We always want the best for our little flocks. We’re sure you want to give your chickens the best food. However, premium quality foods and yummy treats are not a one-stop answer for your chicken’s health. Owners might compromise the chicken’s welfare if there are no grit and oyster shells.
Looking for a specific grit and oyster shell feeding guide for chickens? Stay in the loop because we’re dropping everything you need to know here!
What Exactly is Chicken Grit?
If there’s one supplement that your chickens might need for their long-term health, it will surely start with grit. Grit is made up of small stones that help the chicken’s stomach in grinding food. In short, grit is a food digestion aid for chicken.
Let’s take things slowly and let your imagination do its thing. Since chickens do not have teeth, they cannot grind their feeds. But to get the nutrients and vitamins they need, chickens should reduce the food into small, manageable forms. That’s where grit enters the big picture of the chicken’s digestive system.
After ingestion, the grit will go down into the chicken’s stomach, which will stay for some time. Once fully absorbed, the grit will aid the chicken’s gizzard in breaking down the feed into a nutritious paste. Without grit, chickens cannot effectively absorb the nutrients and vitamins from their feed.
What’s worse, if there’s a lack of grit, the chicken’s digestive system cannot efficiently process large amounts of food. So, while the chicken’s digestive system is efficient, it will pause if there’s insufficient grit.
|Chicken Grit Feeding Guide|
|When||(Chick Grit) Up to 8 weeks old
(Regular Grit) 8 weeks old & beyond
-Separate Container or Mixed
Are Grit and Oyster Shell the Same?
Chickens indeed need grit. Without these small stones in their gut, they cannot digest grains and scratch. However, there are two kinds of grit. What people commonly refer to as grit is called insoluble grit. On the other hand, oyster shells are also referred to as soluble grit.
People think of grit and oyster shells as the same since local stores often mix them in the same bag. However, while chickens need both, the two are unique and have different purposes.
Grit is the tiny stones that go to the chicken’s digestive system and help it break down the food without teeth. The oyster shell is dissolved inside the chicken’s stomach, giving calcium to aid the hens in laying eggs.
So, while grit’s primary purpose is digestion, oyster shells provide calcium to the laying chicken. On top of everything, chickens of all ages must be fed with insoluble grit. However, it’s worth remembering that only laying hens need the soluble grit or oyster shell.
Why do Chickens Need Grit?
Grit serves as the chicken’s teeth. It’s the one that grinds the feed into a digestible mush. The food cannot be loosed down into the stomach without grit. When chickens are bloated, they might become ill. For a quick note, here’s a list of the benefits of grit to your chicken.
- It helps in improving feed efficiency.
- It prevents the risk of crop and digestive problems.
- It provides essential minerals and elements for chickens.
- It works well with a chicken gizzard.
How Much Grit Should Chickens Have?
Chickens should have around thirty to fifty grams of insoluble grit each year. However, there’s a possibility that chickens might consume more grit than necessary for breaking down their food. But in case you’re in doubt, you could give your little ones free access. Just supply grit and let them have their way.
According to experts, there’s no such thing as grit overdose. Tests show that chickens consume more than fifty grams of grit annually but can only retain around nine to sixteen grams. All the excess grit will go out of the chicken’s digestive system after some time.
How & When Should I Feed Chicken With Grit?
When your chick learns to swallow chick crumbs and stay in the brooder, they should have free access to the grit. At this moment, it’s best to use coarse sand grit as it’s soft and easy to swallow. On the other hand, you must feed your chicken with adult-sized grit when they turn ten to twelve weeks.
Here’s a pro tip on the ideal method of how you can best feed your chicken with grit. If you’re giving these little one’s free range where they can have much as they want, you must still ensure that they have grit sufficient for their needs. Distribute the grit in separate containers in the coop. Let the chickens consume what they need.
In addition, always check if the mix you’re getting at the store for your young chickens (18 weeks old) does not contain calcium. Once young pullets or chicks consume excessive calcium, it will damage their kidneys.
Like to know more about Chicken Grit? Find more ideas in this video.
What is Oyster Shell?
Now, for the second half of this blog, we’ll discuss oyster shells. So, what exactly are oyster shells, and should you feed them to your chickens? Just as you imagine, oyster shells are from oysters in the ocean. Most chicken owners call them soluble grit. And yes, you got it right. They are called grit too!
Oyster shell is the most recognized reliable source of sufficient calcium for chickens. While at times, one may think that if chickens have regular access to commercial feed, they won’t need soluble grit. But that’s not always the situation. Laying hens call for an additional amount of calcium beyond what they get from their daily feed.
So, if you think their food doesn’t give your laying hens or chickens their needed calcium, giving them oyster shells is an excellent supplement. Oyster shells contain around 95% calcium carbonate to ensure strong-shelled eggs for laying chickens.
|Oyster Shell Feeding Guide|
|Amount||100 grams w/4% calcium everyday|
|When||Around 18 weeks before laying eggs|
-Free choice access
The Need for Oyster Shell
Before we go deeper, it’s best to put in mind that not all chickens should have access to oyster shells. Hens who are not in their laying stage have no reason to consume oyster shells. However, laying chickens often require added calcium.
This necessity is connected to the fact that they put around twenty times the calcium amount into their eggs than their bones. Want a quick recap? See our list of why laying hens call for oyster shells.
- It minimizes the possibility of eggshells breaking.
- It improves the laying chicken’s cardiovascular function.
- It boosts the chicken’s blood vessels.
- It strengthens the laying hen’s immune system.
- It reduces the risk of any signs of chicken bone damage.
Always remember that the laying hen’s overall diet impacts the egg’s quality and production. Laying chickens provides many nutrients to their eggs, making them extra sensitive to nutritional deficiency, specifically calcium.
Oyster Shell Feeding Guide
An excellent way to feed your chicken oyster shells is to provide a separate bowl of oyster shells. You can use a separate feeder too. Giving your chickens free choice access minimizes the risk of offering too much for other chickens who don’t need the added calcium.
Chickens are intelligent peeps. These little ones know what nutrients their body needs. Feed laying chickens with oyster shells year-round, whether it’s summer or winter season. And, of course, don’t forget to give molting chickens or broody hens oyster shells too.
But again, here’s a reminder. Oyster shells are only for laying hens. While a small portion of additional calcium won’t hurt chickens, the problem enters the picture when they have a surplus. Here’s a list of harmful side effects of calcium on your flocks.
- Leg abnormalities
- Metabolism problem
- Kidney failure
- Joint injuries
How Much Oyster Shells do Chickens Need?
There’s no standard amount of oyster shells to provide your laying chickens. You can always leave out a bowl or separate feeder containing oyster shells, giving them free access. But it’s best not to mix oyster shells into your chicken feed as it might lead to an overconsumption of calcium, potentially causing health issues.
Overloading the chickens with excess calcium will lead to future health issues. So, the safe way is to trust your chicken’s body and let them decide whether they want the oyster shells.
Can You Mix Chicken Grit and Oyster Shells?
Yes. Combining chicken grit and oyster shells might be a good idea so chickens can access both. However, it’s always better to put the container above the ground to keep it dry and prevent contamination. Owners must be extra careful, too, since too much calcium from oyster shells might pose serious health issues too!
Discover more about grit and oyster shells for your chicken in this YouTube video by Becky’s Homestead.
Grit and oyster shells are essential for your chicken’s health and welfare. Adding these goodies to the feeding menu would indeed make a difference. Offer them to your flock and make them always accessible. While the two serve different purposes, both are necessary for your chicken’s long-term well-being!
We hope this feeding guide helps you! Do you know how to feed chickens with grit and oyster shells? Share them with us through comments!
Joseph Hudson has been raising chickens for over 15 years. In 2018, he completed the Agriculture & Natural Resources program at Mt. San Antonio College. He currently raises over 1400 chickens on his 7.5-hectare farm. He keeps sharing his experience on raising healthy and happy chickens on Chicken Scratch The Foundry.