On several message boards and FB groups I have been hearing lately that birds are “lactose intolerant” and cannot process milk. This seems so odd to me because chickens can eat just abut anything! So I started to do some digging.
The United Kingdom has a story that at the beginning of the 20th century door to door bottle milk bottles had no top. Birds had easy access to the cream which settled in the top of the bottle. Two different species of British garden birds, the blue tits and red robins, learned to siphon up cream from the bottles and tap this new, rich food source. So they had to add tops to all the bottles! Given the chance, birds do eat milk products. For centuries old farmers reported to fatten their chickens on spoiled cow’s milk. In France, both the Crevecoeur and the Bresse chickens are finished on milk to add tenderness and flavor to the end product.
It seems like there is quite a few legit discussions about chickens and milk. But I wanted to see if I could find anything more concrete and not just chat room fodder.
I wondered if there had been any studies on broilers here in the USA. I found this: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/281801318_Effect_of_Milk_Powder_Supplementation_on_Growth_Performance_of_Broilers “feeding broilers rations supplemented with 0.5% milk powder significantly ( p < 0.05) increased weight gain and feed conversion ratio compared to birds fed 0% milk powder diet, which indicate that milk powder supplementation might be effective and improved growth performance.”
Then how is it all these message boards are saying chickens are lactose intolerant? That you should never ever feed them dairy? So I did some more digging.
https://naldc.nal.usda.gov/download/IND43966778/PDF and to spare you all the boring scientific test reporting the conclusion was that “Lactose, up to 8 gm. per hen per day, was utilized fairly completely, thus making it evident that the lactose present in the quantity of whole milk, skim milk, whey, ör buttermilk normally consumed (100 to 200 cc.) by chickens would be completely absorbed.” There goes the conversation that chickens are lactose intolerant.
I found this other recipe for chicken feed. It seems that Manitoba Canada Department of Ag recommends adding dried milk to feed rations for poultry. https://www.gov.mb.ca/agriculture/livestock/production/poultry/poultry-rations-and-feeding-methods.html
I noted a few citations about using dried milk in the feed for treating chicks with Coccidiosis. This info from the University of Illinois was quite promising as an all natural solution to coccidia.
“Milk-mash treatment has value. In outbreaks of cecal and acute intestinal coccidiosis the milk-mash treatment has been widely used with considerable success. It is not, of course, a specific remedy for coccidiosis. Its effectiveness in combating the disease seems to lie in the high nutritive value of the milk mash, which tends to support the strength and vitality of the bird during the period of greatest injury from coccidiosis. Milk mash is prepared by adding dried skim milk to the regular mash at the rate of 40 pounds of dried skim milk to 60 pounds of mash. This milk mash is then fed to the flock or brood over a period of five to ten days, depending on the extent of the disease and the response observed in the infected birds.” VERY interesting.
I guess this goes to the point that we should not believe everything you read on the internet. Especially when you don’t know who the source is, their education and experience or if they are just repeating something they read on the internet. Do your homework, read scientific studies, talk to people practicing what you are interested in learning about. Good luck!