During incubation, embryonic growth and development are dependent on nutrients deposited in the egg. The content of the yolk can be transferred to the embryo in 2 ways: directly into the intestine via the yolk stalk or through the highly vascularized yolk sac membrane. It has been suggested that, as a result of genetic selection and improved management, the increase in posthatch growth rate and concurrently the increase in metabolic rate of broiler chickens during the last 50 yr has also increased embryonic metabolism. A higher metabolic rate during incubation would imply a lower residual yolk weight and possibly lower energy reserve for the hatchling. This might affect posthatch development and performance. This review examined scientific publications published between 1930 and 2018 to compare residual yolk weight at hatch, metabolic heat production, and yolk utilization throughout incubation. This review aimed to investigate 1) whether or not residual yolk weight and composition has been changed during the 88-yr period considered and 2) which abiotic and biotic factors affect yolk utilization in poultry during incubation and the early posthatch period. It can be concluded that 1) residual yolk weight and the total solid amount of the residual yolk at hatch seem to be decreased in the recent decades. It cannot be concluded whether the (lack of) differences between old and modern strains are due to genetic selection, changed management and incubation conditions, or moment of sampling (immediately after hatch or at pulling). It is remarkable that with the genetic progress and improved management and incubation conditions over the last 88 yr, effects on yolk utilization efficiency and embryonic metabolic heat production are limited; 2) factors specially affecting residual yolk weight at hatch include egg size and incubation temperature, whereas breeder age has more influence on nutrient composition of the residual yolk.
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- metabolic heat production
- yolk sac utilization