are a dietary supplement that increase the population of
the 'good' bacteria (micro flora), which are needed in
the intestinal tract in order to process food properly.
The use of probiotics as a daily supplement has become a
popular routine in the commercial poultry industry,
particularly following antibiotic treatment. One commonly
known probiotic is called Lactobacillus Acidophilus, and
is naturally occurring in some food such as yogurt. But
direct application through a liquid or powdered form
mixed into drinking water is the most effective route.
Good bacteria also help
fight off the bad bacteria that passes through the
system, before it has a chance to take hold. Introducing
probiotics into the digestive system everyday to ward off
bacterial infection is known as 'selective exclusion'.
Selective exclusion is a
very good way to keep your birds healthy and disease
resistant throughout their life. I use probiotics in my
own flock, along with a vitamin and mineral supplement on
a daily basis. I also use probiotics before, during, and
after both showing and breeding. For showing, the
probiotics help the birds ward off most illnesses they
could become exposed to in that environment. For
breeding, one benefit is the tendency of the laying hens
to drink more water, when the water is treated with
flavored probiotics. Both breeding and showing are very
stressful times in your birds' lives, and the
vulnerability to disease increases during those times.
The use of probiotics helps to reduce that vulnerability.
During times of stress or
the use of antibacterials (antibiotics), hormonal changes
can occur, causing the pH of the small intestine to rise.
This allows existing bad bacteria to take a foothold in
the lining of the intestine because of the deterioration
of the protective mucus lining. Because of this, the
'villi' (little fingers), which normally exist in the
small intestine, can be lost. Villi slow the movement of
food as it passes through so that nutrients can be
absorbed through the intestinal wall. The term 'going
light' can occur when villi are lost. Increasing good gut
bacteria through the use of probiotics will compete
against the bad bacteria, change the pH environment,
allow nutrient absorption, and prevent infection.
Probiotic treatment has also shown an ability to
stimulate appetite - a valuable thing when trying to
maintain the weight of an ailing bird.
If you're not inclined to
use probiotics on a daily basis, then at least consider
their use immediately following antibiotic treatment.
When your bird is treated with antibiotics, all bacteria
are killed off - good and bad. Treating with probiotics
immediately after the use of antibiotics, help to
repopulate the gut with the good bacteria. In many cases,
this can ward off a secondary infection, such as E Coli.
E. Coli has been shown to exist in virtually all manure
samples, but only becomes a problem when the digestive
environment is friendly to its reproduction.
Here are two ways you can
introduce probiotics into your birds' diet. If you have a
very small flock, GNC (in most shopping malls), sells a
flavored liquid version of L. Acidophilus. I've used that
at the rate of .7cc per bantam per day in their drinking
water. If you have a large flock, consider a powdered
version that you also mix into the drinking water. This
version is better because it contains several other
beneficial bacteria besides the L. Acidophilus. (Of all
of the beneficial bacteria though, L. Acidophilus is the
most important.) First State Veterinary Supply, which
advertises in the Poultry Press, has a good powdered
product, but I would call the other suppliers as well to
see if they carry an equivalent product.
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