Shane Commentary


Long-Term Project on Sex-Determination in Chickens

Jul 14, 2017


Funding has been awarded to the Royal School of Veterinary Science at the University of Edinburgh to study the biology of sex-determination in chickens.

The three-year project will evaluate the effect of DNRT1 in males and FOXL2 in females since these genes determine gender and development of gonads.

It is intended to use genetic manipulation involving deletion of genes on chicken germ cells to determine the relative importance of gene expression in comparison to wild-type male and female lines.


The complexity of the study and the proposed duration of research illustrates the need for additional knowledge of mechanisms of gender determination in poultry species. The research grant illustrates the need for a thorough knowledge of the basic mechanisms of gender determination before progressing to any form of gender manipulation. 

It was almost a year ago that a fallacious claim was made for subjecting new-laid fertile eggs to specific frequencies of light to alter gender.  There is absolutely no substantiation in the form of published papers or credible data to support the proposal. A posting on EGG-CITE challenging the claimant to subject 1,000 eggs to the system and then demonstrate acceptable egg production in pullets hatched from the treated eggs was not taken up, despite bluster, intimidation and attempts at coercion.

Research is still underway to develop a practical and financially acceptable method of gender determination in fertile eggs before the fourth day of incubation.  To date there have been promising leads using sophisticated spectroscopy but no commercial prototypes have been offered for evaluation.

Dr. Michael McGrew a leader of the research team at the University of Edinburgh noted, “A greater understanding of gonadagenesis and germ cell development in birds may also be of benefit to conservation programs.  This knowledge may also lead to the development of improved in ovo sexing tests and could have a significant consequence for commercial poultry breeding and meat production.” EGG-CITE endorses this sentiment and supports basic research to ascertain mechanisms of gender determination.