Can Chickens Eat Poultry Grit? Answering All Your Chicken Grit Questions

Article Summary

  • Poultry grit is crushed granite or limestone that chickens eat to aid in grinding up food in their gizzard, an essential part of their digestive system.
  • Grit should be available to chickens at all times for optimal digestive health; refill grit containers frequently, especially during peak laying periods.
  • Chickens self-regulate grit consumption, but excessive consumption of oyster shell or treats may pose health problems.

Have you ever wondered if chickens can or should eat poultry grit? As a chicken owner, providing your flock with proper nutrition is essential to their health and egg production. An important part of that diet is access to grit.

Grit helps chickens digest their food and provides calcium for strong eggshells. Understanding what grit is, why it’s important, and how much to provide can help you keep your chickens healthy and productive.

In this article, we’ll cover everything you need to know about poultry grit for chickens. Let’s start with answering the question: what is poultry grit?

What is Poultry Grit?

Poultry grit is crushed granite or limestone that chickens eat to help grind up food in their gizzard. The gizzard is a part of their digestive system that acts like teeth to break down grain, seeds, and other difficult-to-digest foods.

Grit stays in the gizzard and grinds the feed as the chicken’s stomach muscles contract. Without access to grit, chickens can’t properly digest their food and absorb nutrients.

Different Poultry Grit
Different Poultry Grit

Poultry grit comes in different sizes. Generally, bigger grit is used for adult chickens while “chick grit” is a smaller size for baby chicks. You can buy grit at feed stores or online, often sold as “chicken grit” or “insoluble granite grit.”

Do Chickens Need Grit?

Yes, chickens absolutely need grit in order to properly digest their food. Chickens don’t have teeth and rely entirely on their gizzards to grind up and break down food.

Chickens with access to grit will be healthier and digest their food better. They’ll get more nutrition out of their diet. Grit also acts as a digestion aid by keeping things moving through the gastrointestinal tract.

Some people claim chickens can get by without grit. In reality, chickens without grit are more likely to struggle with digestion issues, nutrient deficiencies, and lower egg production. Their gizzards need that grinding action to properly break down feed.

So be sure to always provide chickens with an ample supply of grit in their coop. Give them free-choice access so they can consume as needed.

Why Grit Is Important for Chickens

As we’ve covered, grit is essential for a chicken’s digestive health. Specifically, here are some of the main benefits of chickens having access to poultry grit:

  • Improves digestion – Grit grinds up food particles for better nutrient absorption in the digestive tract.
  • Increases egg production – Well-nourished hens lay more eggs. Grit allows better nutrition from the same amount of feed.
  • Provides calcium – Oyster shell grit gives an excellent calcium supplement for eggshell strength.
  • Prevents impaction – Grit keeps the digestive system moving to prevent potential blockages or impactions.
  • Enables proper feed conversion – Chickens utilize their feed more efficiently when they can actually break it down and digest it fully.

When chickens don’t consume enough grit, you may notice a drop in egg production, soft or thin shells, weight loss, or even bowel obstruction. Providing grit alleviates these issues and supports optimal chicken health and egg-laying.

What Size Shell Grit Should I Buy for Chickens?

Most grit comes in a mix of particle sizes. However, you’ll want grit specifically labeled for “adult chickens” or “laying hens.” This grit runs around 2-5 mm particle size.

Avoid grit labeled for baby chicks as it can be too small for an adult chicken’s gizzard. The gizzard needs some larger pieces to help grind and crush feed.

Look for “layer grit” or “hen grit” that contains a mix of fine and coarse particles. Too much fine grit isn’t as effective. Some coarse particles in the 3-5 mm size give the best grinding action.

The grit should have a bit of “tooth” to it but not be so large or sharp…

The grit should have a bit of “tooth” to it but not be so large or sharp that it could cause crop or gizzard damage. Aim for a mix of granulated grit in the sizes mentioned above.

Do Chickens Need Grit and Oyster Shell?

Chickens need access to both grit and oyster shell. Here’s the difference:

  • Grit – Insoluble granite or limestone for grinding food in the gizzard.
  • Oyster shell – Provides calcium carbonate for strong eggshells.

So grit helps them digest while oyster shell provides a calcium supplement. Having access to both will improve your chickens’ nutrition and keep their eggshells hard.

Many feeds contain some oyster shell. But it’s a good idea to offer free-choice oyster shell in a separate dish or grit feeder. This ensures chickens that need more calcium can get it.

What Grit Can I Give Chickens?

Good options for chicken grit include:

  • Granite grit – Crushed granite is a common standard grit.
  • Limestone grit – Calcium-rich option.
  • Insoluble quartz – Very hard grit for grinding.
  • Oyster shell – Provides calcium.
  • Coarse sand or gravel – Can provide grit in a pinch.

Avoid giving chickens meat meal, bone meal, or any type of soluble grit. Stick to insoluble granite, limestone, quartz, or oyster shell.

The grit should have ragged edges to help grind the feed but not be so sharp it damages their crop or gizzard. Go for grit of the right size labeled specifically for chickens.

How to Feed Grit to Chickens

Offer grit free-choice in a separate feeder or grit box:

  • Place grit containers inside the chicken coop for easy access.
  • Use flat trays, pans, or commercial upright grit feeders.
  • Allow at least 1-2 square inches of grit feeder space per hen.
  • Replenish grit frequently to ensure they always have enough.
  • Provide grit in a dry area protected from rain to prevent mold or caking.
  • Offer oyster shell in a separate container than insoluble granite grit.
White Rock Chicken Pecking on the Ground
White Rock Chicken Pecking on the Ground

Always provide grit separate from feed, not mixed into their feed ration. Chickens will consume the amount of grit they need when offered free-choice.

How Much Grit Do I Feed Chickens?

Chickens will eat varying amounts of grit based on their individual needs. As a general rule of thumb:

  • Provide 1 pound of grit per 15-20 adult chickens daily.
  • Allow free access – chickens will eat as much as they need.
  • Plan for higher consumption of 1 pound per 5 birds during peak laying periods.
  • Increase grit when feeding whole grains or high fiber feed.
  • Offer both insoluble grit and oyster shell free choice.

Monitor grit consumption and adjust amounts as needed. Refill grit containers frequently to ensure it’s always available.

How Often Should You Feed Grit to Chickens?

For optimal digestive health, chickens should have access to grit at all times.

Place adequate grit supplies in the coop so your flock can consume as needed. Check grit feeders daily to make sure they aren’t empty.

Refill grit and oyster shell frequently, even multiple times a week for larger flocks. Chickens are likely to run out of grit quickly when they need it most during peak laying.

NOTE

Having grit available 24/7 allows chickens to eat it as they need it according to their individual requirements. This helps support their overall digestion and egg production.

Can Chickens Eat Too Much Grit?

Chickens have a natural instinct not to overconsume grit. When offered grit-free choice, they will eat only what they need.

It’s fine for chickens to have unlimited access to insoluble granite or limestone grit. Consuming some extra grit generally won’t cause issues as it will pass normally through their digestive system.

However, chickens could potentially overconsume oyster shell, calcium supplements, or treats. It’s a good idea to offer these in moderation to prevent potential health problems.

Monitor if certain chickens seem to eat an excessive amount of grit. Reduce access if needed, but in general chickens self-regulate well when given grit free choice.

Can Chickens Get Grit Naturally?

Chickens allowed to forage and graze outdoors will pick up small pebbles and bits of dirt that can act as grit. However, this natural grit is not likely to fully meet their dietary requirements.

Natural grit may not fully satisfy a chicken’s dietary needs or provide adequate coarse particles…

Natural grit may not provide enough coarse particles for effective grinding. Chickens also need oyster shell to complement the granite grit they eat.

While free-range chickens will pick up some grit naturally, it’s still important to provide them with commercial grit and oyster shell. This will ensure they get the right size, amount, and composition of grit their gizzards need.

Can Chickens Eat Sand for Grit?

In a pinch, chickens can eat some builders sand or horticultural sand to provide temporary grit. However, sand is not an ideal substitute for proper insoluble grit.

Sand may be too fine and not have enough texture for grinding. It also does not provide calcium like oyster shell. Eating sand long-term could potentially lead to crop impactions.

Offering limited quantities of sand is okay if chickens have no other grit source. But you should still obtain proper granite grit, limestone, or oyster shell soon to meet their nutritional needs. Sand does not provide the full benefits of poultry grit.

What’s the Difference Between Oyster Shell and Shell Grit for Chickens?

Oyster Shells in The Market
Oyster Shells in The Market

Oyster shell and shell grit refer to different products:

  • Oyster shell – Ground-up oyster shells provide calcium and nutrients.
  • Shell grit – Usually a limestone-based grit for grinding food. May contain some oyster shell pieces for added calcium.

Chickens need both in their diet:

  • Oyster shell – Calcium supplement to support egg production.
  • Shell/limestone grit – Insoluble granite particles to grind feed in gizzard.

Offer oyster shell free-choice to ensure chickens get enough calcium for their needs. Provide a quality shell grit or granite grit for proper digestion. Having access to both supports a balanced chicken diet.

Can Baby Chicks Eat Grit?

Grit should be introduced slowly to chicks starting around 2-4 weeks old once they develop their gizzard. Until then, they receive nutrients from the yolk sac.

Look for “chick grit” or “starter grit” that is finely granulated for baby chicks. Place just a pinch or two in their feed. Limit access at first to prevent overconsumption.

Gradually increase the amount of chick grit provided from 4-8 weeks old as the chicks grow. By 8 weeks, they should have full access to regular grit for adult chickens.

Chick Eating Grains
Chick Eating Grains

Grit is important for baby chicks to start practicing using their gizzard. Introduce it slowly and increase with age to support their digestion. With proper grit, chicks will grow into healthy adult chickens.

Poultry grit is essential for chickens as it promotes improved digestion, increased egg production, and overall health. It is crucial to provide a mix of grit sizes for adult chickens, complemented with oyster shell for calcium. To ensure that chickens consume an adequate amount, it is advisable to observe their behavior regularly, just like with all animal feeds safe for chickens.

Frequently Asked Questions

What happens if chickens don’t eat grit?

If chickens don’t consume grit, they may struggle with proper digestion. Grit is essential for birds with a gizzard, as it helps break down hard grains and seeds in their stomach. Without grit, chickens may experience difficulty processing food, leading to nutritional deficiencies and overall health issues.

Is silica grit good for chickens?

Silica grit can be beneficial for chickens. It aids in digestion by providing the abrasive material necessary for grinding down grains in the gizzard. Additionally, silica contributes to strong eggshells, promoting overall poultry health. However, it’s crucial to offer a balanced mix of grit types to meet all the birds’ digestive needs.

Do chickens need grit every day?

Chickens don’t necessarily need grit every day, but it should be available to them regularly. The frequency depends on their diet, with chickens consuming more grit when fed coarse grains or backyard forage. Providing access to grit at all times ensures they can regulate their intake based on their digestive requirements.

How do I know if my chickens need grit?

Observing your chickens’ behavior can indicate if they need grit. If they are pecking at small stones, engaging in excessive feather pecking, or showing signs of slow digestion, it may be a signal that they require grit. Additionally, offering a variety of grit sizes allows chickens to choose what suits their needs.

Are eggshells grit for chickens?

Eggshells can serve as a source of calcium for chickens but are not a substitute for grit. While they contribute to strong eggshells, chickens still need grit to aid in grinding down other feed components in their gizzard. It’s advisable to provide a separate source of grit to ensure comprehensive digestive support for your flock.

Image Reference

  • Content Image – Berkowski & Co. Grit types for your pigeons and chickens. [Photo]. Pinterest. https://www.pinterest.ph/pin/629096641697528612/