De-Stress Your Chickens With Prebiotics And Probiotics
By Tiffany Towne, Nutrena Poultry Expert
There is a lot of buzz around the chicken world these days about prebiotics and probiotics. First, it’s essential to break down what these two things really are — and how they can help your chickens. It can be helpful to think of them working in the poultry digestive tract in a way that is similar to how yogurt works for humans: it helps with digestion of food and helps to keep the microflora of the gut within healthy levels. Prebiotics and probiotics are good for your birds’ digestive tracts all the time. But they are especially useful in times of stress, when the beneficial bacteria in the digestive system may get out of balance. Times to be especially vigilant include:
Change of diet: changing feeds can cause subtle inconsistencies in the gut of your birds, which in turn can deplete the beneficial bacteria found there. Keeping prebiotics and probiotics in the diet helps the digestive system maintain equilibrium
Extreme temperatures: swings in temperatures change how birds use and consume their food. Extreme heat may cause a lack of appetite, while the opposite is true in cold weather. In either case, prebiotics and probiotics can help.
Decreased water intake: any time your birds’ water intake decrease it can mean trouble for the digestive tract. Causes of reduced water consumption can be water that is dirty, or running out of water completely. Water is essential to digestion, and limiting this important nutrient — even for a short time — can have a big impact on your birds.
WHAT ARE THEY?
Prebiotics are the food that powers good microbes in a chicken’s gut. One of the most common forms of prebiotics is yeast culture. Prebiotics, like yeast culture, feed the beneficial bacteria, which allows the organisms to more effectively do their job. Prebiotics feed the probiotics.
Probiotics are the good bacteria that exists in the digestive tract of many species. These bacteria help to break down food stuffs into particles that are more easily absorbed by the body. Adding probiotics to the body through the feed promotes the population of these “good bugs”.
SO WHAT DO THEY DO?
Feeding a poultry feed that includes prebiotics and probiotics has been shown to have many health benefits in chickens. Prebiotics and probiotics are helpful to add to the diet because:
- They can help support egg production;
- They can help improve feed efficiency;
- They can help support immune function; and
- They can also help improve the overall health of the flock
Molting: molting is a time when the entire focus of the chicken moves from egg production to feather production. Eggs stop, feathers are dropped and new ones are grown. This can cause the bird to be under stress.
Transportation and handling: moving birds from one place to another is nearly always stressful. Add this to a bird that is not used to being handled, and the experience can be a traumatic one that can cause differences in appetite and cause digestive upset.
Antibiotic use: similar to humans, antibiotic use can wipe out not only the bad bacteria, but also the good. Adding prebiotics and probiotics during periods when medication is being administered can help keep the digestive tract healthy and functioning.
Feeding a product on a continual basis that includes prebiotics and probiotics can help to keep your birds’ digestive health on track, no matter what circumstances they may come across. To see if your feed includes prebiotics and probiotics, look for a guaranteed level of CFUs on the label. CFUs stand for Colony Forming Units — the quantity is the amount of prebiotics and probiotics that are present after the pelleting or manufacturing process that will actually make it into the gut of the chicken.
Utilizing prebiotics and probiotics in your flock’s diet is one easy step you can take to helping ensure you have healthy, productive birds. Nutrena feeds are dedicated to healthy flocks and have been using prebiotics and probiotics in their premium feeds since 2011.
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