Chickens need two different types of grit for two different reasons…
1. Chickens need grit because they don’t have teeth!
When we eat, our teeth grind the food down into small particles before swallowing. This not only starts the digestion process by mixing the food with saliva, but the smaller particles of food are easier for our body to digest and break down. Without teeth, chickens are swallowing their food whole – you have probably seen the excitement when they try to swallow an enormous worm – it is quite a challenge!
After swallowing, the chicken’s food enters the Crop. This is like an enlarged storage compartment. From there, the food enters the Gizzard (the equivalent of our stomach) The Gizzard is a muscular pouch which mixes and churns the food at the start of the digestive process. When we feed our chickens grit, and the grit reaches the Gizzard, it is used to help grind the food into smaller particles, just like our teeth would have done. Chickens therefore need to eat grit and small stones to aid the digestion of their food.
2. Your hens need soluble & insoluble grits in their diet:
We have already mentioned that there are two reasons why chickens need grit, and two types of grit. For digesting food, chickens need mainly insoluble grits which will hang around in the gizzard for grinding. But, chickens also need soluble grits which are a source of calcium. Soluble grit, such as oyster shell, will dissolve in the digestive system releasing dietary calcium. Chickens need plenty of calcium as this is what gives the egg shell its strength. Without extra calcium their body could reabsorb calcium from their bones, putting their overall health at risk. If your chickens are not laying as often as helped, or are producing soft shelled eggs on a regular basis , they could be lacking calcium in their diet.
It is also important to remember that your chickens need extra calcium, and protein, while moulting to help with the growth of new feathers – hens often stop laying while moulting as all their energy goes into feather growth rather than egg production. Supplementing their diet can help speed this process so there are less days without eggs.
Recommended Product: Gastro Grit
Learn more about Gastro Grit here
Watch our video comparing the palatability of Gastro Grit vs Ordinary Grit here