1. Plants and their biologically active chemical constituents, sometimes called secondary metabolites or bioactives, present numerous opportunities for the improvement of livestock production by inclusion in the diet. 2. Many such plant derived materials have well established therapeutic values in man; however, their potential as feed additives in animal production, particularly of poultry, remains largely unexploited. 3. There is increasing evidence indicating that they can be efficient in controlling diseases, and plant bioactives may also influence production parameters such as feed efficiency and product quality. 4. It has been reported that they may even replicate some of the effects of antibiotic growth promoters, which were banned from use in Europe from 2006. 5. This review assesses the status of plant bioactives in poultry production and their mode of action on avian physiology, particularly in the digestive tract.