Comparison of different invasive and non-invasive methods to characterize intestinal microbiota throughout a production cycle of broiler chickens

Jannigje G. Kers*, Egil A.J. Fischer, J.A. Stegeman, Hauke Smidt, Francisca C. Velkers

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


In the short life of broiler chickens, their intestinal microbiota undergoes many changes. To study underlying biological mechanisms and factors that influence the intestinal microbiota development, longitudinal data from flocks and individual birds is needed. However, post-mortem collection of samples hampers longitudinal data collection. In this study, invasively collected cecal and ileal content, cloacal swabs collected from the same bird, and boot sock samples and cecal droppings from the litter of the broilers’ poultry house, were collected on days 0, 2, 7, 14 and 35 post-hatch. The different sample types were evaluated on their applicability and reliability to characterize the broiler intestinal microbiota. The microbiota of 247 samples was assessed by 16S ribosomal RNA gene amplicon sequencing. Analyses of α and β measures showed a similar development of microbiota composition of cecal droppings compared to cecal content. Furthermore, the composition of cecal content samples was comparable to that of the boot socks until day 14 post-hatch. This study shows that the value of non-invasive sample types varies at different ages and depends on the goal of the microbiota characterization. Specifically, cecal droppings and boot socks may be useful alternatives for cecal samples to determine intestinal microbiota composition longitudinally.

Original languageEnglish
Article number431
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2019



  • 16S rRNA
  • Avian
  • Gut
  • Methods
  • Microbiome
  • Poultry

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