Altering the microbiome of eggs can improve chicken health

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Harnessing the eggshell microbiome can impact the chicken’s gastrointestinal tract and create a healthier bird.
Manipulating the eggshell by applying a nutritional coating to the eggs in the hatchery introduces probiotic bacteria to the developing chick from the outside of the egg, which can help create a better immune system and gut health.

“From the time the egg is laid to the time it goes to the hatchery, the industry has focused on keeping the egg as clean as possible and monitoring its environment. However, this tactic does not always work because the bacteria already in the egg cannot be removed by sanitation,” explained Gina Sloan, Ph.D., CEO of AGRITX, at the Poultry Tech Summit 2022.

During the time the egg is moved from the laying hen to the hatchery, there is an 18-day window in which the industry can introduce good bacteria into the eggshell and colonize the egg lumen, which could impact pathogens and overall bird health.

“If we don’t take advantage of this opportunity, we will hatch empty ships waiting to take in whatever is in the environment.” When we fill the gastrointestinal (GI) tract, we prevent the empty vessel situation and can introduce bacteria that are needed either nutritionally,” Sloan said.

Creating a coating
The nutritional eggshell was designed by selecting microbial stains based on bile salt tolerance, acid tolerance, ability to pass through the shell and membrane and enter the yolk, and ability to form biofilms.

Sloan’s research studies found that there was increased production of villi in chicks that were nutritionally coated before hatching compared to control chicks, indicating a healthier GI tract.

In addition, she found that the water-based coating did not negatively affect hatchability, chick mortality, or growth measures later in life.

“We are continuing to study this angle to understand how it will affect the effectiveness of the vaccine,” she added.

Commercial applications
Hatcheries can apply the coating using wet spray, dry mist or dry powder. Additionally, a solid-state delivery platform is available for on-farm use.

“We try to meet each hatchery where they are. I try to make sure that the technology is flexible enough to be implemented in several different ways,” she continued.

Sloan is looking for a partner to test nutritional egg packaging in a commercial setting.

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