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Maternal Pheromone for Day-Old Chicks

Comforts the birds at hatch, allowing a better tolerance to the hatchery process

Stress factors in chickens

Maintaining the normal physiological conditions in day old chicks without causing them stress is a challenging task in today’s highly efficient commercial hatchery operations.

Day-old chicks may be exposed to multiple stress factors from hatching to placement which may cause significant impact on productivity and performance later depending upon the levels of distress induced.

  • house


    Abrupt changes in temperature, poor ventilation, wet litter

  • nutritional


    Feed deprivation, unbalanced diets, texture difference

  • physiological


    Inability to regulate body temperature in day-old chicks, age of sexual maturity

  • stress

    Physical stress

    Catching, handling, transportation

  • social


    Overcrowding during brooding or rearing, unbalanced male to female ratio in breeder flocks

  • Psychological

    Fear of predators, being chased

  • pathological


    Exposure to ecto- or endoparasites, mycotoxins or infectious pathogens


Chick’ stress manifests in several ways and induces specific behaviors. Some of these specific behaviors, which help assess the welfare of the chicks, can be observed in the hatchery.

For example, day-old chicks usually peck other chicks and move over them. A stressed chick is also more agitated and makes more noise.


  • Artificial hatching conditions
  • High population density
  • Frequent handling
  • Challenging environment
  • Sexing
  • Vaccinations
  • Transportation


  • Fear behavior
  • Sub-optimal growth
  • Immune-depression
  • Decreased intestinal function
  • Decreased productivity
  • Morbidity & Mortality

What is a pheromone?

A pheromone is a chemical signal used to communicate among members of the same species triggering a natural behavioral response. They are secreted outside of the body and may induce different types of behaviors.

The uropygial gland, also referred to as the preen gland or oil gland, is located at the base of the chicken's tail on their lower back, just in front of the tail feathers.
It has been reported that the exocrine secretion of the uropygial gland of mother hens in chickens has a measurable effect on the newly hatched progeny.  

A synthetic analogue of a mother-hen odorant secretion, called MHUSA (Mother Hen Uropygial Secretion Analogue) has shown its potential in reducing stress-related reactions in chickens, as well as influencing behaviour.

The MHUSA  is detected by the olfactory system, which transmits a message to the brain, inducing specific behavior.  Studies have demonstrated that odor detection in domestic chickens is already functional two days before hatching, and the chick displays behavioral and physiological responses to specific odors.

Implementing quality assurance standards in hatcheries  includes observing well-known and internationally recognized basic welfare guidelines and principles for farm animals. On the top of that, additional practices to help minimize the impact of stress factors in the hatchery, such as the exposure of day-old chicks to a pheromone analogue based on MHUSA  to promote comfort and reduce stress in the progeny, have been demonstrated to have beneficial effects on behaviour and appeasement in day-old chicks. 

It is worth mentioning that pheromones and hormones are entirely different in structure, functioning, and purpose. Hormones are active between cells in the same body, whilst pheromones are active between animals of the same species. 

Ceva, as a leader in poultry hatchery and animal behavior solutions, with recognized brands such as Feliway® and Adaptilis able to provide an innovative solution for the welfare of day-old chicks.

what is SecureChick®?

SecureChick® is a synthetic analogue of the Mother Hens Uropygial Secretion Pheromone, called MHUSA at 10%, in emulsion form. Presented in bottles of 500 ml.

For poultry producers, SecureChick® can improve animal welfare by comforting the hatchlings within the environment in the absence of maternal care, allowing for better tolerance of the entire hatchery process.

  • Application: One application by spraying over the hatcher surfaces 48 hours before hatch. Dose at 20 ml for 1,000 eggs / 1 bottle (500 ml) for 25,000 eggs. 
  • Exclusive license from IRSEA (Institute of Research on Semiochemistry and Applied Ethology, France)
  • Double patent rights.
  • Manufactured by Ceva Santé AnimaleLoudeac Campus, France.

Effect on the behavior and vocalizations in day-old chicks

A large trial showed a positive impact of the sprayed pheromone before hatch, achieving a calming effect after hatch.

  • Preliminary observations on videos of chicks in hatchery boxes, demonstrated the effect of the SecureChick® pheromone groups and the non-treated group.
  • That the counting of events such as “general agitation”, “moving over each other” and “attack on congeners” were statistically different (p<0.001) between the SecureChick® pheromone groups and the non-treated group. 
  • To confirm this finding, videos from the same study were analyzed by digitalization and artificial intelligence methods such as the Optical Flow methodologies.

In this study, fertile eggs from the same breeder source and incubation time were randomly diveded into four different groups in different hatchers in order to compare the effect of the pheromone after different applications of the product at different times: 72, 48, or 24 hours before hatching, compared to a placebo group or untreated group.

In our study, about 450 recordings were analyzed by an algorithm developed in-hous by Ceva's Data Management team to determine the probability to find comfort vocalizations in a box of 100 chicks.

The methodology used to measure stress agitation and vocalizations in day-old chicks was consistent and showed the beneficial effect of Securechick® on chicks’ adaptation to the new environment during the hatchery process.

figure 1
FIGURE 1: Comparison of the Securechick® pheromone effect on behavior (Optical Flow Methodology)​
Figure 2
FIGURE 2: Bio acoustic study showing the probability of finding comfort vocalizations.​

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