Dairy for Poultry?

Discussion in 'Feeding & Watering Your Flock' started by Rivers, Dec 23, 2010.

  1. Rivers

    Rivers Out Of The Brooder

    Oct 3, 2010
    Ive seen a lot of people recommending yoghurt and even milk for chickens here, and even pictures of chickens enjoying devouring these dairy products.

    I was just wondering though, how do birds manage to digest milk, and specifically the lactose in the milk? Mammals are born with plenty of enzyme in our digestive systems to digest lots of our mothers milk when growing as an infant. But we start to lose this ability as we get older, so most adult humans are lactose intolerant to some degree, as we dont have enough enzyme to digest the lactose. Mammals like us get stomach cramps then expel the contents of our stomachs through violent diarrhea. You can observe this on animals like pet cats, you cant feed an adult cat much cows milk without getting problems.

    So what happens with chickens? An animal which has absolutely no biological reason to be able to digest milk. If you feed a chicken dairy does it it actually gain any nutrients from it? If so, how does a chicken manage when many of us mammals would struggle to?
  2. Judy

    Judy Chicken Obsessed Staff Member Premium Member

    Feb 5, 2009
    South Georgia
    Good question. I have read a vet's statement that chickens are lactose intolerant and should not be given milk products, and yogurt only at one tsp per day, for the probiotics. I have also read of people who have given extra farm milk to chickens daily for years. I have read that things like buttermilk and kefir are fine as they are "predigested." What I have NOT read is any kind of scientific evidence that any of these statements hold up to investigation.

    I am 67 years old, eat or drink dairy daily, and have never had a bit of trouble. I know adults who can't drink a small glass of milk without paying for it. I wonder if what they would find, if someone actually did a study, is that chickens, like people, vary in their tolerance for dairy.
  3. Darlasmum

    Darlasmum Chillin' With My Peeps

    Aug 2, 2009
    La Crescenta, CA
    My girls LOVE shredded cheddar cheese and yogurt. They will scratch thru all the other goodies in the pan to get the cheese.
  4. kla37

    kla37 Chillin' With My Peeps

    Apr 18, 2010
    Hillsborough, NC USA
    I never thought about it. My chickens love bread, but ONLY when it's wet, so I soak it in some milk and they gobble it up. They love cheese, and yogurt too. Never noticed anything off in their droppings afterward. Must be OK.

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