Halle).

Further articles:
TZSCHENTKE, B., TATGE, S. (2012): Embryonic temperature training for robust chicks. World Poultry (Special Issue on Incubation), No. 03/Volume 28: 8-10. Full text
TZSCHENTKE, B. (2011): humboldt chancengleich, 3: 25. Full text (PDF)
TZSCHENTKE, B., HALLE, I. (2010): Lohmann Information, 45(1): 27-33. Full text (PDF)
HALLE, I., TZSCHENTKE, B. (2009): DGS- Magazin 31, 28-32.

For complete quotation of literature, see Tzschentke, list of publications


PPTR 2014

“Thermal Physiology in a Changing Thermal World”

The 5th International Symposium on the Physiology and Pharmacology of Temperature Regulation (PPTR) will take place in Skukuza, Kruger National Park, South Africa, from 07-12 September 2014. WG Pertinatal Adaptation is organizing the Symposium on “Impact of pre- and perinatal thermal environment on postnatal adaptability in birds” (organiser: Barbara Tzschentke). For more information see Symposium Synopsis and Speaker (PDF) and

PPDP Workshop 2013

The registration for the 6th Combined WPSA Workshop on Fundamental Physiology and Perinatal Development in Poultry has now opened. The workshop will take place from October 2nd to October 4th 2013 at the Georgia Augusta University in Goettingen, Germany, in conjunction with the Incubation and Fertility Research Group Meeting (30th September to 1st October). You will find all relevant details (including a link to the registration form) on the website for the workshop:

German-Egyptian Year of Science and Technology 2007


Interdisciplinary book on Cultures of Epigenetic (in German) is published 2014 by DE GRUYTER (For more information see PDF)

Kulturen der Epigenetik: Vererbt, codiert, übertragen. Herausgegeben von Vanessa Lux, Jörg Thomas Richter (Zentrum für Literatur- und Kulturforschung), Walter de Gruyter GmbH, Berlin/Boston, 2014,

mit einem Beitrag aus der AG Perinatale Anpassung zum Abschnitt VI Prägung und Entwicklung: Prägung physiologischer Regelsysteme: Wie die perinatale Umwelt Weichen stellt (Barbara Tzschentke)

Special issue of “The Open Ornithology Journal”

The special issue "Early Development and Epigenetic Programming of Body Functions in Birds" is now available on the Journal web page


still available:

"New insights into fundamental physiology and peri-natal adaption of domestic fowl", edited by Shlomo Yahav and Barbara Tzschentke (2006), order form, contents

AVIAN AND POULTRY BIOLOGY REVIEWS, Special Issue (2004), "Fundamental Physiology and Perinatal Development in Poultry - Adaptation in Poultry: The Impact of Environment", edited by Barbara Tzschentke and Oliver Janke, order form, contents