Contents: Do Free Range Chickens Need Grit?
Do You Need To Give Chickens Grit if They Free-Range?
Chickens that are allowed to forage your land freely might swallow sufficient grit (Amazon), but there’s a possibility that extra grit will be needed to help break down their food. It all depends on the type of soil you have on your land, how much space they have, and whether or not your chickens are free-ranging every day.
If you allow your chickens to free-range daily, they will likely consume enough grit naturally. However, it’s recommended that store-bought grit is provided to them free-choice in a feeder (or you can sprinkle it on the ground) just in case they lack the grit they need.
If chickens lack even a bit of grit, it can lead to serious health issues (more on that below). So, ultimately, it’s up to you if you want to risk not offering extra grit to your free-range birds.
Contrary to popular belief, oyster shell grit will not help chickens grind up their food. Oyster shell is meant to be used by hens who need a calcium supplement to lay eggs with strong eggshells. Oyster shells are not hard enough to aid chickens in digesting their food.
For more information on oyster shells and if your laying hens need this type of grit, check out my post: Do Chickens Need Oyster Shells?
Do Free-Range Chickens Need Grit if They Live on Sand?
Free-range chickens can get quite a bit of natural grit from just foraging around coarse sand (the stuff that looks like gravel). However, I always like to supply extra grit from the store so that I’m doing everything I possibly can to keep my chickens healthy.
Better safe than sorry!
It’s important to note that there are different grades of grit depending on the age of the chicken. Baby chicks should have very fine grit (Amazon). As they get older, hens and roosters require larger-sized grit (Amazon).
Grit is pooped out as the stones get smaller and smaller inside a chicken. Then, new grit needs to be eaten. If offer grit that’s too small, the pieces will pass right through the chicken’s digestive system. So having the correct grit available for different ages is important.
My go-to store-bought grit is always insoluble grit, like Manna Pro Poultry Grit (Amazon). I stick to 2 types of quality grit, granite and/or flint, because I find they work the best in preventing sour crop and bound crop.
What Happens if You Don’t Give Free-Range Chickens Grit?
Without having access to enough grit, food can sit in the chicken’s digestive tract without progressing and can start fermenting or rotting. This is a condition called sour crop and can be quite dangerous to the chicken’s health.
Sometimes a deficiency of grit can even trigger a digestive tract obstruction. Usually, this is called bound crop and shuts your chicken’s digestion down.
Many people make the mistake of thinking that their chickens will find all the grit they need by picking pebbles off the ground if they’re free-ranging. But some dirt doesn’t have much grit in them.
Even though I let my chickens free-range, I like to provide store-bought grit. It’s cheaper and less stressful to buy grit than to have sick birds.
When Should I Give My Free-Range Chickens Grit?
As soon as I see that the feeder doesn’t have much grit in there, I just refill it. After all, it’s not like rocks will go bad!
And once a week I’ll sprinkle a bunch of grit on the ground because they like to scratch and pick at things. But if you want to save some money, just feeding grit in a feeder will be good for your chickens.
Depending on the breed, how much they free-range, and what your chickens eat, they’ll need different amounts of grit. So there’s no set amount of how much grit you should be giving your chickens.
So making sure they have access to grit throughout the day, every day, is the best thing you can do for your flock.
Conclusion: Is Grit Good for Free-Range Chickens?
Chickens are often thought of as simple creatures, but they do have some basic needs that must be met in order for them to thrive.
One of those needs is grit.
In fact, grit should be part of any chicken’s diet even if they can get most of it in the wild. Without adequate grit, chickens can become malnourished or even die.
So don’t skimp out on grit!
Plus, in the end, buying grit is cheaper than losing chickens from a sour crop or bound crop.
Also, you’ll most likely find that your chicken’s commercial feed will last a little longer if your chickens are able to properly digest things such as bugs and other stuff they eat from the ground.