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Jun 5, 2024

AI: Next step forward in broiler chick sexing?

AI: Next step forward in broiler chick sexing?
AI: Next step forward in broiler chick sexing?

Liz Turpin, VP of BioProcess at TARGAN Inc., recently shared her insights on the future of poultry production in an article featured by WATT Poultry. She explores how AI can revolutionize broiler chick sexing, improving accuracy, speed, efficiency, and animal care, ultimately benefiting the entire production chain. Read the full article on WATT Poultry here.

Automating Broiler Chick Sexing: Benefits and Challenges

Separating male and female broilers benefits producers with tighter bird uniformity, ensuring consistency, and streamlining logistics and planning — ultimately contributing to the bottom line.

Although worthwhile, it is a typically laborious and tricky task that requires high levels of concentration from well-trained personnel to visually examine each chick, which can lead to inefficiencies. Would you trust artificial intelligence to do it?

Numerous aspects across the poultry production chain, including egg handling, incubation and hatching processes, have already been automated to improve efficiency. The process of automating chick sex identification and sorting is also a recognized need. One of the many benefits is simply to help ensure uniformity in weight, enabling the configuration of other downstream automated processes to handle the birds, increasing productivity.

Other than manually sexing birds, there are other, automated, alternatives available, such as in-ovo sexing and vent sexing. However, these methods also require high levels of expertise and could, in one way or another, be viewed as invasive.

A look at the latest options

Whether a hatchery is already practicing broiler chick sexing or not, the ease with which it is possible will vary depending on the type of birds produced.

Many larger broiler producers stock birds that have sexable feathers, the Aviagen Ross 308 and 708, for example. Other breeds may not have sexable feathers, which will require other methods that can mean interfering with the egg or the bird, as previously listed.

Some AgTech companies are harnessing the rapidly evolving power of artificial intelligence and are integrating this technology into automated imaging systems to identify the sex of day-old chicks. There are limited iterations of this technology available, each with similarities, but all address distinct market needs.

Currently, there are two primary commercial solutions available with key differentiators.

Xiashu Tech’s Chick Sex Intelligent Identification Machine, launched April 2023, requires an operator to pick up a chick and to hold its vent area in front of a sensor and then manually sort, sexing up to 1,000 chicks per hour.

The second option, launched in late 2023, is WingScan. Developed by TARGAN, this feather sex identification system has the capability to sex and sort up to 100,000 chicks per hour — moving a multitude of birds on a series of conveyer belt systems and using advanced vision systems and artificial intelligence to identify feather characteristics with up to 98% accuracy.

The technology that a hatchery will be able to consider will depend greatly on the breed it stocks.

Is it as good as an expert?

Typically, professional chick sexers using the method of feather sexing will identify 2,000-3,500 chicks, per person, per hour. Vent sexing equates to about 700 chicks per person, per hour.

Experienced individuals using both methods are known to have up to 98% accuracy, but there will always be a degree of variability due to tiredness, sickness or simply human error during “an off day.”

The interesting thing about machine learning is that the more it is used, the better it gets. The system developed by TARGAN, for example, has been exposed to tens of millions of images, with birds varying by age, producer, time in the incubator or any other variable.

What is driving this knowledge and the resulting decisions is the expertise of industry veterans who meticulously review and fine-tune the system’s capabilities, ensuring greater accuracy with each iteration and update.

In terms of installation, these solutions are stand alone, and are fitted into a hatchery’s current set-up after shell separation and before vaccination. Following installation, automated systems can also be continuously monitored by the system manufacturer, making it simpler to identify and resolve any anomalies or issues.

Empowering producers?

For producers who are not already sexing birds, these systems offer an attractive alternative with benefits that extend across the entire production chain, from hatcheries to processing plants. Greater control means more consistent bird weights and can lead to higher yields through enhanced feeding strategies.

For broiler hatcheries, there is the added ability to pick up on factors other than sex, such as weight discrepancies, or the ratio of male to female chicks, that would not necessarily be picked up during manual checks. It means the operator can be alerted if numbers fall out of the normal range. This capability has the potential to provide an early alert for issues elsewhere at the hatchery, such as inadequate conditions, disease or genetic problems.

Processing plants also benefit from artificial intelligence-driven sexing solutions, as consistent and uniform broilers can enable the introduction of new automation processes, improving order fulfillment.

The outcome

A top priority for any business is to optimize its costs while retaining efficiency and product quality. This is no different in poultry production, although industries that handle birds must also consider welfare and health — something that chick sexing can play a pivotal role in, whether by correctly identifying a chick’s sex and next destination or by handling the animals with appropriate care.


Based in Raleigh, North Carolina, TARGAN is an AgTech company poised to transform animal protein production industries worldwide by bringing affordable, individualized care technologies to the market. World meat consumption is expected to double by 2050. The world’s growing population, along with the popularity of animal protein, is responsible for the growth in meat consumption. The industry continues to evolve to meet market expectations, including the trend toward limiting the use of antibiotics in production. Producers are seeking novel solutions to improve health standards and vaccination procedures while allowing for a similar level of productivity in the absence of antibiotics and other chemicals. TARGAN is bringing advanced technology solutions to the poultry, aquaculture, and swine industries to address this demand. For more information, visit  

TARGAN is a registered trademark of TARGAN in the United States and other countries


Media Contacts for TARGAN
Carlos Bautista