Contents: Do Chickens Need Grit?
Do Your Chickens Need Grit?
It depends. If your chickens eat anything other than commercial feed, including bugs, grass, and fresh table scraps, then yes; it’s essential that your flock has access to grit (Amazon).
Chickens keep grit in an organ called the gizzard in order to grind up food. Because they have no teeth, chickens don’t have a way to properly break down food. Grit helps with digestion by grinding up food.
Chicks will not initially need any grit until you start feeding them things other than chick feed. I personally do not feed anything other than chick feed to my chicks. But if you do feed them treats, or you have them outside occasionally where they could possibly eat bugs or grass, put a little chick grit over their feet to motivate them to start eating it.
Grit is the term for tiny stones, rocks, or coarse sand, and is known as insoluble grit. This is because grit doesn’t dissolve in the chicken’s stomach.
What Happens if You Don’t Give Chickens Grit?
Without having access to 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.
*Confined adult chickens who only eat commercial chicken feed (no table scraps, treats, bugs, grass, grains, etc.) don’t require grit because commercial pellets and crumbles are soft enough for the chicken to digest.
Do You Mix Grit In With Chicken Food?
Some people mix grit in with their chicken food.
I think it’s better if you offer grit in separate feeders, separate from your chicken’s regular food, so they can swallow as much or as little as they need.
I also love to scatter grit on the ground and in their run so that my chickens get to forage for it. Just scratching all around the dirt for grit, they get all excited. I think they’re just happy to do what chickens were meant to do.
Plus it gives them some exercise and keeps them busy. And the busier they are, the less bullying and other behavioral problems will occur.
How Often Should I Give Chickens Grit?
As soon as I see that the feeder doesn’t have much grit in there, I just refill it.
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, their living situation, 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, everyday, is the best thing you can do for your flock.
What Can Be Used As Grit for Chickens?
Chickens can get natural grit from just foraging around your land. However, I always like to supply extra grit from the store so that my chickens can maintain good health.
My go-to store-bought grit is always insoluble grit, like Manna Pro Poultry Grit (Amazon). I stick to 2 types of grit, granite and/or flint, because I find they work the best in preventing sour crop and bound crop.
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 need bigger, coarser grit(Amazon).
Grit is pooped out as the stones get smaller and smaller inside a chicken. Then, new grit needs to be eaten. If the grit you give them is too small, the pieces will pass right through the chicken’s digestive system. So having the correct grit available for different ages is important.
Contrary to popular belief, oyster shell grit will not help chickens grind up their food. Crushed oyster shell is meant to be used by egg-laying hens who need a calcium supplement and is not hard enough to help chickens in digesting their food.
For more information on oyster shells and if your layer hens need this type of grit, check out my post: Do Chickens Need Oyster Shells?
Conclusion: Is Grit Good for 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.
grit should be part of any chicken’s diet. This is especially true if they go outside their coop as it’s necessary for them to grind up food in their gizzards. Without the aid of 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 feed will last a little longer if your chickens are able to digest things such as bugs and other stuff they eat from the ground.