Chickens’ digestive systems are among the most efficient in the animal kingdom. They don’t have teeth to bite, rip, or chew the food they eat, so how do they digest it? If you have chickens, you know how eager they are to eat anything that comes their way. However, they require some assistance for digestion.
So, do chickens need grit? Yes, chickens require grit to help in the digestion of their meal. If they don’t have access to tiny rocks or gritty sand, grit should be added to their diet. With the aid of tiny stones or grit inside the gizzard, the food is crushed into smaller particles. Digestion would be tough without grit.
When it comes to chickens and grit, there’s much more to know than what most people realize.
In this article, we take a look at grit for chickens and discuss the differences between grit and grit supplements, things a backyard chicken keeper should know about grit, and how grit benefits the chickens.
What Is Grit?
Grit is basically little pieces of granite that are used to help hens in the digestion process. As you probably know, hens lay eggs, and as they do this, a lot of calcium is depleted from their bodies. To make up for this loss of calcium, they need to eat chicken grit. This chicken grit is essentially a source of calcium for them.
The best type of chicken grit that you can give to your chickens would be oyster shell grit. Oyster shell grit is essentially crushed oyster shells. They look like little white pellets. A lot of people actually think that chicken grit looks like kitty litter!
The reason why oyster shell grit is considered the best type of chicken grit is that it contains a lot of calcium, and calcium helps hens to produce quality eggs.
What Effect Does Grit Have On Chickens?
Have you ever wondered what grit does to a chicken?
Grit helps break down the food so they can digest it properly. Without it, their digestion slows down and food passes through them undigested.
Grit helps them digest their food more efficiently so they poop less often (yes, that’s a good thing). This means less of a mess and odor for you to clean up! It also means that your chicken will be healthier overall because its digestive system works better when there isn’t any undigested food sitting around inside of him or her waiting to be pooped out.
Chickens can get enough from eating sand or dirt but it’s better if you give them grit because then you know how much they’re ingesting at any given time. You can buy bags of grit at the store which lasts a while depending on how many chickens you have.
Do Free Range Chickens Require More Grit?
The answer is yes, but not as much as you might think. Free-range chickens have access to more natural sources of dirt, rocks, and other materials than those kept in a pen. This gives them more opportunities to find their own grit sources — which means you can cut back on how much you provide them through their feed.
As a general rule, free-range chickens require less grit than those that are kept inside. In fact, some experts recommend against feeding your chickens any grit at all if they can forage for their own food.
Grit is not an essential nutrient for chickens, so the birds don’t need it to be healthy. They just require grits to help them break down the food in their crop.
How Often Do Chickens Require Grit?
If you keep chickens, you’re probably aware that they need grit. But how often do chickens require grit?
Chickens require more grit when they are young than when they are old. They also tend to need less grit if you feed them soft foods like kitchen scraps, as opposed to hard foods like grains.
You can determine whether or not your chickens have enough grit by looking at their droppings: if the droppings form a hardball, your bird has plenty of grit; if the droppings form a wet smear, your bird needs more.
How Much Grit Do Chickens Require?
So how do you know how much grit to feed your chickens? Well, that depends on a few factors:
When a chicken is being fed a mixed diet (feed and foraging), it will usually pick up enough grit naturally and not need any additional supplementation.
If you’re feeding your chickens an all-feed diet, or if you’re feeding your chickens a lot of soft foods like lettuces and fruits, then you’ll want to provide them with additional gritty ingredients like oyster shells or sand.
How Do You Feed Your Chickens Grit?
Many chicken owners add a handful of shells and pebbles to their chicken feed. These are both excellent sources of grit, but they are not the only way to keep your chickens supplied with enough grit in their diet.
Here are some ways you can feed your chickens enough grit:
- Add a handful of sand or gravel to your chickens’ feed, or let them eat from a tub of ready-made grit (available from most pet stores)
- Place small rocks and stones in your chicken’s pen for them to peck at, or let them free-range where they will encounter these materials naturally
- If you use a commercial feed, be sure it has small pieces of oyster shell added as an ingredient; this is good for the birds’ digestive tracts and it provides them with enough grit on their own
How Long Does Grit Remain in a Chicken’s Digestive System?
Digestion is a process that takes time. The length of time can vary depending on the type of food, but it typically takes 6-8 hours for grit to pass through the digestive system and be eliminated as waste.
Can Sand Be Used As Grit?
Yes, sand can be used as grit. Grit is essentially very fine sand, which is intended to help them digest their food more easily. Quail, turkeys, and chickens are all fed grit. The type of grit you use depends on the age of your bird.
For chicks under four weeks old, you can use crushed limestone or fine gravel (for example, aquarium gravel). For chicks older than four weeks, you can use oyster shells or granite grit.
Is It Possible To Make Your Own Grit?
Chicken grit is a chicken feed additive that is composed of ground oyster shells, limestone, or granite. It is an essential source of calcium for chickens and other poultry, but it can be difficult to find commercially prepared chicken grit depending on where you live.
The good news is that you can make your own chicken grit at home with little more than a hammer and some rocks.
However, making your own grit isn’t recommended. The reason for this is that the stones you find outdoors may contain traces of minerals that could be harmful to your chickens.
Oyster shell and flint grit from the store are both cheap and easily available.
If you do decide to make your own grits, make sure they are free of any chemicals and minerals that could harm your flock.
Is Crushed Eggshell the Same Thing as Grit?
The differences between crushed eggshells and grit are numerous.
First, crushed eggshell is the shell of a chicken egg, while grit is produced from limestone or granite.
Second, crushed eggshell has calcium carbonate in it, but grit does not. In fact, ground limestone contains calcium oxide.
Lastly, crushed eggshell has only trace amounts of iron and manganese, while grit contains iron and manganese in varying amounts depending on the source of the rock it was made from.
While crushed eggshells are great for chickens, they cannot replace grit. Feeding them eggshells will give them extra calcium in their body, but will not help digest the food they eat.
Can Chicks Eat Grit?
It all depends on the kind of grit you’re talking about, but in general, chicks shouldn’t be eating any kind of grit. That’s because their digestive system is still developing. Chicks are usually fed a strict diet of starter feed, which is soft enough for them to digest without the need for grits.
Once they start to eat other food that their starter feed, then you can start to give them grit. You hould use the finely ground variety that is specifically made for feeding chickens. The large-sized grit does not work as well for baby chicks, since they don’t have teeth and can’t chew it up. In fact, it could actually get stuck in their throats and choke them.
In short, yes, chickens do need grit. But it’s not just any type of grit. It’s small pebbles or coarse sand that aids in the digestion of softer foods like cereals and vegetables. Grit helps grind down hard food items, which is why chickens will eat them along with their foods. You can buy it at most pet stores cheaply and find it easily online.