Chickens don’t have any teeth, you’ve probably heard of the expression ‘as rare as hen’s teeth’. Without teeth, they have a different way of grinding food and that’s where grit comes in.
Insoluble or Digestive Grit
When your hen eats pellets or corn, the food passes into her crop. Food is then stored in the crop for up to six hours, this is where it softens and starts the process of digestion. During the course of the day the food leaves the crop and enters an organ called the Proventriculus, which is the first part of the stomach. At this stage in the digestive process the food is mixed with enzymes, to break down protein and peptides and assist with absorption.
After the food has left the Proventriculus, it enters the second part of the stomach called the Gizzard. This is basically the grinding mill of the gut, to replace the lack of teeth. Grit is needed here to help grind up vegetation and break down the hard husks of grains and seeds that your hen might eat. This grinding enables the food to be processed into a form which allows the nutrients to be absorbed into the bloodstream.
Without insoluble grit, your hen can’t digest her food properly and can become unwell. If there is insufficient grit in the diet, hens are more prone to impactions as the gut can’t deal with large lumps of food.
The other side to grit is soluble grit, which provides the calcium needed to produce egg shells. Without enough calcium in the diet, hens can’t produce healthy, strong shells. Thin, brittle shells are a sign that the hen may need more calcium. Eating their own eggs is another symptom that they may need more soluble grit in the diet.
Free Range Vs Coop Kept Diet
All chickens, however they are managed, should have access to a free supply of grit. Chickens kept on a large outside area are able to source some natural grit from their environment, so they generally eat less supplementary grit because of this. It is still necessary to supplement their diet though, to minimise the potential health problems found from insufficient grit in the diet. Chickens kept in a coop cannot obtain enough grit from their surroundings, so it is even more imperative that they have a readily available supply.
What’s The Best Chicken Grit?
Having tried several different brands and types over the years, we can confidently say the best chicken grit we have ever used is Gastro Grit. Whereas the other grits would often sit in their pots relatively untouched, Gastro Grit is far more palatable. This made a huge difference to the quality of our eggs, most notably the shells went from being paper thin and breaking when picked up, to needing a good hard crack to open them. Egg production increased and our ex-caged hens also stopped eating their own eggs.
Gastro Grit contains soluble and insoluble grit, as well as other beneficial extras such as brewers yeast, seaweed and charcoal. The added herbs and aniseed contribute to the enhanced palatability.
You can get Gastro Grit in two sizes, 1kg pouches for a smaller flock and for those with more hens, 5kg bags are also available.
Thank You For Reading
If you would like a FREE guide to chicken enrichment, CLICK HERE.
Natalie Bucklar, BSc (Hons), MSc is the owner of Pawsitive Thinking. We offer a tried and tested portfolio of products to help you with the training, care and enrichment of your much loved pets. SHOP HERE
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