Baby chick hatching. Photo Credit: PHOTO 24 via Getty Images

AnimalsTechnology USA29. May 2023

“Sniffing” Chicken Eggs Can Help Us Identify the Sex Before They Hatch

A California-based startup teamed up with scientists from the University of California, the United States, to develop a non-invasive air sniffing method to identify the sex of chicken embryos within days of fertilization, thus preventing cruel and unethical ways to dispose of unwanted chicks.

“We found that there are volatile chemicals from the egg, a scent that you can capture and sort statistically,” explains Tom Turpen, president, CEO of SENSit Ventures Inc., and senior author on the paper. “We think that the hardware platform invented at the University of California Davis could be integrated into hatcheries.”

The suction cups already used to handle eggs have been adapted to “sniff” volatile organic chemicals diffused through the eggshell. The collected samples are analyzed using gas chromatography/mass spectrometry, then DNA analysis confirms the sex of the fertilized chicken egg. Male and female embryos were identified at 8 days of incubation with 80% accuracy based on two minutes of sampling. This promising technology could potentially be used to identify a broad range of chemicals from environmental samples, for example, to detect explosives, plant diseases, and environmental triggers for asthma. “We see valuable opportunities to apply this technology to problems in defense and security, food and agriculture, process engineering, and health care.”


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