Benefits of Adding Probiotics to Your Chicken’s Diet

Learn the difference between antibiotics and probiotics, how they can work together during times of illness, the many benefits probiotics can have on your flock and just which probiotics I trust with my backyard chickens.

Should you be giving my hen probiotics? The simple answer is yes! Hens, like humans, can benefit from taking probiotics. As with humans the same is true for hens. We have a colony of good and bad bacteria and the ultimate goal is to have the perfect balance. That is where the probiotics come into the equation. Studies have shown that probiotics can help balance the good and bad bacteria in the hens digestive system.

This balancing of flora allows for an improved feed conversion and enhances the digestibility of nutrients, meaning your flock will need to eat less to get the same nutrients out of their feed. [1] This aids in the growth of your hens, and a reduction in mortality through an improved resistance to pathogens and diseases. [2]

As they say, “A healthy gut makes a healthy hen!”

Antibiotics vs Probiotics

A lot of people get confused with antibiotics and probiotics. This is especially true as fears of antibiotic resistant infections continue to grow. Antibiotics and probiotics are on opposite ends of the spectrum. Where an antibiotic’s purpose is to kill bad bacteria, a probiotic’s purpose is to improve the health of beneficial bacteria. So eliminate any worry that using probiotics as directed could result in some crazy killer super bacteria.

Another common misconception about antibiotics and probiotics is that one counteracts the other. On the contrary, many doctors recommend adding probiotics to an antibiotic regimen. Probiotics and antibiotics can work hand-in-hand to kill the bad bacteria while rebuilding any good bacteria that got wiped out by the antibiotics.

Other Benefits of Probiotics

  • Less smelly feces due to a decrease in ammonia
  • Cleaner chicken butts mean fewer flies which means less of a chance of fly strike
  • Higher egg production
  • Increased egg size
  • Improved shell hardness
  • Help maintain a healthy weight
  • Reduction in salmonella
  • Aids in composting waste

When and Why Hens Need Probiotics

While you can give your hens probiotics all the time, there are certain times in particular when probiotics are especially necessary such as when a hen is stressed or while taking antibiotics. During these times the change in their digestive system’s pH can allow the bad bacteria to take over. When this happens, hens lose the beneficial flora and non-beneficial ones begin to multiply. This can cause nutrients from the food to not be absorbed, weakening the hen to other opportunistic infections.

I add probiotics to my hens water every day. This makes it easy for me to ensure the hens are getting their probiotics. If adding probiotics to your hens’ water isn’t an option, powdered probiotics can be added to their food.

After doing a lot of research I settled on two specific probiotic products, Big ole’ Bird Probiotic Supplement and “Hen Boost Probiotics” for my hens. You can read more about it here in my review of Big ole’ Bird.

So whether you choose the liquid or powder route, or give it to your hens all the time or as-needed, probiotics are definitely something worth checking out to help keep your hens healthy strong and a vibrant part of your little farm.

1. Yeo J, Kim K. Effect of feeding diets containing an antibiotic, a probiotic, or yucca extract on growth and intestinal urease activity in broiler chicks. Poult. Sci. 1997;76:381–385. [PubMed]

2. Kumprecht I, Zobac P. The effect of probiotic preparations containing Saccharomyces cerevisiae and Enterococcus faecium in diets with different levels of B-vitamins on chicken broiler performance. Zivocisna Vyroba. 1998;43:63–70.

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