If you have chickens, then it is recommended that you always have some chicken grit available for them to use. So, what is chicken grit? Why do you need it? In fact, do you really need it?
That is what we are going to take a look at on this page!
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What is Chicken Grit?
Chicken grit is, simply, a hard substance. Almost like small rocks, that the chicken can eat. Although, they are not eating it for nutrition.
It is so that they can break up the foods that they do eat. Chickens need some sort of grit in their diet, otherwise, it is going to be impossible for them to digest the vast majority of foods.
Although, we are going to talk more about that in a short while.
When it comes to chicken grit, you have a few different options available.
Honestly, it doesn’t really matter what type of grit you provide them with. It is all going to do pretty much the same job.
However, when it comes to our backyard chickens, we tend to go for oyster shells (crushed). We have tried this one and it is definitely one of the best. Our chickens love it.
The crushed oyster shells, erodes more easily than an inert grit like the crushed granite, but less easily than other forms of calcium carbonate like the aragonite.
This is because oyster shells can add a little bit of calcium to the diet, which is absolutely fantastic for raising chickens that lay fantastic eggs!
Although, as we said, it probably won’t matter all that much. While you can make the grit yourself, and a lot of backyard chicken owners do, we find that grit is affordable enough that you do not really need to do this.
Any grit labeled as insoluble grit will be made up of small stones, most likely granite, which has been finely ground up.
When you are buying this type of grit, you will want to ensure that whatever you purchase has been rated for the size of the chickens that you own.
The same if you buy soluble grit (made up of shells), or mixed grit, which is made up of a combination of both.
Why do Chickens Need Grit?
Chickens do not digest food in the same way that we digest food. They do not have a stomach.
Instead, they have a gizzard. The gizzard is a muscle that helps to grind down the food that the chicken consumes.
The problem is that the gizzard isn’t strong enough alone to grind the food up.
It needs a bit of extra power, and this is obtained by chicken grit. The chicken grit moves in sync with the gizzard muscle.
The chicken grit is hard enough that it will help to break down the food that the chicken has eaten. Over time, the grit will start to get ground up too. This will then be ‘digested’ in the same way.
That being said, some people will make the claim that chickens do not grit supplements. We suppose that this is true, to an extent.
You see, chickens may be a purely commercial bird, but they were bred from birds that lived in the wild.
Obviously, these birds are not receiving grit supplements. If your chicken is free-range, then they may be able to pick up enough stones and other ‘grit-like’ substances that you do not need to supplement with grit.
The same if your chicken is only eating commercial chicken food. Their gizzards should be strong enough to break it up alone.
However, we still recommend that you make grit available to them. Even if they do not take the chicken grit, they are going to enjoy the fact that it is there. It allows them to take it if absolutely required.
How To Feed Chickens Grit?
Honestly, it doesn’t matter how much chicken grit you put in the chicken coop or run. Chickens will only consume it when they need it.
You do not have to worry about them overeating the grit, simply because it is impossible for them to do so. Therefore, all you need to do is ensure that chicken grit levels are kept topped up.
If you can do that, then you can guarantee your chickens will always have enough access to grit to help them digest their food.
This is a simple and affordable chicken grit feeder that we bought from Amazon.
When Do Chickens Need Grit?
Chickens need grit especially during the summer when the weather is warm and so the chickens eat less, so the calcium in their regular ration may not be enough. This can result in thin-shelled eggs.
The amount of grit that a hen needs varies with her age and diet. In general older hens need more calcium than younger hens because their bones have been exhausted.
Free-range chickens or pasture chickens obtain some calcium by eating bugs and worms, but may not obtain enough to meet their needs.
Also, if you notice chickens eating their own eggs, this is a sign that they do not have enough calcium in their diet.
Do Baby Chicks Need Grit?
Yes, baby chicks need grit. They definitely need it. Basically you will want to introduce grit to your chicks once they start eating foods other then their ‘chick starter’ food, at about 2 weeks of age.
The ‘chick grit’ or ‘baby grit’ is smaller than the one for chickens. As said earlier, it is used to stimulate gizzard development, that is why it is good for the chicks to get started young so they develop good gizzards.
This is one of the best chick grit that we have tried:
It is worth noting that If your chicks are eating the commercial chick starter food, then they probably do not need grit, because the food may already contain. Read the description carefully.
How To Make Your Own Chicken Grit
You can use eggshells, to make your own chicken grit. The eggshells contain exactly the right calcium balance and may be recycled back to the hens to help replenish lost calcium and other nutrients.
Get the eggshells that you have used. Make sure that you wash the shells. Then you need to dry them and crush them on small peaces before feeding them to hens.
You should slowly bake them in the oven, until they are nice and crisps. Do this for 10 minutes in a 300°F (150°C). Or you can always dry them by spreading them on a sheet of paper in the sun.