There are two main considerations when looking at suitable probiotics and feed supplements to help digestion in the older laying bird.

Probiotics covers a range of products, some with a complete range of bacteria and others with just a select group, usually lactobacillus type bacteria. The best approach, in our opinion, is to use a complete mixture of bacteria which are normally found in the intestine. The only product which has a wide range of flora is Beryl’s which is a competitive exclusion product. Competitive exclusion was developed as a concept in Finland and is used widely in the poultry industry to provide a normal gut flora of bacteria to chicks and young hens at times of stress and after hatching. The normal gut flora is provided to a bird naturally from its mother and the environment of the nest. Chicks produced from eggs hatched in a hatchery will not have such a wide natural range of bacteria and the accepted theory is that when these birds come into contact with pathogenic bacteria the absence of natural normal bacteria can lead to the development of abnormal gut flora. Equally after treatment with antibiotics or when there has been a disruption of the gut flora, for example after diarrhoea, the aim is to provide a natural flora to recolonise the intestine.

A similar approach is widely used in man with many probiotic type yoghurts. With competitive exclusion, the approach is to provide a culture of many (over 200) of the bacteria found in the intestine of normal chickens with no disease.

Chicken Vet recommends the use of Beryl’s competitive exclusion product:

1. When chicks are produced from a hatchery and reared away from a mother hen.

2. After treatment with antibiotics.

3. After diarrhoea.

4. After a period of stress and when moving onto a new diet.

In the older hen recently moved into a new environment, we recommend a treatment in water with Beryls competitive exclusion to help her develop a normal gut flora.

The next area to consider is the use of supplements in hens which have lost weight, been moulted or stressed and are now trying to gain weight. We have worked with nutritionists to develop a combined product which will help the bird at this time. The supplement is called Digesti-Health and contains a variety of elements:

1. A Mannose Oligosaccharide compound which will help to maintain a normal gut flora and will actively help to reduce the adhesion of E.coli and Salmonella to the gut wall.

2. A product to reduce the levels of mycotoxins present in the feed. Mycotoxins are screened by most feed companies and levels kept under control. However, when feed is stored for some time in damp conditions it is possible for fungi to develop and produce toxins which can lead to a wide range of conditions, from liver damage to poor hatchability and even death. The addition of a product to actively absorb any toxins gives that extra peace of mind when feed is stored or is possibly damp in a field environment.

3. A product to add chelated copper, zinc, iron and selenium to the ration. These products are required for a wide range of normal metabolism and it is the presentation of the mineral bound to an organic protein which allows for active uptake of the mineral and increased availability to the bird. In the older bird where the passage of time has possibly damaged the intestine, the use of these products will help to ensure that the bird is able to absorb its requirements.

4. Finally, there are Beta Glucans which is thought to have a boosting effect on the bird’s immunity.

This combined supplement should be added to the feed as a top dress, your bird will require ½ a scoop per day and it will be sold in 2kg tubs which should last an owner with an average of six birds about two months.

In summary, the older hen can be helped by giving her Beryl’s competitive exclusion product in the water just after arrival and then supplementing the feed with Digesti-Health. This treatment can be continued for longer if so desired and the Beryl’s used at any times of stress, post treatment or after any gut disturbance. There is no egg withdrawal and the components of these products are suitable for organic premises.

If you would like to order either of these products or would like more information, visit