How to Produce an IgY Antibody

Many researchers are now choosing to make their custom polyclonal antibody in chickens.  There are many reasons to do so. Some choose to immunize a hen and collect the eggs because it is the least invasive way to produce polyclonal antibodies.  The eggs can be stored for up to 3 months in the refrigerator or the yolks separated and frozen in delipidation buffer (Reagent A of the Eggspress IgY Purification Kit).  For some, the attraction is that chickens often produce better antibodies to conserved mammalian proteins.  And for some, choosing hens  means that a life-time supply of polyclonal antibody will be available to them after immunizing a single animal.  One hen can produce as much antibody as 10 – 20 rabbits, and it’s so much easier to collect eggs than bleed 10 rabbits!

Making an IgY antibody in hens isn’t that different from producing a rabbit antibody, except that it’s easier because bleeding the animal is not necessary.  Perhaps the most difficult part of raising antibodies in chickens is to provide a suitable environment for them.  Hens prefer to roost on sticks at night, lay their eggs in a nesting box and have regular “dust baths” in sand or wood shavings.

The European Centre for the Validation of Alternative Methods (EVCAM) has reported on a workshop that  validates the benefits of using chickens as laboratory animals to produce polyclonal antibodies.