In-ovo feeding – Technology of the future

P.K. Shukla and Amitav Bhattacharyya

Department of Poultry Science,

College of Veterinary Science and Animal Husbandry, Mathura- 281001 (U.P.)


Over the years, due to genetic selection, improvement of the characteristics of laying and meat poultry with less feed consumption per kilogram of body weight gain has been achieved (FCR).  As the productivity of poultry increased, the demand of embryos for nutrients changed. However, the chemical composition of an egg has remained practically unchanged, and therefore, it began providing the embryos with suitable substances with the help of in-ovo technology. Improvements in hatching were achieved through the administration of fructose, sucrose and grape seed extract (GSE), while the weight of a one-day-old chick is affected by the injection of amino acids with glucose and magnesium.  In addition, amino acids and carbohydrates applied to an egg have contributed to an increase in the activity of digestive enzymes and maturation of the intestine. In connection with early stimulation of the intestinal track of broiler chicks, they obtained higher weight gain.  Supplementation with vitamins positively affects the increase of birds’ immunity and body weight at the end of breeding. On the other hand, the injection of an insulin-like growth factor (IGF-I) influenced the growth and development of muscle tissue during the first weeks of life.

Methods of in-ovo technology

In-ovo technology refers to various techniques and interventions performed during the incubation period of poultry eggs. These methods aim to improve the health, growth, and performance of the developing embryos. Here are some common methods used in in-ovo technology.

  1. In-Ovo Injection: This method involves injecting a small volume of nutrient solutions, bioactive compounds, vaccines, or other substances directly into the amniotic fluid of the developing embryo. The injection is typically performed through a small hole in the eggshell using automated injection machines.
  2. In-Ovo Feeding: In this method, a nutrient-rich solution is injected into the egg to provide nutrition directly to the developing embryo. The solution usually contains carbohydrates, amino acids, vitamins, and minerals essential for embryonic development.
  3. In-Ovo Vaccination: Vaccination is an important aspect of in-ovo technology. Vaccines can be administered directly into the egg to stimulate the immune system of the developing embryo. This method helps to protect the chicks against various diseases even before they hatch.
  4. In-Ovo Gene Editing: Recent advancements in biotechnology have enabled the use of in-ovo gene editing techniques. This method involves modifying the genetic material of the embryo to introduce or suppress certain traits, such as disease resistance or improved growth.
  5. In-Ovo Light Treatment: Light plays a crucial role in the development of embryos. In-ovo light treatment involves exposing the developing embryos to specific wavelengths and intensities of light to optimize their growth, circadian rhythms, and overall development.
  6. In-Ovo Electrolyte Supplementation: Electrolyte solutions can be injected into the egg to maintain proper fluid balance and provide essential electrolytes to the developing embryo. This method helps prevent dehydration and supports the development of vital organs.

These methods of in-ovo technology require specialized equipment, such as automated injection machines, precise temperature and humidity control in the incubator, and careful handling of the eggs. They are primarily used in commercial poultry production to improve the quality, health, and performance of the hatched chicks

In-ovo Feeding

In-ovo feeding, also known as in-ovo nutrition or in-ovo injection, is a technique used in the poultry industry to provide nutrients and other substances directly to developing embryos inside the egg. It involves injecting a small volume of a nutrient solution or other bioactive compounds into the egg’s amniotic fluid before incubation.

The purpose of in-ovo feeding is to improve the overall health and performance of the hatched chicks. By providing essential nutrients and bioactive substances directly to the developing embryo, it can enhance their growth, immune function, and overall vitality. This technique is primarily used in commercial poultry production, including broiler chickens and turkey production.

The injection process is typically performed using automated machines that are capable of precise and sterile injections. The injection needle is inserted through the eggshell and into the amniotic fluid, and the desired amount of nutrient solution is injected. The eggs are then placed in an incubator for normal development. Now the technology is commercialized. The five basic compartments in an incubating egg i.e. Air cell, Allantoic sac, Amniotic sac, the Embryo itself and the Yolk sac used as a site for injection in in-ovo technique and the most preferred period to use it is during 17th to 19th day of incubation. The in-ovo technology is now utilized for supplementation of nutrients to the chicks before hatch to enhance growth as well as immunity where different nutrients like carbohydrates, amino acids, minerals and vitamins are under investigation singly or in combination. The major advantages of technology are precise delivery of vaccines, reduced labour cost, improvement in final body weights and immunity. In conclusion, lots of development is expected in in-ovo technology in coming future as it has potential to save economical losses in poultry due to diseases as well as increased productivity and sustainability. Indian economy and poultry.

Common substances injected during in-ovo feeding include carbohydrates, amino acids, vitamins, minerals, probiotics, prebiotics, and vaccines. These injections are timed based on the embryonic development stage and are usually performed on day 18 or 19 of the incubation period, which is close to hatching.

The advantages of in-ovo feeding include

  1. Improved chick quality: In-ovo feeding can enhance the development of vital organs, immune system, and skeletal structure, resulting in healthier and stronger chicks.
  2. Increased hatchability: Providing nutrients directly to the embryo ensures that they are available during critical development stages, which can improve hatchability rates.
  3. Reduced post-hatch mortality: In-ovo feeding can enhance the immune system of chicks, making them more resistant to diseases and reducing post-hatch mortality rates.
  4. Cost savings: In-ovo feeding allows for precise delivery of nutrients, minimizing wastage and reducing the overall cost of feed.
  5. Environmental benefits: Since in-ovo feeding reduces the need for excessive feed, it can also reduce the environmental impact associated with poultry production.

It’s worth noting that in-ovo feeding is a specialized technique that requires careful control, expertise, and proper equipment. While it has shown promising results in improving chick quality and performance, further research is still being conducted to optimize its implementation and explore its long-term effects on the birds.

Applications of in-ovo feeding

In-ovo feeding has various applications and potential benefits in the poultry industry. Here are some of the main applications of in-ovo feeding.

  1. Improved Chick Quality: In-ovo feeding can enhance the development of vital organs, skeletal structure, and immune system of the developing embryo. This can result in healthier and more robust chicks at hatch, with improved post-hatch performance.
  2. Nutrient Delivery: In-ovo feeding allows for precise delivery of essential nutrients directly to the developing embryo. This ensures that nutrients are available during critical stages of embryonic development, promoting optimal growth and development.
  3. Immune System Enhancement: In-ovo feeding can include the administration of immune-stimulating substances, such as vaccines or immune-modulating compounds. This helps to prime the immune system of the developing embryo, improving disease resistance and reducing post-hatch mortality.
  4. Reduction of Post-Hatch Stress: By providing essential nutrients before hatching, in-ovo feeding helps reduce the stress experienced by chicks during the transition from the egg to the external environment. This can lead to better adaptation, improved feed intake, and reduced mortality.
  5. Precision Feeding: In-ovo feeding allows for accurate and targeted delivery of nutrients, enabling precise nutrition management. This can optimize nutrient utilization, reduce feed wastage, and improve feed efficiency in the early stages of chick development.
  6. Environmental Sustainability: In-ovo feeding can contribute to environmental sustainability in poultry production. By improving nutrient utilization and reducing feed wastage, it helps minimize the environmental impact associated with excessive feed consumption and waste disposal.

It’s important to note that while in-ovo feeding has shown promising results, its commercial implementation and optimization require careful research, development, and technical expertise. The specific applications and benefits may vary depending on the nutritional needs and goals of the poultry production system

Challenges of in-ovo feeding

The continuous development and improvement of in-ovo technology have established a new scope for perinatal nutrition, allowing and creating new challenges and opportunities for poultry researchers to optimize poultry production. The administration of digestible nutrients in-ovo can improve bird quality, increased glycogen reserves, fast development of the total digestive tract, superior skeletal health, better muscle growth rate, higher body weight gain, improved feed conversion, and enhanced immune function. However, the main limitations still are associated with embryo development and nutrient metabolism. Another question is a limitation in the preparation of supplements that fits the specific needs of the individual bird. Future early nutrition would be feeding complex nutrients and supplements that would replace feed additives and supplements in the post-hatch feed and would be more beneficial to the poultry industry. Also, there is a lack of standardized protocols for in-ovo delivery of compounds into the eggs, which affects the response of IOF program. For example, a carrier or vehicle used as a diluent for the biological substances in IOD can reduce hatchability up to 10% compared with non-injected control. Also, the route, dose, method, and injection time severely affect the embryonic growth and post-hatch performance of chickens. Thus, there is a need to establish appropriate protocols for diluent(s), time, and route for the IOD of compounds

Currently, researchers are interested in injecting one nutrient through in- ovo techniques. But providing one specific nutrient to prevent one pathogenic infection is not economical and may leave the chickens susceptible to other microbial infections. But, adding nutrients to hatching eggs helps the chicken embryo get the required nutrients for embryonic and neonatal development, which can be considered a congruent biological nutritional support to the foetus in the mammals. Also, the response to supplements may vary with the strains of the chickens. Therefore, the investigations should focus on finding the optimal doses of supplements, their effects on immunomodulation, gut microbiota, etc.


While in-ovo feeding offers several potential benefits, there are also challenges associated with its implementation. Here are some of the main challenges of in-ovo feeding.

  1. Precision and Consistency: In-ovo feeding requires precise and consistent delivery of nutrients or substances to the developing embryos. Ensuring accurate injection volumes, injection sites, and timing of injections can be technically challenging, especially when dealing with a large number of eggs in commercial production settings.
  2. Sterility and Biosecurity: Maintaining sterility during the injection process is crucial to prevent contamination and the introduction of pathogens into the eggs. Proper sanitation protocols, equipment sterilization, and strict biosecurity measures are essential to minimize the risk of infection.
  3. Embryo Sensitivity: Developing embryos are delicate and sensitive to external factors. The injection process itself may cause stress and potential damage to the embryos if not performed carefully. Balancing the injection volume and pressure to avoid excessive manipulation is important to ensure embryo viability.
  4. Limited Injection Volume: The amount of solution that can be injected into the egg is limited due to the size and capacity of the egg. This constraint can restrict the range and amount of nutrients or substances that can be delivered, potentially limiting the effectiveness of in-ovo feeding.
  5. Cost and Equipment: In-ovo feeding requires specialized equipment, such as automated injection machines, which can be expensive to acquire and maintain. The initial investment, along with the costs associated with training personnel and ensuring proper equipment maintenance, can be a challenge for some producers.
  6. Regulatory Approval: In some countries, the use of certain substances or technologies in in-ovo feeding may require regulatory approval. Obtaining regulatory clearance and ensuring compliance with legal and safety standards can be a complex process that adds to the challenges of implementing in-ovo feeding.
  7. Long-Term Effects and Research: While in-ovo feeding has shown promising results in improving chick quality and performance, there is still ongoing research to better understand its long-term effects on the birds. Continued research and monitoring are essential to ensure the safety and efficacy of in-ovo feeding practices.

Despite the challenges yet to be overcome, the in-ovo technique has shown great potential for commercial adaption in the poultry industry. The automation of in ovo technology has reduced the labour cost, the risks of pathogenic contamination, and wastage of vaccines and bioactive inoculants as the in-ovo delivery machines can self-sterilize, detect and inoculate only the viable embryos. Despite these challenges, ongoing advancements in technology and research are addressing many of these issues and helping to improve the effectiveness and practicality of in-ovo feeding techniques in poultry production.

Future Potential and Conclusion

The use of in-ovo technology may lead to significant improvement in the efficiency and profitability of broiler production. Scientific interest in the supplementation of nutrients in-ovo results from the fact that the introduced substances may help embryos overcome the limitations associated with constant chemical composition of an egg, and they can prepare the chicks for intensive production. In-ovo feeding is one of the latest and successful methods to feed embryos for improved performance and health during pre-hatch and post-hatch periods. It is crucial as it provides the chicks with sufficient nutrients and supplements during the lag period (from hatch to first feed in the production farm). Currently used materials for in- ovo feeding include nutrients like glucose, amino acids, and vitamins, and supplements like probiotics, prebiotics, exogenous enzymes, hormones, vaccines, drugs, and other nutraceuticals. Several studies have shown that the in-ovo injection of different compounds can increase the number of quality hatched chicks, decrease yolk sac weight, increase body weight at hatch and post-hatch period, reduce mortality, increase carcass yield, improve metabolism of nutrients, improve gut morphology, change blood histology, modify the regulation of transcription of different genes, boost immunity, and protect against harmful gut microbes through competitive exclusion. In-ovo feeding of pre-, pro-, and symbiotic and CpG-ODN can reduce bacterial loads in the gut and reduce pathological conditions caused by bacteria in the challenged birds. Some studies have been done to evaluate the effect of a combination of compounds where the conclusion cannot be drawn which compound could be credited for the beneficial effects. Though the combination of supplements achieves a beneficial effect, it is important to understand the specific contribution of each ingredient in achieving the combined effect. This technique has been found to be promising in increasing the body weight of chicks on the day of hatch and at certain ages during the bird’s life. Some bioactive compounds, when supplemented in-ovo, showed beneficial effects akin to AGP. These compounds can be opted for in- ovo inoculation to initiate the effect earlier in life. But to replace AGP throughout the post-hatch period, the effects of in-ovo injection should be ensured through long-time trials expanding from the perinatal period to the marketable age of the poultry. The outcomes of an in-ovo injection of a biological compound may vary according to species, strain, time, and route of injection. For commercial adaptation, the optimum injection procedures must be established to get reproducible results and broader application in commercial production systems.

Though there are some constraints in effective use of in-ovo technology like viability at large volume, higher maintenance cost, requirement of skilled manpower, chances of low hatchability due to any error etc., still there is lot of scope for its development as the technology has already established its usefulness till date. In future the chickens can be more benefitted through this technology by use of combinations of nutrients than alone. Even scope is there to incorporate nutrients in vaccine diluents for in-ovo administration. Though the current machinery is costly and suitable for large scale production only, the compact, portable, low-cost machine to fit the need for small scale operations can be developed for overall benefit of the poultry industry.

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