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Glowing Eggs Identify Male Chicks for Better Poultry Welfare

22 January 2014

AUSTRALIA - Researchers in southern New South Wales are attempting to develop a new chicken line whose eggs glow differently under ultra-violet light so that male embryos can be identified. If successful, this work will see an end to incubating unwanted males and the need to destroy them after hatching.

According to ABC, the researchers want to genetically modify chickens with a gene that glows, so layer hen operations can tell if there is a female embryo inside the egg before it is incubated.

Each year, millions of male chicks in Australia are culled because it is unviable to keep them.

Dr Nigel Urwin, senior lecturer in genetics at Charles Sturt University in Wagga Wagga, says modifying chickens could address the animal welfare problem.

"The gene we're using is a protein which is intrinsically fluorescent.

"You wouldn't normally see green fluorescence unless they're under ultra-violet light, but if you're a transgenic chicken down at the disco, you'd have a selective advantage over a normal chicken, I think."

He says PhD student Emmanuel Quansah is spending the next six months at the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) poultry research facilities in Maryland to apply the research using artificial insemination.

Dr Urwin says he has not received any funding from animal welfare groups to carry out the study.

ThePoultrySite News Desk

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