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One-day old unsexed Arbor Acre plus broiler chicks (n = 200) were randomly allotted to 5 treatments (diets) consisting of 5 replicates with 8 birds each: Diet 1: basal diet; Diet 2: basal + antibiotic at 0.2g.kg-1 diet (21 days); Diet 3: basal + humic acid at 1 g.kg-1 diet (21 days); Diet 4: basal + antibiotic at 0.2 g.kg-1 diet (42 days); and Diet 5: basal + humic acid at 1 g.kg-1 diet (42 days). Performance parameters were measured. After 42 days, the birds on antibiotic supplemented diet had significantly (p < 0.05) higher weight gain (2251.75 g per bird) than those on the control diet (2112.32 g per bird). Similar final weights were recorded for birds on antibiotic and humic acid diets fed for 21 days and humic acid diet fed for 42 days respectively. Similar trend was followed in the weight gain of the birds on dietary treatments. The cost of feed per kg weight gain of birds fed with humic acid supplemented diets for 21 days (Nigerian naira, ₦ 94.18) was similar to those on other treatment groups. Improved (p < 0.05) villus height (724.99 µm), villus width (68.31 µm), crypt width (29.20 µm) and villus height to crypt depth ratio (0.79 µm) were recorded in birds placed on humic acid supplemented diet though similar to those on the control diet. Highest total bacteria count was recorded in birds on the control diet, while the least was in those fed antibiotic diet. Total E. coli and coliform counts were higher in birds on the control diets compared with those on the antibiotic and humic acid supplemented diets. In conclusion, dietary humic acid (1 g.kg-1) inclusion into the diet of broiler chickens is a viable alternative to antibiotic growth promoters for improved performance and gut integrity in broiler chickens.
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