Understanding feather pecking in laying hens: The gut-microbiome-brain connection II

Lead Applicant: Alexandra Harlander

Research Priority: Animal Health & Welfare

Program Type: Tier 1

Funding Cycle: 2023/2024

Research Centre: Ontario Poultry Research Centre at the Arkell Research Station

Research Summary: Effective solutions to address feather pecking (FP) in laying hens are needed from an economic, animal welfare and societal standpoint. Recent advances implicate the gut-microbiome-brain axis. Modulating Lactobacillus through single strain supplementation reduces FP and feather damage, improves the immune response, and limits cecal dysbiosis in hens. However, direct supplementation with Lactobacillus strains is technically challenging due to the probiotic's limited survival and persistence in feed. Prebiotics such as Galacto-oligosaccharides are a subset of non-digestive carbohydrates that promote Lactobacillus, lead to neuro/immunomodulatory effects and potentially change behaviour. Therefore, promoting growth of naturally occurring Lactobacillus in the gut of laying hens through prebiotics is a promising approach, however this has not yet been investigated.