All You Need to Know About Chicken Grit

Chicken Grit! You’ve probably heard all about it while researching the best way to look after your feathered friends, and (like me) some of the information can just leave you more confused! Here is all you need to know about chicken grit, including what is chicken grit, when and why your chickens need it!

What is Chicken Grit?

Chicken grit is the term used for tiny rocks that chickens use to help digest their food! In nature, chickens will pick up pieces of course sand, stone and rock as they peak at the ground. However, for backyard chickens, it is important to offer an additional supply of prepared grit to help them have a balanced and healthy diet.

What is Chicken Grit Made of?

Store-bought chicken grit is generally made of granite and flint, which has been milled into very small, sharp pieces – the perfect addition to your chicken’s diet!

Why Do Chickens Need Grit?

So why do chickens need grit? Grit is a vital part of their diet to keep our feathery friends happy and healthy! Chickens need grit because they don’t have any teeth and usually swallow their food whole! I have seen my hens gulp down whole slugs and worms while foraging (yum) and they use the grit to help grind down these into a more digestible size!

What does Chicken Grit Do?

As a chicken forages, they naturally pick up tiny pebbles, which they store in the gizzard (a part of their digestive tract, which is basically a muscular stomach). As they eat, the gizzard moves and the food is ground against the stored grit to make a paste – which can now safely pass through their digestive tract! Delicious!

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How Do I Know if My Chickens Need Grit?

Adult chickens need grit as a part of their normal healthy diet, especially when they are foraging for tasty treats out in your garden! If your chickens are only eating commercial pellets or chicken crumbles, they don’t need grit, as this food is designed to break down and be easily digestible. However, as soon as they have other snacks in their diets – such as grass, worms, bugs, and all those yummy things they scratch for – they will need grit to help them break it down.

When should I Introduce Chicken Grit?

If you have just gotten chicks, then you don’t have to worry about introducing grit straight away! Chicks (0-20 weeks old) are generally fed a chick starter, which will give them a healthy and balanced diet that is easy for them to digest. As they grow and near reproductive age (around 20 weeks), their diet will change and include bigger food items, which is when you should introduce grit!

What Happens if my Chickens don’t get Grit?

Without a healthy amount of grit in their diet, your backyard chickens will struggle to eat and digest their food effectively! While grit doesn’t contain any nutrients, it helps your chooks to break down proteins and absorb nutrients from their food, helping them to have a healthy diet. If your chickens don’t get grit, they may start to suffer from a number of health problems, including discomfort, poor feed conversion, decreased laying capacity, and overall poor health. In some serious cases, they cannot break down larger food items, leading to blockages in their digestive tract and, in the worst scenario, death.

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How much Grit do Chickens Need?

So! Now that you know how important chicken grit is to your backyard chickens, I guess you’re wondering… how much grit do chickens actually need? And the answer to that is chickens should eat grit daily! As a chicken eats, the grit they have stored is eventually ground down small enough that it can pass from the gizzard and out through the digestive tract. Because of this, chickens need to replenish their grit constantly and should have ready access to it whenever they need it!

How Often Should You Give Chickens Grit?

As I have mentioned above, chickens should have constant access to grit, so it’s a great idea to have a grit container somewhere in their coop. Chicken grit is not seen as a treat, so you don’t have to worry about them overeating – they are very smart, and will just eat it when they need to. The best part about feeding your chickens grit is that a small bag should last a long time, as your chickens will not eat that much very often.

Do you Mix Grit with Chicken Food?

The best way to give chickens grit is to offer it in a separate container and not with their food, where the chickens can have some when they need it! Usually, adult chickens will not overeat grit, however, if it is mixed in with their treats and snacks they may consume too much, which can lead to crop impaction.

What are the Different Types of Chicken Grit

But what exactly is chicken grit, and are there different types? It can all seem a bit confusing when you are just starting out, but here is all you need to know about the different types of chicken grit! There are two types of grit that you will read about: Insoluble flint grit, and oyster shell grit.

Insoluble Flint Chicken Grit

Insoluble chicken grit is usually made from sharp flint or granite which is ground into tiny pieces, ready for your chickens! This is similar to the tiny pebbles or gravel that chickens would pick up on their own and is the best addition to their diet to help with digestion.

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Oyster Shell Grit

Oyster Shell Grit is a soluble form of grit that is an important part of your chicken’s diet. A lot of people think that flint grit and oyster shell grit are the same thing, however, they are not! Your lovely hens require BOTH flint grit and oyster shell grit to keep them happy and healthy. So, what does oyster shell grit do?

One of the best parts of having backyard hens is the constant supply of delicious, healthy eggs! These eggs take a lot of calcium to make, so calcium supplements are vital for your ladies to produce eggs with strong shells. If a hen doesn’t have enough calcium in her diet, it will use the calcium stores in her body, which can lead to her having brittle and easily broken bones. This is where the soluble oyster shell grit comes in! As they eat, the oyster shells will dissolve in the chicken’s gut, and give them a great supply of calcium for healthy eggs (and happy hens!)

Remember: Your backyard chickens need both Flint Grit and Oyster Shell Grit to be healthy!

Do Chickens need Grit if they have Sand?

Short answer – yes! Chickens will definitely need a supply of flint grit, even when they have a readily available source of sand in their environments. Sand should not be used as a source of grit, as it is too fine and will just pass straight through them! However, sand is great for chickens in other ways, as it makes a great addition to your chicken’s dust bath!

Free Range Chickens: Do Chickens Need Grit if they are Outside?

One of the best things about having your own backyard chickens is watching them run around, peaking at the dirt and generally living their best life! So, do free-range chickens need grit? In most cases – yes! It is best to offer an additional supply of chicken grit, even if your chickens live outdoors and can forage throughout your backyard. Usually, outdoor chickens have a limited environment to forage, which may not offer enough of the right kind of tiny stones to help with digestion. It’s always a good idea to offer a little bit of extra grit, to make sure that they are getting what they need!

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