Prebiotics are non-digestible feed ingredients that are metabolized by specific members of intestinal microbiota and provide health benefits for the host. Fermentable oligosaccharides are best known prebiotics that have received increasing attention in poultry production. They act through diverse mechanisms, such as providing nutrients, preventing pathogen adhesion to host cells, interacting with host immune systems and affecting gut morphological structure, all presumably through modulation of intestinal microbiota. Currently, fructooligosaccharides, inulin and mannanoligosaccharides have shown promising results while other prebiotic candidates such as xylooligosaccharides are still at an early development stage. Despite a growing body of evidence reporting health benefits of prebiotics in chickens, very limited studies have been conducted to directly link health improvements to prebiotic-dependent changes in the gut microbiota. This article visits the current knowledge of the chicken gastrointestinal microbiota and reviews most recent publications related to the roles played by prebiotics in modulation of the gut microbiota and immune functions. Progress in this field will help us better understand how the gut microbiota contributes to poultry health and productivity, and support the development of new prebiotic products as an alternative to in-feed antibiotics.