When free range laying chickens were fed with ‘Avinectar’, there was a similar pattern, with reduced amounts of formaldehyde in the droppings and increased levels of butyric acid. The VOCs reflect metabolism in the microbiome and vary depending on which bacterial species are present. Using 16S Metagenomic Analysis with the Illumina platform, we were able to identify changes in the chickens’ microbiome. We found lower levels of Enterobacteria, Clostridia and Campylobacteria, all of which are believed to be ‘bad’ bacteria and increased amounts of Ruminococcus and Bifidobacteria which are thought to be beneficial for health in chickens.
In agreement with all this, the chickens laid eggs with improved shell thickness (~10% of commercial eggs are lost when the thin shells crack in handling/transport) and had better feed conversion ratios, so more efficient use of their diet. Since the birds were able to gain weight while also having improved egg production, ‘Avinectar’ was clearly beneficial to the chickens’ health. We are now looking to enter a research programme with the Roslin Institute (University of Edinburgh) which will explore the use of ‘Avinectar’ in a commercial context.