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
Apple Cider Vinegar
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. Plus, they’ll have nice clean fluffy butts for all your Fluffy Butt Friday pictures!

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