South Africa’s poultry industry whether layer (egg) or broiler (meat) starts at hatcheries. At these facilities, fertile eggs are hatched after 21 days of incubation and the day-old chicks are transported to either broiler farms or layer farms, depending on the type of chick being hatched at the particular hatchery.
Chicks hatched at facilities dealing with the broiler industry are all sent to broiler farms where they are raised for slaughter. At hatcheries dealing with layer birds, only the female chicks (after being sexed) are shipped off to layer farms. The male chicks are sadly regarded as “waste” and are crushed to death in large macerators. A macerator has rotating blades and the chicks are fed through the machine into the blades whilst still alive, resulting in them being crushed to death.
Unhatched eggs which contain live embryos are also macerated as a means of disposal as well as chicks with deformities. This is an industry norm all over the world. Some hatcheries have in the past dump unhatched eggs and deformed chicks at land-fill and dumping sites, resulting in severe welfare implications. The NSPCA now ensures that every hatchery has a verifiable disposal method of unhatched eggs, male chicks and deformed chicks that are unsaleable.