An understanding of the avian digestive device is crucial for arising an effective and economical feeding program for her flock and for recognizing once something is wrong and also taking essential actions to exactly the problem.

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The digestive system of any pet is important in converting the food the animal eats into the nutrients its body demands for growth, maintenance, and manufacturing (such as egg production). An animal’s human body breaks down food with both mechanical and also chemical means. In countless animals, the mechanical activity involves chewing; however, because birds execute not have actually teeth, your bodies use other mechanical action. The chemical action includes the release of cradle enzymes and fluids from assorted parts the the digestive system. After being released native food during digestion, nutrient are soaked up and distributed throughout the animal’s body.


The chicken has a usual avian digestive system. In chickens, the digestive tract (also described as the gastrointestinal tract or GI tract) begins at the mouth, consists of several essential organs, and ends at the cloaca. Number 1 mirrors a chicken cradle tract, and also Figure 2 shows the place of the digestive tract in the chicken’s body.

Figure 1. Digestive tract of a mrs chicken (Image by Dr. Jacquie Jacob, university of Kentucky)
Figure 2. Place of the digestive street in a female chicken (Image native and also used v permission)Beak/Mouth

As with most birds, a chicken obtains feeding by using its beak. Food picked up by the beak enters the mouth. Chickens do not have teeth, so they can not chew their food. However, the mouth consists of glands that secrete saliva, i beg your pardon wets the feed to make it easier to swallow. Also, the saliva includes enzymes, such as amylase, that begin the cradle process. The chicken supplies its tongue to push the feeding to the earlier of the mouth to it is in swallowed.


The stomach is a versatile tube that connects the mouth through the remainder of the cradle tract. It carries food from the mouth come the crop and from the crop to the proventriculus.


The chop is an out-pocketing that the esophagus and also is located just external the body cavity in the neck an ar (see number 3). Swallowed feed and also water room stored in the chop until they are passed to the rest of the digestive tract. As soon as the chop is empty or practically empty, it sends hunger signal to the brain so that the chicken will eat more.

Figure 3. Place of the chop in a female chicken (Image by Dr. Jacquie Jacob, university of Kentucky)

Although the digestive enzyme secreted in the mouth started the digestion process, very tiny digestion takes ar in the crop—it is just a temporary storage pouch. The chop evolved because that birds the are commonly hunted by other animals but require to move to the open up to discover feed. These birds can consume relatively large amounts the food quickly and then move to a much more secure ar to digest that food.

Occasionally, the chop becomes impacted, or donate up. This problem—called chop impaction, crop binding, or pendulous crop—can occur when a chicken walk a lengthy time without feed and also then eats too lot too easily when feed is obtainable again. Chop impaction also can take place when a chicken totally free ranges on a pasture that tough, fibrous vegetation or eats lengthy pieces the string. With chop impaction, also if a chicken continues to eat, the feeding cannot pass the impacted crop. The swollen crop additionally can block the windpipe, bring about the chicken come suffocate.


The esophagus proceeds past the crop, connecting the crop to the proventriculus. The proventriculus (also well-known as the true stomach) is the glandular stomach wherein digestion generally begins. Hydrochloric acid and digestive enzymes, such together pepsin, are included to the feed here and also begin to rest it down an ext significantly than the enzyme secreted through the salient glands. In ~ this point, however, the food has actually not however been ground—this organ is dubbed the proventriculus since its location in the digestive tract is before the ventriculus, wherein food is ground (see figure 4).

Figure 4. Two views of the proventriculus and also gizzard indigenous the digestive street of a chicken (Image by Dr. Jacquie Jacob, college of Kentucky)Ventriculus (Gizzard)

The ventriculus, or gizzard, is a part of the cradle tract of birds, reptiles, earthworms, and fish. Often referred to as the mechanical stomach, the gizzard is consisted of of 2 sets of solid muscles the act together the bird’s teeth and has a special lining that protects those muscle (see number 5). Spend feed and also the cradle juices native the salient glands and also proventriculus pass right into the gizzard for grinding, mixing, and mashing.

Figure 5. Within of a chicken gizzard, v the interior lining removed (Image by Dr. Jacquie Jacob, college of Kentucky).

When permitted to free-range, chickens typically eat tiny stones. The acidic atmosphere in the proventriculus soft the stones, and climate the strong muscles of the gizzard grind them right into tiny pieces. The stones stay in the gizzard until they are ground right into pieces little enough to happen to the rest of the cradle tract.

Grit, a advertisement product consisted of of small stones, deserve to be used as a supplement to chicken feed. Chickens fed only commercially ready feed carry out not require grit. Chicken that eat whole grains or chickens preserved on pasture that execute not consume sufficient pebbles with the forage frequently require a supplementation the grit. Grit should not be perplexed with limestone or oystershell, which are provided to laying hen as resources of calcium for their eggs’ shells.

When a chicken eats a small, spicy object, such together a tack or staple, the thing is most likely to obtain stuck in the gizzard. Because of the solid grinding activity of the gizzard’s muscles, such sharp objects have the right to put feet in the gizzard wall. Chickens with damaged gizzards thrive thin and eventually die. Preventing this case is a an excellent reason to save a house free of nails, glass shards, bits the wire, and also so on.

Small Intestine

The small intestine is made up of the duodenum (also referred to as the duodenal loop) and the lower small intestine. The remainder of the digestion wake up in the duodenum, and also the released nutrient are took in mainly in the lower tiny intestine.

The duodenum receives cradle enzymes and bicarbonate (to respond to the hydrochloric acid from the proventriculus) from the pancreas and also bile native the liver (via the bitterly bladder). The digestive juices developed by the kidneys are involved primarily in protein digestion. Bile is a detergent that is essential in the digestion of lipids and the absorption the fat-soluble vitamins (A, D, E, and K).

The lower tiny intestine is created of 2 parts, the jejunum and also the ileum. The Meckel’s diverticulum marks the end of the jejunum and the start of the ileum (see figure 6). The Meckel’s diverticulum is formed during a chicken’s embryonic stage. In the egg, the yolk sac gives the nutrients essential for the embryo to develop and grow. Right before hatch, the yolk sac is taken right into the navel cavity of the embryo. The residual tiny sac is the Meckel’s diverticulum.

Figure 6. Place of the Meckel’s diverticulum in the digestive street of a chicken (Image by Dr. Jacquie Jacob, college of Kentucky).Ceca

The ceca (plural type of cecum) room two blind pouches situated where the small and huge intestines join. Some of the water remaining in the digested product is reabsorbed here. An additional important duty of the ceca is the fermentation of any kind of remaining outlet materials. During this fermentation, the ceca produce several fat acids and also the eight B vitamins (thiamine, riboflavin, niacin, pantothenic acid, pyridoxine, biotin, folic acid, and vitamin B12). Due to the fact that the ceca are located so close come the finish of the digestive tract, however, couple of of the created nutrients are took in and obtainable to the chicken.

Large Intestine (Colon)

Despite the name, the huge intestine is actually shorter than the little intestine. The big intestine is wherein the critical of the water reabsorption occurs.


In the cloaca, the digestive wastes mix with wastes from the urinary device (urates). Chickens typically void fecal product as digestive waste through uric acid crystals top top the external surface—that is, chickens do not urinate. The color and also texture that chicken fecal material deserve to indicate the health status of the chicken’s cradle tract: the white, pasty material coating chicken fecal product is uric acid, the avian kind of urine, and is normal.

The reproductive tract likewise exits with this area. When a hen lays an egg, the vagina folds end to permit the egg to leave with the cloaca opening without comes into contact with feces or urine.

Intestinal Microflora

Both the small and large intestines generally are populated with helpful organisms (bacteria, yeast, etc.), referred to as microflora (micro meaning “small” and flora meaning “plants”). This microflora assist in digestion.

When chicken hatch, their digestive tracts are virtually sterile. If raised by a mother hen, a chick obtains the useful microflora through consuming few of its mother’s fecal material. In man-made incubation and also brooding, chicks carry out not have actually this option. In such situations, producer can administer the chicks with probiotics, i beg your pardon are preparations containing the useful microflora that generally inhabit a chicken’s cradle tract. Through the probiotics, the chicks obtain the useful bacteria they should fight off infection by pathogenic bacteria, such as salmonella.

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Intestinal disease in chickens normally occurs as soon as the balance of common microflora is upset—that is, the common microflora is overrun through too countless foreign organisms. The an outcome is enteritis or inflammation that the intestines. Enteritis produces symptoms that incorporate diarrhea, raised thirst, dehydration, lose of appetite, weakness, and weight ns or slow growth. Severe damages to the minister tract generally is called necrotic enteritis (necrotic meaning “dead tissue”), which is a difficulty in many species of production systems.