Prebiotics and Probiotics for Chickens 101

Feeding your flock a nutritious and varied diet should include prebiotics and probiotics for chickens. Many commercial feed rations contain prebiotics and probiotics. But what are prebiotics and probiotics? Is there a way to supply them to your flock beyond commercial feed? How do probiotics and prebiotics help backyard chickens?

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.

Feeding your flock a nutritious and varied diet should include prebiotics and probiotics for chickens. Learn how to provide this nutritious supplement for your birds.
The flock enjoying a treat of bananas. (Peels were removed before serving.)

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.

Feeding your flock a nutritious and varied diet should include prebiotics and probiotics for chickens. Learn how to provide this nutritious supplement for your birds.
Enjoying an organic yogurt treat!


How to Give Your Chickens Prebiotics and 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. You can also supplement your chicken's diet with some treats that are on the following lists of probiotics and prebiotics.
  • When giving your chickens treats, remember to keep treats at 10 percent of a healthy diet. 
  • 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
Sources of Prebiotics for Chickens
Barley
Bananas (Do not feed the peel.)
Berries
Dandelion Greens
Flax Seed
Garlic
Honey
Lentils
Wheat Bran
Yams
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. Plus, they’ll have nice clean fluffy butts for all your Fluffy Butt Friday pictures!

New Hampshire Chicken - Breed Spotlight

The New Hampshire Red chicken is a great family-friendly bird that's named for the state where it was developed. Many confuse this breed with the Rhode Island Red which makes sense because it was originally developed from Rhode Island Red stock. This is a good dual-purpose bird that matures early and consistently lays brown eggs.

Class: American
Origin: United States
Comb Type: Single
Color: Red
Standard Size: 6.5 Pounds (Hen) 8.5 Pounds (Rooster)
Egg Color: Brown
Egg Size: Large
Production: 4 to 5 Eggs Per Week
Hardiness: Cold and Heat Tolerant
Disposition: Calm, Friendly

The New Hampshire chicken is a great family-friendly bird that's named for the state where it was developed. This is a good dual-purpose bird that matures early and consistently lays brown eggs.
Big Red and our Buff Orpington (behind) are two of our most friendly chickens.

How to Understand Egg Carton Labeling


As backyard chicken keepers, we don't buy a lot of eggs from the store, so it's normal to have some egg carton code confusion. The egg carton section of the grocery is usually foreign territory and we find ourselves there only if the flock is molting or winter's waning daylight has left us eggless.

But honestly, even for a family that doesn't have backyard chickens, those cartons can be a nightmare to decode. Do you go with the 99 cent special? Are those organic eggs worth the price? Is free-range really free range? What's an extra large egg versus a large egg? When were the eggs actually laid?

Ugh! Stop the madness!

The key to buying a carton of eggs and peace of mind is knowing how mass-produced eggs are handled and labeled and exactly what those egg carton codes mean.

A Guide to Cold-Hardy Chicken Breeds

What makes a cold-hardy chicken breed and why should you care? If you're currently living in an area that has cold winters, then cold-hardy chicken breeds are a must because of their ability to withstand the frigid temperatures.

Every year there are stories of folks that bought the wrong breed for their climate and experience losses, have unhealthy chickens, or end up bringing their birds inside where the climate is more moderate. Don’t let this happen to you! Make sure to pick a breed that will live comfortably in your climate and thrive. Your birds will thank you for it!

If you're currently living in an area that has cold winters, then cold-hardy chicken breeds are a must because of their ability to withstand the frigid temperatures.
A Buff Brahma hen.

Tips to Help Your Chickens Get Outside in Winter & Snow

Can chickens go outside in winter? Yes! The truth is, they like to get outside and explore in pretty much any weather and it’s always good for them to get some fresh air.

It’s important to understand that chickens are equipped to handle cold weather. In fact, it can be easier for them to withstand cold weather than hot weather. As you know, backyard chickens have lots of feathers and they’re there for a reason. Underneath their outer feathers, chickens have a downy layer of soft feathers. When it’s cold, they fluff those feathers to trap warm air underneath and they’re able to stay cozy.

Can chickens go outside in winter? Yes! The truth is, they like to get outside and explore in pretty much any weather and it’s always good for them to get some fresh air.

How to Get Started Winter Bird Feeding

What Both You and the Birds Will Need


Feeding the birds in winter is a fun way to stay connected with nature, participate in some citizen science studies and maybe learn a thing or two. Winter is naturally a time when we spend more time indoors, but that doesn't mean we have to leave nature behind.

Find out how to get started winter bird feeding - what you'll need to feed the birds and what you'll need to see and identify them.
A white-throated sparrow.

How to Keep Hawks Away from Chickens

Top 5 Ways to Thwart Aerial Chicken Predators


Have you been experiencing a problem with flying predators like hawks and owls? This can be heartbreaking and frustrating and can make you feel helpless, but you're not. There are ways to help keep hawks away from backyard chickens.

On a personal note, this subject is near and dear to my heart. I have experienced one confirmed loss and a couple of close calls with hawks harassing my backyard chickens. Winter chicken keeping in my backyard is also high season for hawk attacks.

You can help keep hawks away from backyard chickens with these five simple steps.
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