Gut health is for the birds

A good intestinal flora keeps everyone healthy.

By Dr. Stephenie Slahor. Poultry gut health protects your birds against infections and bacteria.

WATCH TV ANY NIGHT and you’ll likely see an ad for drugs and supplements for the amazing body biome we call our digestive system.
As food moves from the stomach through the small and large intestines, it enters a kingdom of millions of bacteria, most of which are good and some of which are bad. The process of passing through the intestines is to extract nutrition, vitamins, minerals, enzymes, and even waste products from the food we eat. Prebiotics, probiotics and fiber are touted in these ads to help
keep our intestines in perfect working order, with a good “flora”.

Causes and symptoms of enteritis

Many conditions can upset our digestion, including enteritis, a type of infection that can cause inflammation of the small intestine, stomach, and/or large intestine. This may be the result of damage
viruses or bacteria, inflammatory conditions, improper handling/cooking of food, certain medications and illegal drugs, and even bad bleeding
to flow. It manifests itself in a variety of individual, but certainly unpleasant ways, including fever; vomiting; nausea; diarrhea; cramps; constant or creeping pain in the intestines, lower body and/or stomach; loud “grunts” in the stomach or intestines; loss of appetite; general weakness; lethargy; the thirst; dark/odorous urine; and even dizziness!

Now, with that background, start thinking about your herd’s digestive systems. Yes, quails, turkeys, ducks, pheasants, grouse, pigeons, geese and
chickens are all prone to possible enteritis. And now that you know the
symptoms that occur in humans, extend this knowledge to your herd. Are they inactive? Don’t they eat? Does he have mobility issues, like lack of coordination or chancery, or does he sit too still? Do they look asleep? Do they have their heads tilted? Do they have loose droppings or caked-on feces around their vents? Are they losing weight? A call to the vet can be helpful, but know that you can help prevent some problems by keeping the premises clean, controlling mosquitoes, providing space for movement and exercise, hatchery sanitation, l drinking water/feeders/equipment and isolation of infected birds.

Individual details

DUCKS: Enteritis can cause weakness, but also sudden death or death of egg embryos.

QUAIL: Prone to viral enteritis, resulting in higher mortality than other bird species. Those who survive could become carriers of the virus. The cleanliness of the living quarters of all birds is important, but quails especially need a clean floor or a floor made of wire mesh or slats. Keep your young, new stock isolated from your retrieved quails. Leave infected soil unused for up to two years.

TURKEYS: Enteritis can show up in just 2 or 3 days and the herd will be lethargic. Diarrhea will occur, followed by dehydration and weight loss.
It may be necessary to add medication to the water rather than the food, as
infected turkeys may not want to eat. Good shelter and even complementary
heat may be necessary and, of course, keep new stock isolated from salvaged turkeys.

CHICKENS: Enteritis can result from too much protein in the diet (especially protein from animal by-products), too much fat, and damage to the skin.
mucous membrane in the intestine. Some causes can be traced to mosquitoes carrying encephalitis. A few birds are infected, but if they peck other birds, they can transmit the disease to them.

Good husbandry is the key to good herd health. Stay alert to changes in behavior, fecal health, and any need for better sanitation. Your veterinarian can prescribe appropriate water or feed medications to help keep the herd free of harmful bacterial or viral infections.


ANIMAL BY-PRODUCTS — parts of animals not used for human consumption such as skin, blood, horn, hooves, bones, offal, shells or manure.
BORBORIGMY — “growling” body noise caused by the movement of water, food or gas through the intestines. Although normal and natural, it can signal infection, inflammation, illness, stress, food allergy, or eating too fast or too much.
ENCEPHALITIS — a bacterial or viral infection affecting the brain tissue.
ENTERITIS — inflammation of the small intestine usually caused by microbes that contaminate food or liquids. Associated conditions are: gastritis (affects the stomach), gastroenteritis (stomach and small intestine), colitis (large intestine) and enterocolitis (small intestine and large intestine).
ENZYMES — a body protein catalyst to convert the biochemicals needed by the body.
FIBER — plant material that is resistant to digestion and digestive enzymes.
INTESTINAL BIOME — organisms in the digestive tract that metabolize food, enhance immunity and resist infection. (Also known as gut flora or gut microbiota.)
INFLAMMATION – a generally beneficial bodily response to
injury or infection, but may become too chronic to be healthy.
Anti-inflammatory foods include whole grains, fruits, vegetables,
nuts, fish, poultry and olive oil.
LARGE INTESTINE – the wider but shorter part of the intestines that controls the resorption of water and the formation of faeces.
MUCOUS — Mainly produced in the gastrointestinal tract, this secretion protects the walls of body membranes.
PREBIOTICS — indigestible and robust food compounds for the benefit of good bacteria in the digestive tract, as “fertilizer” for these bacteria.
PROBIOTICS — live microorganisms that benefit gut microbes.
SMALL INTESTINE — the part of the intestinal system between the stomach and the colon/large intestine, and the main area for digesting food into molecules that can be absorbed by the body.
VENT — the external opening of the rectum or cloaca.

STEPHENIE SLAHORPh.D., JD, is a writer and speaker.
From a farm and ranch background, she enjoyed the company of cattle, sheep, goats, horses, mules, donkeys, chickens, geese, turkeys,
ducks, turtles, rabbits, dogs — but not necessarily all present at the same time! His hobbies include travel, snorkeling, kayaking,
hiking, horseback riding/mulemanship, rockhounding and natural science. And she’s a member of the Lions Club, although she hasn’t kept any lions (yet)!

Originally published in the June/July 2023 issue of Backyard poultry magazine and regularly checked for accuracy.

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