Seaweed for chicken health

Seaweed for Chickens

Chickens thrive on seaweed. Animal trials demonstrate the nutrients and improvement in micobiome health produces more meat or more eggs in broilers or layers.Seaweed have been studied over the past 30 years for the successful use in poultry diets.

Seaweed for chickens – Not a Novel Idea

Chickens thrive on seaweed. Animal trials demonstrate the nutrients and improvement in micobiome health produces more meat or more eggs in broilers or layers.Seaweed have been studied over the past 30 years for the successful use in poultry diets. The science is consistent that seaweed has a role in food formulation but the exact amount and cause is not as clear. Seaweed is a valuable additive to feeds for:

  • Sources of valuable nutrients, notably chelated micro-minerals, the availability of which is higher than that of inorganic ones. 
  • Bioactive compounds such as antimicrobial, antifungal and pigments within the seaweed, such as r-phycoerythrin. 
  • Sulfanated polysaccharides within the algae, normal alginates and carrageenans, and the effect on gut and microbial activity

Seaweed for chickens – provided as finely ground dry seaweed can be added to poultry diets in a ratio of up to 5 to 15 percent of the diet, depending on the species of seaweed and the species and age of the animal. One use of seaweed in the diet is as a pellet binder—including seaweed as up to 3 percent of the diet improves the hardness of the pellet. With duck diets, seaweeds can be included as up to 12 percent of the starter diet and up to 15 percent of the finisher diet without adversely affecting growth performance or meat quality.  In addition, some research shows that feeding seaweed meal and sardine oil together to chickens results in reduced levels of egg cholesterol and increased omega-3 fatty acid levels with no adverse effect on taste.

There is ongoing research to figure out the various mechanism, but in the meantime it is clear that there are benefits to using seaweed. In particular, an improvement of animal health from some of the multiple complex compounds and their activity as “prebiotics” is important. Prebiotic compounds are indigestible compounds that stimulate the growth and/or activity of beneficial microorganisms in the digestive tract. Growth or activity of these microorganisms, in turn, has health benefits for the animal. The interaction of animals to a different diet with different nutrients, proteins, carbohydrates and fibre irrespective of bioactives makes isolation difficult.[/vc_column_text][vc_column_text]

Use as Livestock Feed

Seaweeds have a long history of use as livestock feed. Seaweeds can improve egg quality in laying hens. However, high amounts of seaweed in the diet can have an opposite effect. The inclusion rate is therefore important. To produce seaweed meal for use in animal feed, seaweeds are collected, dried, and milled. Because much of the protein and carbohydrates in seaweed are not digestible in non-ruminants, the nutritional value of seaweed for poultry is as a source of minerals and vitamins. In Norway, where seaweed meal has been produced for animal feeds since the 1960s, seaweed meal is considered to have 30 percent of the nutritive value of grains. The minerals in seaweed meal include potassium, phosphorus, magnesium, calcium, sodium, chlorine, and sulfur as well as the trace elements (elements required in trace amounts) zinc, cobalt, chromium, molybdenum, nickel, tin, vanadium, fluorine, and iodine. (see here). The mineral content of some seaweeds represents 30 percent of the dry matter weight. The vitamins in seaweed meal include ascorbic acid, tocopherols, and some B vitamins.

A targeted approach for Antibiotics

Concerns on the emergence of antibiotic resistance calls for innovative technologies as an alternative to antibiotics to support animal health.  Gut health has become increasingly important in the livestock industry with the emergence of antimicrobial resistance and the urge to limit the use of antibiotics. 

The intestinal mucosa converges various functions: digestion and absorption of nutrients; as well as a physical barrier against microbes and toxins thanks to the presence of a protective mucus layer and tight junction proteins that seal the paracellular space. In modern production systems, the gastrointestinal tract is being challenged and the subtle balance gut health relies on can be impaired. The components that define gut barrier and immune function can weaken and lead to higher occurrence of digestive troubles associated with dysbiosis. This disbalance will trigger local and systemic inflammation, affecting the global health status and the growth performance of the animals. Seaweed appears to improve the epithelial barrier function and the gut-associated lymphoid tissue (GALT) and maintains a proper gut health and thus ensure good performance without the need of antibiotics.  BioSea Feed does not make these claims but this reduction of other bacteria contributes to better egg, or better meat production.

Better egg quality in Seaweed for Chickens

Egg quality has been studied with brown, green and red seaweeds. It didn’t matter in which form it was included in the diet (boiled, raw or autoclaved). One trial with green seaweed (Enteromorpha prolifera) it was shown that inclusion rate ranging from 2% to 4% provided the best nutrient availability and high apparent metabolisable energy in broilers. This may be attributed to a high level of amylase in the duodenum. It had a positive effect on feed intake, feed conversion ratio and average daily gain while reducing abdominal and subcutaneous fat thickness, thus improving breast meat. In another trial brown seaweed (Sargassum spp) fed to laying hens during 20–30 weeks at 1–12% dietary level had no deleterious effect on body weight, egg weight, egg production, feed conversion ratio and egg quality. It decreased yolk cholesterol, triglycerides and n-6 fatty acids and increased carotene and lutein plus zeaxanthin contents. Boiling improved high density lipoprotein, a desirable trait for human health.

Sargassum dentifolium fed raw, boiled or autoclaved at levels of 3% or 6%, was beneficial to egg quality. Green seaweed E. prolifera included at 1–3% resulted in improved egg production and quality: it increased weight, shell thickness, and yolk colour and reduced cholesterol in yolk. It also resulted in a lower E. coli load in faeces, suggesting better animal health. It improved the feed conversion ratio providing the amount consumed was not too high.

Increases in Broiler Production

Inclusion of U. lactuca at 3% dietary level in broilers (12–33 day-old) had no effect on feed intake, body weight gain, feed conversion ratio and nutrient retention, while its inclusion at levels higher than 10% resulted in lower feed intake and reduced growth rate in 3 week-old broilers and cockerels.

Green seaweed E. prolifera included at 1–3% resulted in improved egg production and quality: it increased weight, shell thickness, and yolk colour and reduced cholesterol in yolk. It also resulted in a lower E. coli load in faeces, suggesting better animal health. Also it was found to decrease the feed conversion ratio. See the major nutrients


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