Collaborative research efforts across disciplines typically result in more insight toward the hypothesis being tested due to the omnibus nature of the projects. For example, nutritional experiments evaluating a nutrient response will benefit greatly by incorporating biochemical, physiological, and immunological endpoints for measurement. Clearly, commercial poultry producers do not have the luxury of focusing on specific disciplines when field problems occur. Hence, in practice interplay exists among nutrition, genetics, management, and diseases.

Dietary composition impacts immune function of the chicken. As research in the area of nutritional immunology has increased, it is becoming apparent that nutrient needs for immunity do not coincide with those for growth or skeletal tissue accretion. This review is not a comprehensive assessment of nutrient needs for immunity in the chicken. Rather, this review is concerned with nutritional modulation of immunity in broilers that offers insight for nutritionists and researchers to implement nutritional regimens to reduce the severity of disease and to test or validate nutritional regimens that heighten immunity. Nutritional modulation of the hen diet and in ovo nutrient modulation to improve chick immunity and disease resistance are discussed.

Author notes

This is Journal Article Number J10370 from the Mississippi Agricultural and Forestry Experiment Station supported by MIS-322140. Use of trade names in this publication does not imply endorsement by the Mississippi Agricultural and Forestry Experiment Station of the products or of similar ones not mentioned.