Posted on December 16, 2016
Some people believe that certain species of birds do not have any beneficial bacteria in their gut (Sterile Bowel Theory). Here is our Technical Director's comments on this.
Let me start by saying that the
notion that Australian finches (or any other birds for that matter) don’t have
beneficial bacteria in the gut seems completely bizarre. There are a whole
bunch of digestive and nutritional jobs that gut bacteria do that animals and
birds can’t. For example we can’t make a whole host of vitamins so we rely on
the bacteria to do that for us.
Given that all multicellular animals have a symbiotic (mutually beneficial) relationship with gut bacteria it would seem incomprehensible that a niche group of birds like Australian finches should have evolved all those hundreds of biochemical processes to do the jobs themselves and a way of killing all the bacteria they eat naturally in their foods. And what would be the evolutionary advantage to do that? And if there was an evolutionary benefit surely other creatures would have done it too. It is often argued that we humans have more bacterial cells in our bodies than we have cells of our own. The same is almost certainly true of birds.
If finches absorb their food more quickly than other species (I have no idea if that is true or not) then their need for digestive support would be greater not less than animals with a slower food transit time.
But if we discard the Sterile Bowel Theory that doesn’t mean that supplementing with probiotics is automatically a good thing to do.
** BioPlus - Powder Pro and Prebiotic, which has a long shelf life.**
The gut of the newly hatched baby bird will be sterile but the beneficial bacteria we are talking about are everywhere. You will find them in soil, on plants and in food. The parents crop will be crawling with them so from their very first feed their gut flora will be being established. But they will be getting germs from the same sources as they get beneficial bacteria. So the trick is to help the good guys and hinder the bad guys. We can do that in two ways:
As a general rule we recommend that non breeding birds probably don’t need a probiotic at all – so long as the diet contains prebiotics. If people want to use a probiotic as a general health insurance policy we suggest BioPlus perhaps once a week. And we pick BioPlus simply because it has a long shelf life compared to Potent Brew.
**Potent Brew - Liquid probiotic, short shelf life of 4 to 6 months.**
But there is a time when
experience tells us that Potent Brew excels and that is for breeding birds. For
the adults it seems to give them a kick start into breeding condition. But more
importantly it gets the babies off to a really good start by ensuring their
early gut flora has some really useful bacteria from the off. Customer feedback
confirms that babies on Potent Brew are really healthy and grow faster than
those that are not. And actually that is confirmed by a study on partridges at
Sparsholt Agricultural College about 20 years ago. The
drawback of Potent Brew is the 4-6 month shelf life and the need to keep it in
The only other time a probiotic will help is when a bird gets a digestive infection. For those Potent Brew is always going to be best as it will get to work in the crop as well as further down the digestive tract. Powder probiotics can’t really do that even if added to the drinking water.