Testing Feathers to Determine Chick Sex

GERMANY — Scientists in Germany are reporting development of test that can answer one of the most frustrating questions in the animal kingdom: Is that bird a boy or a girl? Their study is a potential boon to poultry farmers and bird breeders.
calendar icon 5 February 2008
clock icon 2 minute read
In a finding that could be a boon to poultry farmers and bird breeders, scientists have developed a new test to ease the sometimes difficult task of determining the sex of birds.
Photo: StockXchange

Juergen Popp and colleagues point out that the boy-girl question can be difficult to answer in birds that lack distinctive, gender-related plumage. Since birds lack external genital organs, sexing a bird typically involves endoscopic examination of the animal's gonads under general anesthesia or specific molecular biological methods.

Since these methods are expensive, time-consuming, and stressful for the bird, scientists long have sought a quick, minimal-invasive sexing alternative.

In the new study, researchers describe such a test, which involves analysis of tissue pulp from birds' feathers using a highly sensitive lab instrument.

The method, called ultraviolet-resonance Raman (UVRR) spectroscopy, took less than a minute, and identified the birds' sex with 95 percent accuracy, the scientists say.

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