Chicken is one of the major sources of white meat in the American market. With over 9.5 billion broiler chicken being bred in 2019, the Americans spent nearly 95 billion dollars on chicken products last year.
Chicken litter is one of the major components of poultry farms. When a baby chicken is put inside a poultry farm, the first thing it comes across is the litter. Being the first food a chicken pecks at, they play a crucial part in determining the health of a chicken gut.
The increased consumer demand resulted in a need for more litter. This gave way to the idea of reusing the litter. While consumers worry about the health issues that might arise with the increasing trend of reusing the litter, a recent study suggests that such is not the case. Instead, reusing the litter is crucial for chicken wellbeing and ultimately the consumer health.
a study was conducted to know more about the bacterial composition of the reused litter. This could help immensely in regulating all the good and bad bacteria present in the litter to raise healthy chickens. It was found that reused litter contained certain good bacteria that hindered the growth of Salmonella: a harmful pathogen that is present in the litter.
The study even took into consideration the effect of moisture and ammonia concentrations on the bacteria and other microorganisms present in the litter.
Samples of chicken litter were placed under three different controlled environments. A flock of chickens was then raised under each environment. It was seen that the Nocardiopsis bacteria prevented the growth of Salmonella inside the litter. Nocardiopsis bacteria are previously known for producing antibiotics and toxins.
However, farmers need to keep the litter downtime under check, that is the time required by the litter before it could be reused. Different bacteria develop during this downtime, and the composition of litter’s microbiome varies over time. It is known that the longer the downtime, the safer the litter becomes. However, farmers are at an economic advantage if they quickly reuse the litter without giving it any time to rest.
The research is still being carried out since the litter environment is quite complicated and difficult to understand. Scientists plan to study litter samples from other poultry farms as well.