Skip to content
Home » Multistage incubation – selecting optimum settings at Eagle’s Pride Hatchery

Multistage incubation – selecting optimum settings at Eagle’s Pride Hatchery

Compiled by Eamonn Ryan with technical input from Eduan Kotze, co-owner of Novalec Technical Services

In a multi-stage hatchery such as Eagle’s Pride Hatchery in Pyramid, Pretoria, the HVAC system is core to its very functioning. Without the HVAC system, there would not be any chicks.

New-born chicks are able to last 72 hours until feeding, living on the nourishment contained in the placenta.
New-born chicks are able to last 72 hours until feeding, living on the nourishment contained in the placenta.Images by ©Cold Link Africa

Hatching is entirely dependent upon temperature settings at various stages of the process. The HVAC system ensures that the correct volumes of air, conditioned both in terms of temperature and humidity, are delivered to the setter and hatcher room at all times.

This allows the actual setters and hatchers to fine-tune the temperature and flow of the air and provide optimum and uniform environmental conditions inside the machines. Upon completion of the HVAC project, Eagle’s Pride today delivers approximately 850 000 eggs each week.

On the face of it, multistage incubation is an easy procedure. The setter is loaded with a new batch of eggs as the oldest batch in the setter reaches the point of needing to be transferred. A fully loaded machine contains eggs at all stages of incubation, and the average incubation age will be about nine days.

Eagle’s Pride delivers approximately 850 000 eggs each week.
Eagle’s Pride delivers approximately 850 000 eggs each week. 

The hatchery receives eggs not older than five days from various farms. A hatchery does not like to collect eggs on day one as they need to cool down from about 40°C to 20°C and also be fumigated, as at that point the yolk is still unstable with the pores open. The fumigation sterilises the environment around the eggs, and only then can they be transported to the hatchery. They are placed in a setter for 18 days, subsequently being brought up to 37.2°C in a pre-warmer chamber which makes the hatching process more efficient.

The temperature has to be stable, with no variation either up or down. This process is called the ‘W’ – the temperature is taken slowly from 40°C to 20°C and then back to 37.2°C for hatching. The chicks ultimately end up in a holding room before being dispatched to chicken farms where they are fed for the first time. New-born chicks are able to last 72 hours until feeding, living on the nourishment contained in the placenta. By adhering to this temperature profile, the hatchery ensures consistent and optimal conditions for incubation.

The facility includes a fluff extractor to remove the fluff from all the chicks. The facility
The facility includes a fluff extractor to remove the fluff from all the chicks. 

The Eagle’s Pride Hatchery project

To maintain efficient and effective operations, the hatchery utilises a multistage incubation process.

The hatchery’s rooms and corridors are each clinically designed, resembling more a hospital ward than farming, with an all-white aesthetic. To blend with this environment, the hatchery has chosen white-coloured Fabricair, which matches the interior design. This attention to detail in both functionality and aesthetics reflects the methodical hatching process.

Temperature control plays a crucial role in the hatchery’s operations. The machines utilise a water-cooling system to regulate the temperature inside the bays. Chilled water circulates within the machines, enabling precise temperature control.

The ducting runs through the ceiling to supply the main air to the base. The FabricAir distributes the air inside the entire facility. In the incubator, the eggs are placed in racks, which facilitates in turning them every hour – assisting the development of the chicks. The facility includes a fluff extractor to remove the fluff from all the chicks through the roof and out where it is deposited in a water trough to retain it.

Filtration consists of normal wash-back and pocket filters for primary and secondary filtration, and despite the extremely hygienic hospital-like appearance of the facility, Kotze says that HEPA filters are not a requirement.

The plant room is run on a BMS automated system for the chillers. Kotze explains that Novalec has a long-standing relationship with Eagle’s Pride – it is currently building another hatchery and also provides all the maintenance for all the company’s hatcheries.

In this subsequent hatchery, he explains, they have opted to go for a primarily manual system, firstly for cost considerations, but also because a in fully-automated system – as with the present Pyramid facility – power outages play havoc with its functionality, taking up to 30 minutes to reboot after the outage despite a back-up generator and UPS; whereas a manual system can be functional within five minutes. He notes that both the facilities are deeply prejudiced by their local power supply at the moment.

The hatchery's rooms and corridors are each clinically designed, resembling more a hospital wardthan farming, with an all-white aesthetic.
The hatchery’s rooms and corridors are each clinically designed, resembling more a hospital ward than farming, with an all-white aesthetic.

The roof area consists of hot- and cold-water buffer tanks, being a combination of Samsung and Allianz, due to stock availability – both supplied by Fourways Airconditioning. Also on the roof are the egg room units, the Recam condensers supplied by Metraclark for the blower-coils which control the temperature to 18°C inside the egg room. A Recam condenser is a type of heat exchanger used in refrigeration systems to transfer heat from the refrigerant to the surrounding air or water. The water-cooled chillers are from Midea.

The air handlers for the chick room are from HC Heat Exchangers, while the remainder of the pumps are KSB. The air compressors in the plant room control the turnstiles inside the setters and hatchers. Pumps run on standby with hot and cold water. Normally at a hatchery they have a boiler, but that is not the case in this instance which is rather run with heat pump chillers.

In explanation, Kotze says: “In wintertime we automatically switch over to more of the chillers doing heating as there is less need for cooling. Then in summertime we switch back over to cooling. We run the heating at about 45°C and the cooling tank about 8°C.”

The BMS system is located in the plant room with panels showing the egg rooms tracking their running and showing the various hatching phases. If tank temperatures vary, they can immediately be adjusted as to fan speed and temperature. It also shows whether valves are open or closed.

Novalec performed all the drawings, sometimes with the assistance of a consulting engineer – as in this case, says Kotze. The company also provides maintenance on all the facilities it installs, including normal preventative maintenance, including weekly washing of filters, chiller services cleaning and water treatment once a month. “We change the water filters once a month and send water samples for testing each month to establish the water quality,” he adds.

The Eagle’s Pride Hatchery branding.
The Eagle’s Pride Hatchery branding.

Fabric ducting

The white-coloured Fabricair matches the all-white rooms and corridors of the hatchery which look much like a hospital ward. It is a diffuser of air as opposed to a transporter of air.

In the instance of Eagle’s Pride, the solution chosen was what FabricAir calls its ‘D-shaped duct’, says Mitchell. “FabricAir offers a wide selection of custom duct profiles tailored to specific project challenges as our engineers design the sir dispersion system to ensure the best possible fit for each individual application. Classic fabric ducting comes in a wide assortment of duct profiles in addition to the round and D-shaped favourite. In this instance we employed the Type11A suspension, ideal for low ceilings. “The T-rail, so named because it looks like a T in the cross section, is made of anodised aluminium, making it an excellent choice for corrosive environments. Two T-rails are fixed to a hard ceiling and the duct is then suspended from the rails. It is perfect for straight sections of D-shaped ducts. Hot air rises, thus heating requires nozzles or jets to deliver hot air in the target zone without drafts. Cold air falls, thus cooling requires smaller perforations or orifices to ensure draft-free comfort.

Mitchell says, “This particular project is one of several projects that we’ve done with Novalec. The system installed at Eagle’s Pride Hatchery is specifically designed to be versatile in summer and winter where we have the widely varying ambient temperatures creating a challenge of getting air to a comfortable level, particularly so in winter.

The installation of FabricAir ducting into the new chicken hatchery named Eagle’s Pride Hatchery in Pretoria was a smooth process, according to Mitchell. The consulting engineer selected FabricAir and provided details of the length of ducting required and how much airflow needed to be distributed through the duct’s perforations. There were no challenges or hiccups during the installation process, except for a few dimensional changes on site. Novalec even worked out for itself how to do the installation by reading the instructions and watching relevant videos.

The choice of FabricAir in this instance was primarily for hygiene purposes given it is a hatchery. From a hygiene point of view, the only other suitable ducting that they could have put in there would be stainless steel, which will cost five to 10 times more – forgetting the turnaround time from start to finish. “Ours is a plug-and-play system, with no balancing or commissioning required. It is easy to take down and clean and put back up again. The dispersion of air through a fabric is 24% more efficient than metal. The reason for that is fabric ducting is not really a duct but one big diffuser, so air comes out everywhere over the entire area of the duct.

The plant room is run on a BMS automated system.
The plant room is run on a BMS automated system.

“It is not a new technology; I’ve been the distributor for FabricAir in South Africa since 2014. The company is 50 years old with its head office in Køge, Denmark, and its factory in Lithuania, where its entire global production takes place. FabricAir currently has subsidiaries in 16 countries and a large network of distributors that reach customers in over 120 countries.

“The other advantage of fabric over metal is its ease of installation. As it’s lighter, it can be installed about five times quicker than traditional steel ducting. Contrary to traditional metal ducts, the entire fabric ducting works as a diffuser. In metal ducting, the cold air with ΔT=7-10°C is coming out from the diffusers with very high air velocities (7–15m/s) and creates drafts and hot/cold zones.” 

Fabric ducting eliminates drafts and hot/cold zones by uniform air distribution and minimising temperature differences through the occupied area as low as 0.5°C.

It is also the more energy-friendly technology on the market, as the lower pressure drop, high precision and optimised mixing offered by the fabric ducts consumes up to 40% less energy compared to conventional metal ducting.

Mitchell notes the system is not appropriate everywhere: “It is not viable where ducting is required in a ceiling, even though the fabric is fire-retardant, fire ratings do not permit it. Also, because the fabric ducting is permeable and air emanates everywhere, it can create dust from the ceiling. It also cannot be used externally. It is ideal for the open architecture of a large warehouse or retailers operating from large open warehouse-type premises such as a Builders Warehouse.

“It is almost maintenance-free – it can be taken down and laundered and many companies simply keep a spare set of ducting and replace them for laundering,” he says.

The ceiling area of the hatchery.
The ceiling area of the hatchery.
Register for free to gain access the digital library for Cold Link Africa publications