How Special Sugars Fed Before Hatch Affect Chicken Immunity and Gut Health

Jenn Hoskins
5th May, 2024

How Special Sugars Fed Before Hatch Affect Chicken Immunity and Gut Health

Image Source: Michelle Carrie (photographer)

Key Findings

  • University of Hawaii study explores in ovo feeding of prebiotics to improve chicken gut health
  • Injecting prebiotics into chicken eggs led to changes in gut bacteria and immune markers
  • The study suggests in ovo prebiotic feeding could enhance early chicken development and health
Understanding the complexities of gut health in poultry is crucial for enhancing their growth, feed efficiency, and overall well-being. A recent study by researchers at the University of Hawaii at Manoa has shed new light on the potential benefits of in ovo feeding—a technique where nutrients are delivered directly to the embryo within the egg—on the gut health of chickens post-hatching[1]. The study aimed to explore the effects of xylooligosaccharides (XOS), which are prebiotic compounds derived from plant fibers. Specifically, it examined the impact of two types of XOS—xylobiose (XOS2) and xylotriose (XOS3)—when administered in ovo. Prebiotics like XOS are known to foster a beneficial gut environment by promoting the growth of healthy bacteria. Researchers injected a total of 144 fertilized chicken eggs with either XOS2 or XOS3 on the 17th day of embryonic development. The control group remained non-injected. After the chicks hatched, their growth and health were monitored for 21 days. On the 14th day, blood samples were collected to measure levels of plasma immunoglobulin—a protein that functions as an antibody in the immune response. Additionally, cecal contents—the material from the cecum, a part of the gut where fermentation of ingested food occurs—were collected on the 7th and 21st days for microbial analysis and on the 14th and 21st days to measure the levels of short-chain fatty acids (SCFA), which are key metabolites produced by gut bacteria. The study's findings are significant as they build upon previous research that has established the importance of the gut microbiota in the health and development of chickens. For instance, studies have shown that the microbiota inherited from the mother hen can influence the initial gut bacteria in chicks, affecting their health and development[2]. Furthermore, the timing of nutrient intake and exposure to microbiota can have a profound impact on the immune system and growth of poultry[3]. Prior research has also highlighted the need for alternatives to antibiotic growth promoters (AGP), which were traditionally used to improve poultry gut health but are now limited due to public health concerns[4]. The current study's focus on XOS compounds as a prebiotic intervention aligns with the search for AGP alternatives. The investigation into the dynamic distribution of gut microbiota during chicken embryonic development[5] adds further context to the importance of understanding how in ovo feeding might influence gut health from the earliest stages of life. The findings from the University of Hawaii at Manoa study suggest that in ovo feeding of XOS compounds can positively impact the gut health of chickens post-hatching. The presence of specific SCFAs and the microbial ecology in the cecum indicates that XOS supplementation could modulate the gut environment in favorable ways. These changes may contribute to better immune responses, as evidenced by the levels of plasma immunoglobulin, and overall health in the early life of chickens. The method of introducing XOS directly into the amniotic sac before hatching represents an innovative approach to early nutrition programming. By providing these prebiotics at a critical developmental stage, the study opens up possibilities for enhancing the gut microbiome and health of poultry in a manner that could have long-term benefits for poultry production. This research is particularly relevant as the poultry industry seeks to optimize production while maintaining animal health and welfare. The ability to modulate the gut microbiota through in ovo feeding could lead to more consistent and effective strategies for promoting growth and preventing disease in poultry. The study from the University of Hawaii at Manoa not only contributes to our understanding of gut health in poultry but also demonstrates the potential of in ovo feeding as a practice to improve the early life and development of chickens. As the poultry industry continues to evolve, such research is vital in guiding future nutritional strategies and ensuring sustainable production practices.

NutritionEcologyAnimal Science


Main Study

1) Effect of in ovo feeding of xylobiose and xylotriose on plasma immunoglobulin, cecal metabolites production, microbial ecology, and metabolic pathways in broiler chickens

Published 4th May, 2024

Related Studies

2) Characterization of microbial communities in the chicken oviduct and the origin of chicken embryo gut microbiota.

3) In ovo Feeding as a Tool for Improving Performance and Gut Health of Poultry: A Review.

4) Early Nutrition Programming (in ovo and Post-hatch Feeding) as a Strategy to Modulate Gut Health of Poultry.

5) Dynamic distribution of gut microbiota during embryonic development in chicken.

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