The Welfare of Farmed Ratites

Volume 11 of the series Animal Welfare pp 65-89


Incubation and Chick Rearing

  • D. C. DeemingAffiliated withDepartment of Biological Sciences, University of Lincoln Email author 

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Welfare considerations during incubation and for the first 3 months post-hatching are described for ratite chicks. Welfare of embryos is discussed in the context of the animal being sentient and able to elicit a change in its environment. It is suggested that during development, typical definitions of what constitutes welfare cannot be easily applied to embryos and indeed they may be inappropriate. Only after internal pipping into the air space does an embryo exhibit a demonstrable ability to elicit a response from its parents when incubation conditions are not optimal. Nevertheless, good practice will optimise the incubation environment and yield high hatchability and chick quality, which automatically serves to maximise welfare. Compared with poultry species, our understanding of the requirements of ratite chicks is very poor. There are limited scientific studies into appropriate rearing conditions and few that are directly related to welfare. Welfare considerations during rearing are described in relation to factors such as behaviour, feeding, environment, transport and health issues. Much of this work has been carried out with ostriches, with little work on emus or rheas. Chick welfare in all commercially important ratites requires more targeted research in order to promote best practice around the world.


Embryo Emu Health Incubation rearing Ostrich Rhea