In ovo chick sexing solutions making slow progress

There are several new technologies in development that could sex male chicks before they are hatched, but there is still a ways to go before commercially viable solutions are available.

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nopow | iStockPhoto.com
nopow | iStockPhoto.com

There are several new technologies in development that could sex male chicks before they are hatched, but there is still a ways to go before commercially viable solutions are available.

“Things are being worked on, but they're not progressing maybe as quickly as what people would like to see them happening. But with that said, there is a lot of work being done in this,” Dr. Bernie Beckman, Director of Technical Services, Hy-line North America, said.

Beckman shared an update on some of the potentially promising technologies at the 2021 Nebraska Poultry Industries Virtual Conference.

Global concern is growing

Approximately 6-7 billion male layer chicks are culled each year, a major animal welfare and economic concern for the layer industry. Animal welfare organizations have pressured the egg industry to find an alternative approach.

Egg producers around the world have pledged to adopt in ovo sex sorting technology as soon as it is available. In January 2020, the agriculture ministers of France and Germany jointly announced that the culling of male day-old chicks would be banned by the end of 2021.

Two possible solutions

Two of the more promising solutions of in ovo sex determination are endocrine analysis and spectroscopy, Beckman said. Both techniques are non-invasive but need further development before they can be implemented commercially.

Hormone-based sexing techniques typically sample test fluid from the allantois, an embryological membrane in the egg, and analyze the fluid for the presence of endocrinological markers that signify the presence of female hormones.

On the other hand, approaches involving spectroscopy use specialized cameras that measure specific light wavelengths to determine the chick’s sex before it is hatched. This technique is chemical-free and therefore presumed to be more environmentally friendly than other methods.

“The take home message is that these are sophisticated technologies,” Beckman said. “Will this be possible? Yes, but not likely in the near future.”

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