Archive for March 28th, 2021

Gut Health: It’s Not Just for Humans Anymore

We have all seen the ads for probiotic supplements, designed to support the “good bacteria” in human digestive systems. As it turns out, gut health is also important for chickens. A healthy gut, teeming with good bacteria and other micro-organisms, helps the birds absorb nutrients from their food and contributes to the development of a chicken’s immune system. In fact, commercial chicken farmers are turning to probiotics, rather than antibiotics, to maintain a healthy flock.

Probiotics, Yeast, and Other Microflora

Chicks are born without gut bacteria. They usually get their gut bacteria from their mother, because they (accidentally!) ingest some of her droppings and absorb the good bacteria, yeast, and other beneficial microorganisms (called microflora). These tiny organisms aid in digestion and protect the gut from harmful bacteria, such as Salmonella and E. coli.

However, chicks that are raised by themselves in an incubator, with no mother hen present, miss this early opportunity to colonize their digestive systems with healthy micro-organisms.

So how can chicken keepers ensure their hand-raised (rather than hen-raised) chicks get the microflora they need to develop healthy digestive systems? There are a number of chicken feeds on the market that contain probiotics, yeast, and other fungal components. Check the feed label for yeast culture and other fungal components, as well as probiotics with scientific names such as Lactobacillus acidophilus.


You’ve also probably seen ads that tout the importance of prebiotics for humans. Prebiotics are the nutritious foodstuffs that support the growth of probiotics in your gut. And, yes, you guessed it, prebiotics are also important for chickens! Fortunately, most chickens love to eat the foods that are considered prebiotic: berries, flaxseed, dandelion greens, wheat bran, lentils, and other favorite chicken treats.

For more information about choosing feeds that contain beneficial microflora, read this illuminating blog post on the Nutrena Poultry blog “Scoop from the Coop.”