This week we’re going to talk about a very important piece to raising backyard chickens. It’s a topic that if you’re brand new to this hobby, you may not think about. But it’s very important so pay close attention!
Chickens are wonderful creatures! However, they were not created with teeth. When chickens are foraging and pick up larger snacks, or you give them leftovers and treats, they aren’t able to chew to begin the digestive process. This is where grit comes in!
Grit is necessary for your chickens to digest anything other than chicken crumble or pellets. When your chickens ingest larger food items, bugs, snacks or scraps they need grit. Grit is stored in their gizzard and when the gizzard contracts, the grit helps to crush up the food pieces making it possible for your chickens to digest their food. Chicken food, whether crumble or pellet, is formulated so that they don’t need grit to digest it.
Grit can be in the form of small pebbles or rocks found outside or you can purchase grit from a farm supply store for your flock.
Most store-bought chicken grit is formulated to include probiotics (good bacteria) for the gut and digestive system. This is a double win when raising backyard chickens as opposed to just letting them pick up stones and pebbles outside. I usually put my grit and oyster shells next to each other and they pick at each one as needed.
When Should I Start Grit with Chicks?
Grit is not necessary in these first days of life, and I wouldn’t recommend it. Instead, feed chick crumble (I use non medicated) and First Peep™ to get your chicks off to a healthy and strong start. I would get your chicks eating the crumble by sprinkling First Peep on their food daily. First Peep is a non-medicated feed supplement with organic oregano essential oil, kelp and prebiotics to get your chicks’ digestive system up and running strong. This also encourages the chicks to eat their chick crumble which is specially formulated for them and ensures they grow healthy and strong.
I usually start introducing treats when the chicks are around 2 weeks old. This is a personal preference and their treats do not take the place of their balanced chick crumble. If I introduce some greens or a treat of some kind, I make sure to offer them chick grit. There is a size difference between chick and chicken grit. Chick grit is quite a bit smaller and easier for chicks to use. Chicken grit is larger in size and made for chickens. Make sure you’re offering the correct grit according to the size of your birds.
Should I Always Offer Grit?
Chickens are smart and they usually know what they need in order to digest their food. I always have grit available to my flock. I do this, especially in the winter when they have no access to outdoor pebbles or stones. But honestly, I put it out all year round just to make sure they have access to what they need when they need it. If chickens don’t have access to grit, they are unable to digest larger food items and that can lead to blockages, illness, or death. I’d rather be safe than sorry, so I always just offer it to them, and they can eat it on an as-needed basis.
Who knew that rocks would play such an important role in raising backyard chickens? Again, chickens are smart! And if we give them the proper tools, they can live and be healthy for a long time.
Until next time,
–The Wing Lady