Experimental manipulation of egg quality in chickens: influence of albumen and yolk on the size and body composition of near-term embryos in a precocial bird

J Comp Physiol B. 1998 Feb;168(1):17-24. doi: 10.1007/s003600050116.


The importance of avian egg components in the determination of hatchling size and quality has yet to be fully evaluated. In the first experiment, 20% of the albumen and/or the yolk was removed from chicken eggs to determine the impact of each egg component on metabolism and various size measures in near-term embryos. Results show that metabolic rate, dry body mass, and internal organ mass are largely independent of egg composition. Removal of albumen resulted in a decrease in wet body mass corresponding to decreases in water content in the body and the yolk sac, and decreased tibiotarsus length. Removal of yolk resulted in no change in body mass, but decreases in both wet and dry yolk sac mass. In a second experiment, removal of 15% of either egg component led to reductions in hatchling mass similar to those observed in whole near-term embryos. Albumen, as the primary source of water in the egg, is the primary determinant of hatchling size and may influence hatchling success through size-related limiting factors. Differences in yolk content may influence neonatal quality as a nutritional supplement, but seem not to result in greater tissue formation during embryonic development.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Body Constitution
  • Chick Embryo / chemistry
  • Chick Embryo / growth & development*
  • Chickens
  • Egg Yolk / chemistry
  • Egg Yolk / physiology*
  • Ovalbumin / chemistry
  • Ovalbumin / physiology*


  • Ovalbumin