Chickens are extraordinary. If you have one, you know this already. One of the most exciting facts about poultry is they do not have teeth. Additionally, did you know all birds have a digestive system similar to alligators, crocodiles, and earthworms? Chicken grit is critical due to the absence of teeth and their unique digestive system. You say you don’t know what grit is, and why chickens need it? We're going to explain.
What Does Grit do for Chickens?
Chickens require grit to correctly digest their chicken feed and other food. All poultry's gastric systems are quite different than most other species. How is it different? We’ve got a brief chicken anatomy lesson for you.
Have you ever seen a hamster store food in its cheeks for later? (If you haven't, you should, because it's so adorable.) Anyway... chickens use their crop for the same thing. Being a prey species, it’s always smart to have food in the pantry for the future. If you’re running away bravely or hiding, it’s not safe to hit up the snacks. Therefore, chickens store food in their crop. Once the crop is full, the feed proceeds to the gizzard.
As chickens don’t have teeth, when they eat, their food assumes a stone-like state after it’s mixed with saliva. No one likes feeling like they have a rock in their stomach, so once food hits their gizzard, chickens need help digesting. The gizzard is a digestive organ with strong muscles that crush food. However, the muscles aren’t enough to break down the food. Therefore, girt is necessary for chickens. They store grit in the gizzard until it’s needed. Once the food is broken down sufficiently, the nutrients are extracted in the next digestive step.
Over time, grit is depleted, so your chickens must re-stock. Just like hay for rabbits and guinea pigs, unlimited, year-round access to grit is critical. Can chickens eat too much grit? Don't worry... they self-regulate.
To recap, what does grit do for chickens? Chicken grit helps digest food so their feathery bodies can extract the nutrients from chicken feed.
Without Grit, Bad Things Happen
We mentioned the rock in your stomach in the last section. If the rock just sits in the gizzard without digestion, it will rot. This leads to a dangerous medical condition called “sour crop.” Another health issue that can "crop" up is a digestive tract obstruction. Both states require immediate veterinary attention and probable surgery.
What Qualifies as Chicken Grit?
Grit for digestion has two characteristics:
- Insoluble/Hard: doesn’t break down easily and is resistant to digestive juices.
- Stone: insoluble stone sometimes consisting of granite or flint. (Our adult chicken grit is made of 100% crushed and washed rose quartz.)
That being said, depending on the age of your flock members, they have different grit requirements. The older your chickens are, the coarser the grit is. To handle the grit needs of your flock members, we've created three kinds. Check 'em out below. 👇🏻👇🏻👇🏻
And here's a little cheat sheet on what you'll need:
hatch to 6-8 (ish) weeks
Grower Chicken Grit
6-18 (ish) weeks
Adult Chicken Grit
18 (ish) weeks +
Oyster Shell is NOT Digestive Grit
Frequently confused with digestive chicken grit, Oyster Shell is not for digestion. Instead, it provides extra calcium necessary for healthy bones, muscles, and eggshells. (For laying hens.) Additionally, Oyster Shell is soluble or breaks down quickly. We've got you covered on Oyster Shell, too.
Grit is Served...
When presenting unlimited grit to your flock, make sure it's in a separate feeder than chicken feed and oyster shell. Also, you’ll want to keep it dry and off the coop floor. You don’t need to put it in anything fancy as very little will go to waste.
...Well, there’s the nitty "grit"ty on grit for chickens. We “laid” out the facts about what grit is and why chickens need it. Okay...we'll stop being punny now. Sorry about that. (But not really. #sorrynotsorry. 🐥😁)