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J Exp Zool A Ecol Genet Physiol. 2008 Jan 1;309(1):35-46.

Primary sex ratio in fertilized chicken eggs (Gallus gallus domesticus) depends on reproductive age and selection.

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  • 1Department of Functional Genomics and Bioregulation, Institute for Animal Science Mariensee, Federal Agricultural Research Centre, Neustadt, Germany. sabine.klein@fal.de

Abstract

Recent studies of several avian species have shown that the primary sex ratio can change as a result of prevailing conditions, especially in the female bird's first reproductive season. In this study, we sought to determine the primary sex ratio of the first 15 eggs produced in chickens. The study compared chickens which had been commercially selected over many generations for egg-laying performance (Leghorns) with "fancy-bred" chickens selected for feather coloration. These fancy-bred chickens are known to reach reproductive maturity 4 weeks later than Leghorns. A group of precociously matured Leghorn chickens was produced by modification of diet and day length to investigate the effect of age at reproductive maturity on sex ratio. Sex diagnosis was performed on embryos which had died on or before embryonic day 10 by polymerase chain reaction (PCR). Living embryos were allowed to hatch before sex diagnosis. The group of precociously matured White Leghorns reached egg-laying age 3 weeks earlier than normal. In this group, the sex ratio of hatched chicks was in tendency skewed to females. In the White Leghorns maintained under normal conditions for commercial layers, sex ratio was balanced with a tendency to more males only in the first five eggs. In the group of fancy-bred chickens, the primary sex ratio was significantly biased toward more males and dependent on the laying sequence. Our data suggested a sex ratio bias toward males in the very first eggs at onset of reproduction in chickens depending on genetic background.

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