BMC Microbiol. 2022 Aug 24;22(1):206. doi: 10.1186/s12866-022-02619-6.
BACKGROUND: The first two weeks of post-hatch (PH) growth in broilers (meat-type birds) are critical for gut development and microbiota colonization. In the current broiler production system, chicks may not receive feed and water for 24 to 72 h due to variations in hatching time and hatchery management. Post-hatch feed delay affects body weight, feed efficiency, mortality, and gut development. The goal of this study was to investigate changes in the microbiome in broiler chickens early PH and the effect of delayed access to feed on the microbiota.
RESULTS: Chicks either received feed and water immediately after hatch or access to feed was delayed for 48 h to mimic commercial hatchery settings (treatment, TRT). Both groups were sampled (n = 6) at -48, 0, 4 h, and 1 (24 h), 2 (48 h), 3 (72 h), 4 (96 h), 6 (144 h), 8 (192 h), 10 (240 h), 12 (288 h) and 14 (336 h) days PH. Ileal (IL) and cecal (CE) epithelial scrapings (mucosal bacteria, M) and digesta (luminal bacteria, L) were collected for microbiota analysis. Microbiota was determined by sequencing the V3-V4 region of bacterial 16S rRNA and analyzed using QIIME2. The microbiota of early ileal and cecal samples were characterized by high abundance of unclassified bacteria. Among four bacterial populations (IL-L, IL-M, CE-L, CE-M), IL-M was the least affected by delayed access to feed early PH. Both alpha and beta diversities were affected by delayed access to feed PH in IL-L, CE-M and CE-L. However, the development effect was more pronounced. In all four bacterial populations, significant changes due to developmental effect (time relative to hatch) was observed in taxonomic composition, with transient changes of bacterial taxa during the first two weeks PH. Delayed access to feed has limited influence on bacterial composition with only a few genera and species affected in all four bacterial populations. Predicted function based on 16S rRNA was also affected by delayed access to feed PH with most changes in metabolic pathway richness observed in IL-L, CE-L and CE-M.
CONCLUSIONS: These results show transient changes in chicken microbiota biodiversity during the first two weeks PH and indicate that delayed access to feed affects microbiota development. Proper microbiota development could be an important factor in disease prevention and antibiotic use in broiler chickens. Moreover, significant differences in response to delayed access to feed PH between luminal and mucosal bacterial populations strongly suggests the need for separate analysis of these two populations.