The digestive and respiratory tracts of chickens are colonized by bacteria that are believed to play important roles in the overall health and performance of the birds. Most of the current research on the commensal bacteria (microbiota) of chickens has focused on broilers and gut microbiota, and less attention has been given to layers and respiratory microbiota. This research bias has left significant gaps in our knowledge of the layer microbiome. This study was conducted to define the core microbiota colonizing the upper respiratory tract (URT) and lower intestinal tract (LIT) in commercial layers under field conditions. One hundred eighty-one chickens were sampled from a flock of > 80,000 birds at nine times to collect samples for 16S rRNA gene-based bacterial metabarcoding. Generally, the body site and age/farm stage had very dominant effects on the quantity, taxonomic composition, and dynamics of core bacteria. Remarkably, ileal and URT microbiota were compositionally more related to each other than to that from the cecum. Unique taxa dominated in each body site yet some taxa overlapped between URT and LIT sites, demonstrating a common core. The overlapping bacteria also contained various levels of several genera with well-recognized avian pathogens. Our findings suggest that significant interaction exists between gut and respiratory microbiota, including potential pathogens, in all stages of the farm sequence. The baseline data generated in this study can be useful for the development of effective microbiome-based interventions to enhance production performance and to prevent and control disease in commercial chicken layers.
- Baseline microbiota
- Chicken gut microbiota
- Chicken respiratory microbiota
- Commercial chicken layers
PubMed: MeSH publication types
- Journal Article
- Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.