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When chicken keepers get their birds, they often wonder what to feed chickens. It’s probably the first question most newcomers ask. They naturally concentrate on commercial feed rations, fresh water, and nutritious treats. But what about prebiotics and probiotics for chickens?
This is a topic we’re all familiar with as humans since we see lots of commercials for foods that have probiotics right in them. Big celebrities endorse the regularity and gut health that probiotics can bring. But does this work with backyard chickens?
First, let’s get back to the basics and explore what are prebiotics and probiotics. Probiotics are live organisms that live in your intestinal tract and, to put it delicately, keep things cleaned out and flowing well. They also help to strengthen your immune system. They can be found in foods that have live cultures, like sauerkraut, apple cider vinegar, cheese, sour cream and, famously, yogurt. Prebiotics set the stage for probiotics because they are the food for probiotics. Prebiotics are a non-digestible type of plant fiber. Many high-fiber foods are also high in prebiotics.
Probiotics for Chickens — What Do They Help?
These tiny organisms can be helpful to chickens just as they are in humans. Remember, that if you have a sick chicken, prebiotics and probiotics should not be considered as medicine. These are meant to support a chicken’s health and help prevent future illnesses.
- Probiotics for chickens can help to prevent and clear up diarrhea. If you have an adult chicken with a chronically “poopy” butt, try probiotics. If you have a baby chick with a poopy butt, that’s an entirely different matter. Usually, that’s a case of pasty butt and should not be treated with prebiotics and probiotics.
- Probiotics for chickens can mean fewer flying insects. If you have chickens with clean butts, that attracts fewer flies. This is good for everyone around a chicken coop, and especially your chickens. Flies carry disease. A “poopy” matted butt attracts flies and this can lead to fly strike, an especially awful situation where the flies lay their eggs in your chicken. This is painful as the eggs hatch and maggots eat your chicken. It can lead to death if not treated properly and promptly.
- Probiotics for chickens can lead to less smelly feces with less ammonia.
- Probiotics for chickens can lead to a better feed conversion ratio.
- With a healthy digestive tract, hens that consume probiotics can maintain a healthy weight and keep quality egg production high.
- The instances of salmonella in chickens that consume probiotics drop significantly.
- Probiotics for chickens can aid in composting.
So, how can you make sure your chickens are consuming probiotics? First, pick a high-quality commercial feed that contains prebiotics and probiotics. You’ll find lots of choices at the feed store. Just be sure to read the label. Most companies are proud to say they’ve included these digestive additives.
Second, many foods that are on the list of what chickens can eat also contain prebiotics and probiotics. If you’re giving your chickens treats, why not make sure they contain these nutritional powerhouses! Just remember to keep treats at 10 percent of a healthy diet. Also, remember that dairy in small quantities is not bad for chickens. Chickens are not lactose intolerant. They can digest small amounts of dairy products. But, the effectiveness of probiotics can be reversed if you give your chickens too much milk. Small quantities equal big happiness!
Sources of Probiotics for Chickens
Dairy Products – Yogurt, Goat Milk, Whey Sauerkraut Apple Cider Vinegar
Prebiotics are a little easier to give chickens since they come from high-fiber foods. These are more easily found. We usually have some scraps from the kitchen or leftovers from dinner that fit the bill! Plus, the added bonus is they make great, healthy treats that your chickens will love.
Sources of Prebiotics for Chickens
- Bananas (Do not feed the peel.)
- Dandelion Greens
- Flax Seed
- Wheat Bran
Overall, the key to healthy chickens is a rich and varied diet that contains lots of nutrient-rich foods, along with clean water, a clean coop and plenty of fresh air and exercise. Prebiotics and probiotics for chickens can help chickens stay healthy and productive as part of your backyard farm. They are easy to give your chickens whether through commercial feed and/or yummy treats. Your chickens will thank you for it with lots of fresh eggs. And, they’ll have nice clean fluffy butts for all your Fluffy Butt Friday pictures!
Do you use prebiotics and probiotics for your chicken’s health? Do you give your chickens prebiotics and probiotics solely through their commercial feed or do you supplement with natural treats? Please let us know in the comments below.