Do they need grit

Discussion in 'Feeding & Watering Your Flock' started by shodack, May 28, 2015.

  1. shodack

    shodack Songster

    Mar 19, 2015
    central NY
    Once they're outside? My 6 week olds are in a 20x15' enclosure. There's some deep litter, weeds, gravel (pea sized, too big for them to swallow, I'd think), and I'm wondering if I should still be providing grit, or if they will find what they need on their own. They forage but also have food and water at all times. Oh, I do also have a pan with sand for dust bathing (which they have yet to use).
  2. Ol Grey Mare

    Ol Grey Mare One egg shy of a full carton. .....

    Mar 9, 2014
    My Coop
    I always provide it - given how inexpensive it is, it seems a good investment to protect against potential issues if the grit supply available to them naturally is not what I would think it is, especially during seasons when they are not as inclined to be out looking to pick it up but I am still offering food items that would require grit for digestion.
  3. MrsBrightSide

    MrsBrightSide In the Brooder

    May 26, 2015
    Hi there.. this is not in reply to your question (sorry!) so much as an additional one? I have 3 week old chicks in brooder... keep reading things about grit. What is grit? Do they need it? When I purchased them the lady didn't say anything about grit... am i missing something? Thanks and sorry I can't help with your question [​IMG]
    Last edited: May 28, 2015
  4. Grit is small stones and or large grains of sand that act like prolog teeth in the gizzards of birds and reptiles. These animals gizzard uses this rocky material like little mill stones to grind and break up their partly digested food before it goes into the stomach.

    Grit comes in 3 sizes, (1)chick size like kosher salt grains, (2)chicken size like between grains of sorghum and barley, (3)turkey size like maybe black pepper corns. I only use the first 2 sizes and mostly just size no. 1.

    They (chickens) all need grit. It is the first thing that I put before them when they hatch, except for maybe sweet water and or buttermilk.

    This first feeding of grit is also a good way to learn about a new born chicks' pecking response or reaction that it displays at every thing like news print, and freckles on your hand. Pecking at everything it sees is one way (the main way) that chicks learn about their environment.

    [​IMG]Wink Wink, surely every farm girl has heard her maw talking about a neighbor and saying[​IMG] "Why old Billy Bob sure has himself a craw full o' grit if he asked the Widow Jones to dance! Wink Wink[​IMG] Grit can also mean courage.
    Last edited: May 29, 2015
    2 people like this.
  5. Spangled

    Spangled Songster

    Jan 12, 2012
    Serenity Valley
    Granite grit. I buy it for my chicks. #1 size (1/16"). Sometimes it's called "fine" grit. The back of my package says that chicks aged 1-3 weeks get #1, and that chicks aged 4+ weeks old should get #2 (3/16"). For whatever reason, I feed my chicks #1 until about 10 weeks old, then switch to #2. I am very loosey-goosey on the age, though. If they have graduated from soaked field peas (or sunflower seeds) up to hard field peas, then I think they are ready for #2 no matter what age they are.

    The bag says that the chicks can have the grit "free choice" at 2 weeks, but before that, it should be sprinkled into the feed. I read some unsubstantiated horror story about chicks eating grit only (ignoring their feed) and then dying, so I'm all paranoid about mine dying from "free choice" grit. I sprinkle it into their feed as if I were peppering my food, then I run my finger through it to hide it.

    By the time they are 14-16 weeks, I know that the chickens I have here can tell feed from granite grit, so I no longer worry about them overeating it. I give it to them free choice and don't worry about it again. It will last in their gizzard at least 3 days, so I don't worry if they run out one day and I can't get it to them right that minute. They survive. (So far.)

    I give it from about day 2 or 3. My chicks will sometimes tear up their paper towels and eat them. I put paper towels down and then transition to softwood shavings quickly once they figure out that they get feed from a feeder. Because I have seen them digging in the wood shavings and eating wood shavings, I feed the chicks granite grit because I don't know how their intestines will react to wood shavings. Because of eating wood shavings, I give granite. The same with grass and grass roots, etc.

    Mouth, esophagus, crop, proventiculus, gizzard, intestines. That's approximately the route of chicken feed.

    The grit is used by the gizzard to grind up their feed, as we all know. A whole piece of wheat could go straight through a chicken that doesn't have any grit in their gizzard. That is wasted food!!! Wasted money, too! The chicken got no nourishment out of it because it wasn't ground up in the gizzard. Even years ago when my chickens had grit, they couldn't grind up a certain type of millet nor whole flax. So I stopped feeding those grains to them. There's no point. So if my chickens get a mash or pelleted mash, if they are out foraging, which they are, and they eat a seed, I want that seed to be ground up in the gizzard and utilized.

    That random seed has minerals that my chickens don't get from their chicken feed. I want them to get as varied a diet as they can get as inexpensively as possible. For that reason, I give them grit. That way I know what they eat is ground fully and that they are able to utilize all that they eat rather than having it go straight through them, plus they get some great and varied nutrients that make our eggs more nutritious and actually tastier than eggs from hens that have standard, non-varied feed. (Yes, we taste tested on our own chickens.) (But, you know, it's not like we'll always be able to free range them. Who knows what the future holds.) Plus they get kitchen scraps and they need grit to grind things like apple seeds, etc. No, not a lot of apple seeds, just a few now and then.

    My hens get two feeders: One with whole wheat and oats or barley (hopefully no more than $15% on the oats and barley) and another feeder with a ground complete feed. They have our rocky naturally gravel driveway to peck at, but I still give them insoluable granite because it will last longer in the gizzard than some softer stones because they need some way to grind those whole grains. (It doesn't actually dilute their protein intake according to studies to have two feeders because the hens are (according to the university studies) able to differentiate between protein and carbohydrates and then eat the right amount of each so that they can lay eggs according to their genetic tendencies.) Works great so far ... we've got a 5 1/2 year old Black Copper Marans still laying great guns at 4-5 eggs a week. I'm really surprised by that.

    Here's an article that basically says that it's beneficial for growing chicks and layers to receive granite grit:

    I say what I happen to practice currently, but I think it's obvious that my way is not what I am suggesting as what anyone else should do. It just works for me so far from what I can tell. There's more than one way to skin a cat; that's for sure. (Seriously, that is an odd expression. Where in the world did it come from?)

    See my reply above. Also, grit is tiny rocks ... usually granite because it's one of the hardest stones around and has a greater grinding capacity. The gizzard is a muscular organ where the granite grit will settle into, until the grit is ground away by rubbing against each other and the grains/grasses/twig bits/etc. The amount of grit in an adult gizzard is about 1 teaspoonful, but, of course, it varies a lot from bird to bird.

    I'm not sure ... but just because "the lady didn't say anything about it" doesn't necessarily mean anything, does it? I've never had any person (lady or gentleman) selling me chickens (or chicken feed ingredients) tell me that I needed grit. I think it's assumed that chicken owners will figure out what their chickens need or don't need. ::shrug:: To chicken people, it's just sort of common knowledge that grit is an option (or not optional depending on what you have read, heard, and witnessed concerning grit). I heard about it first from a lady in Scotland when she was showing me how to take care of chickens. So it's not just a thing in the US. It makes me wonder when folks started giving grit to chickens. I know that other seed-eating birds (song birds) also eat grit, so at some point people in the past figured out that chickens naturally ate rocks. I guess, for that reason alone (wild chickens eat rocks on their own wihout prompting from people), we should consider grit a necessity for penned birds.

    I believe my chicks need grit based on reading and watching them eat shavings, grass, and other weird stuff. I also base that belief on seeing whole seeds in their droppings at times when I haven't been watching the level on the granite feeder. I also believe that they will grind all their feed more efficiently if they have some grit in their gizzards ... even if they are eating a mash alone. My opinion only. Many would disagree with me, though quite a few would agree.
    1 person likes this.
  6. shodack

    shodack Songster

    Mar 19, 2015
    central NY
    So how do you all provide the grit, in a container of some sort or scattered?

    MrsBrightSide, they also really love grit, it's a treat for them! Fun to watch them go at it :)
  7. 3riverschick

    3riverschick Poultry Lit Chaser

    May 19, 2009
    Here ya go. This is an article I wrote a while back. read all three posts.
    The Science Of Feeding Grit To Poultry
    There's a bibliography for further reading. Excellent advice from the other posters! The 2nd page of this PDF has dosage and ages on it. Like the other posters mentioned, note the importance of feeding the right size grit at the right ages. You may not see a difference in the growth of your chicks due to the grit using this schedule. What is happening is inside the chicks where a stronger, larger, healthier gizzard is developing. When the pullets start to lay, this schedule can result in up to 20% eggs from a hen because the gizzard is superior and doing a superior job of preparing the feed to be absorbed thru the G.I. tract. The company in the PDF is where I get my grit. They have been making it since 1935. I get mine at Agway and pay less than 10.00 per 50 bag regardless of the size of grit. If you don't have a lot of chickens, the granite is real handy to use around the garden for various things.
    Last edited: May 29, 2015
  8. Ol Grey Mare

    Ol Grey Mare One egg shy of a full carton. .....

    Mar 9, 2014
    My Coop
    Both, actually. I have a side-by-side container mounted on the wall inside the coop that has grit in one side and oyster shell in the other. I also "seed" the run occasionally by tossing a couple handfuls of grit out there into the litter for them. The container is particularly useful during the time of year when the ground is covered and they are not inclined to go scratching down through snow to find anything.
  9. Ridgerunner

    Ridgerunner Free Ranging

    Feb 2, 2009
    Southeast Louisiana
    Chickens can use most rocks for grit. When you see a chicken pecking the ground they are either looking for bits of food, eating a bit of dirt for minerals, or looking for grit. All rock used for grit is eventually ground down to sand in the gizzard and passes on through the digestive system and out the back end. The harder the rock and the bigger the pieces the longer it lasts. Soft rock or rock that crumbles like sandstone can go through pretty fast but a large piece of hard rock like granite can last for weeks. Even with large pieces of granite you need a fairly constant supply. It does get used up over time.

    Why is the grit you buy granite? Not only is it a great choice since it lasts so long, it is really cheap to supply. What you are buying is generally a by-product from granite quarries. They simply pass the waste over different sized screens and have the grit sorted in the different sizes. It’s an additional money-maker from something that would normally be a waste product and have to be disposed of.

    Do all chickens need grit? No. If all they ever eat is commercial chicken feed in mash, crumbles, or pellet form, it has already been ground up to a usable size. The digestive juices and the grinding action of the gizzard quickly reduce crumbles and pellets back to mash consistency. To make mash they simply grind up the ingredients. To make pellets they wet mash, extrude it through a die, and flash dry it. To make crumble they partially crush the pellets.

    Like the other responders I want my chick to have grit. I think it does help set up their digestive system correctly even if all they eat is prepared chicken feed. It prepares them in case they eat something not already ground up. If they are being raised by a broody hen, one of the first thing Mama does is take them to dirt and teach them to peck. This accomplished three things. It gets them grit, but also by eating the dirt the other chickens have been pooping in they get any probiotics the adults have in their system and they start working on flock immunities from the other things in the poop. Broody hens generally raise very healthy chicks. For my brooder-raised chicks I take dirt out of the run on day 2 or 3 in the brooder and feed that to the chicks to accomplish all of these. My brooder is in the coop. I never know when a hard-shelled bug will commit suicide by entering that brooder. The chicks are ready.

    If you have ever opened a gizzard when processing a chicken you can easily see where people figured out that chickens eat pebbles. I don’t know when people figured out the purpose of those pebbles but mankind has always been pretty clever. It probably did not take an observant person long to figure out that chunks go into the gizzard but only finely ground up stuff generally comes out. There may be some exceptions but not many.

    Can chicks or grown chickens eat so much grit that it causes problems? It is possible. Some chickens are just not born with the instincts they should have. Brooder-raised chicks don’t have a Mama to teach them. A chicken with a mineral deficiency might eat a lot more pebbles or sand than they should. It’s possible that they can block either the crop or the gizzard with sand or pebbles and cause serious, even fatal, problems. It’s not very likely but it is possible. It is a good idea to limit how much grit you feed them when they are just starting out. You can either mix it with their food, feed it free choice, or if they are on the ground just scatter it and let them find it. How much? Look at the size of their crops and how many there are. Don’t give them enough to fill those crops. Limit how much you give them at a time. Don’t feed it every day, maybe every two or three days. It doesn’t hurt for the free-choice container to be empty for a couple of days, especially if you are using granite grit. It will last.

    What happens if a chick eats wood shavings, a hard-shelled bug, or something else that needs to be ground up and they don’t have grit? It’s generally not a problem. If they eat small bits and don’t eat a lot of it, that stuff just passes on through their system. Depending on what it is their digestive juices might break it down some but unless they eat a lot or eat chunks big enough to block the exit from their gizzard, they will be OK. Lots of chicks are raised in brooders with wood shavings as bedding and a lot don’t get grit. Since the chick’s natural instinct is to peck and eat, the chicks do eat small bits of wood shavings. Very few have any problems but it is certainly possible so I very much want to provide grit to them. It’s just good practice and a reasonable precaution.

    Lack of grit will not cause an impacted crop. The grit is used a long way down the digestive system well beyond the crop. It will help prevent an impacted gizzard if they eat enough non-digestible things or pieces big enough to block that gizzard exit. You will never know they have an impacted gizzard, it’s buried too far down their insides. The chick will act lethargic and gradually starve to death. It is not a pleasant way to go. I do urge people to give their chicks grit, even if you think all they are eating is the chicken feed where they don’t need it.

    Unless your soil is something that has no pebbles, like reclaimed swamp land, chickens on the ground generally have no problem finding all the grit they need. They are all the time scratching and pecking, even when taking a dirt bath. But if they don’t have access to the ground, they are in cages or it is covered with ice or snow for extended periods of time, it certainly does not hurt to provide them grit and grit can be very beneficial. Where I am I never buy or supply grit, other than to chicks in a brooder. The weather gives mine enough access to the ground so they can find their own and my soil is certainly rocky enough. I venture to say that a vast majority of people worldwide that live on small farms and have free-ranging chickens never even think of providing grit to their chickens, but most people on this forum don’t have free ranging chickens. If they are contained, grit is pretty inexpensive and can be very beneficial.

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