Feral Chicken Guts

HNFAS sequences the bird’s intestinal microbiota

  • 17 June 2021
  • Author: Mark Berthold
  • Number of views: 2477
Feral Chicken Guts

by Rajesh Jha

In Hawaiʻi, the number of feral chickens is relatively high, and it is not unusual to see chickens on roads and in parking lots. They are descended from the Red Junglefowl, likely the first breed brought by Polynesian settlers, and more recently, European-derived breeds brought to Hawai?i for food production and cockfighting.

These feral chickens are of scientific interest, as they can give us some good clues about the modern-day chicken’s biology. But until now, there was limited or no knowledge of the gut microbiota of these feral birds.

So for the first time (to the best of our knowledge), we sequenced the intestinal microbiota of the Hawaiian feral chicken. We also explored the cecal microbiota profile of commercial chickens.

Since microbial populations are instrumental to their host’s health, we hope that our work will help determine what bacteria are dominant and what potential roles they play, either beneficial or non-beneficial. Knowing the healthy gut microbiota composition provides opportunities to develop strategies to modify it for improving host performance, immunity, and the food safety of meat animals. Also, studying the microbial community profiles for feral and commercial chickens will be instrumental in understanding the breed differences in development, health, digestion, nutrient absorption, and immunity.

The study, Cecal microbiome profile of Hawaiian feral chickens and pasture-raised broiler (commercial) chickens determined using 16S rRNA amplicon sequencing, appears in a recent Poultry Science. More information about poultry nutrition and gut health can be found at our Animal Nutrition Group website.

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