Who is who? Non-invasive methods to individually sex and mark altricial chicks

Iris Adam, Constance Scharff, Mariam Honarmand

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review


Many experiments require early determination of offspring's sex as well as early marking of newborns for individual recognition. According to animal welfare guidelines, non-invasive techniques should be preferred whenever applicable. In our group, we work on different species of song birds in the lab and in the field, and we successfully apply non-invasive methods to sex and individually mark chicks. This paper presents a comprehensive non-invasive tool-box. Sexing birds prior to the expression of secondary sexual traits requires the collection of DNA-bearing material for PCR. We established a quick and easy method to sex birds of any age (post hatching) by extracting DNA from buccal swabs. Results can be obtained within 3 hours. For individual marking chick's down feathers are trimmed in specific patterns allowing fast identification within the hatching order. This set of methods is easily applicable in a standard equipped lab and especially suitable for working in the field as no special equipment is required for sampling and storage. Handling of chicks is minimized and marking and sexing techniques are non-invasive thereby supporting the RRR-principle of animal welfare guidelines.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere51429
JournalJournal of Visualized Experiments
Issue number87
Number of pages8
Publication statusPublished - 2014


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