Grit and Oyster Shell On the side?

Discussion in 'Feeding & Watering Your Flock' started by mrjoemomma, Feb 27, 2013.

  1. mrjoemomma

    mrjoemomma Out Of The Brooder

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    Noob question. My brain is swimming right now. Brand new to raising chickens. I understand the need for grit and oyster shells and many post mention it "on the side" or "available." I have been mixing both directly into the feeder with the pellets. Is this bad? If I offer a "dish" on the side, will they not spill it?

    Three Buff Orpingtons hens. First three eggs yesterday. Stoked is an understatement.

    Thanks.

    Joe
     
  2. ChickensRDinos

    ChickensRDinos Chillin' With My Peeps

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    I use two small metal containers that hang off the hardware cloth in my run so that they can't get knocked over. I like to keep them separate because these are not things that hens need to eat daily. If they are separate from the feed they can just eat them as needed and won't end up eating too much.

    Mixed it with pellets probably isn't bad because in theory they can peck around them depending on your feeder but there is no need for them to be together and they shouldn't be eating a lot of either grit or oyster. Depending on what the ground on your run is like, you can just sprinkle them on the ground.
     
  3. Ridgerunner

    Ridgerunner Chicken Obsessed

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    People do different things. I like to offer oyster shell on the side. Oyster shell is there to provide extra calcium for the egg shells when they are laying. But too much calcium can harm their internal organs. Their body has to work extra hard to get rid of calcium they don’t need.

    It’s not a case of one bite will kill them. It takes a fair amount of excess calcium over a time period to do the damage, so don’t freak out about what you have already done. It’s unlikely you have harmed them.

    Chickens can get calcium from a lot of sources. If you are feeding Layer, they are probably getting all the calcium they need from that. If they can forage, they may be picking up some extra calcium there.

    Chickens are pretty good about eating oyster shell if they need extra calcium and not eating it if they don’t need it. By offering it on the side, I don’t force them to eat more than they need.

    To me grit is much the same, though I don’t feel as strongly about that. If they need grit they’ll eat it but they would need to eat a lot of grit for it to cause a problem. I suggest offering it on the side. I don’t feed grit because mine forage some. They get all they need from the ground.
     
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  4. GreenMountainEric

    GreenMountainEric Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Exactly what I would have said, and likely the best answer that this thread will see.

    Also, just to add to the above. You would not have harmed your chickens by mixing the oyster shell with feed for a short period of time. It would take months before you would start to run a risk of your chickens getting Rickets or internal organ damage. However, I know of many cases that involved mixing oyster shell, or grit, into the diet of young birds. These cases ended badly. Meat birds will die within a couple weeks if their calcium/phosphorous ratio is above 3/1. Young layers (under 12-14 weeks) are also high risk. Adult Layers, however, are equipped to manage calcium better. They are also smart enough to know when they need oyster shell/grit, and when they don't. Free choice is the best way.
     
  5. mrjoemomma

    mrjoemomma Out Of The Brooder

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    Feb 24, 2013
    Free choice, but they are both a must. Is that correct?
     
  6. cafarmgirl

    cafarmgirl Overrun With Chickens

    The disadvantage to mixing it with the feed is that when they are eating and searching out the food they are more likely to start billing it out of the feeder as they search for what they want at the moment and end up wasting more.

    I would definitely always offer the oyster shell to laying hens, let them take what they need. I always have grit available as well, some people don't depending on where and how much their birds can get out and forage. We have pretty fine, sandy soil, not much in the way of decent size grit for adult hens so I just supply it and they do use it up.
     
    Last edited: Feb 27, 2013
  7. ChickensRDinos

    ChickensRDinos Chillin' With My Peeps

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    No. Not always. If you are feeding a layer feed then it is likely that they are getting enough calcium and the oyster is really a just in case. Layer feed already has extra calcium in it. You could forgo it unless you see an issue. If your birds are free ranging they will be pick up little rocks and minerals while they forage so you don't really need grit.

    I do not feed layer and I have a very small yard and my hens spend most of the day in an inclosed run so I do need both. You may or may not. It really depends on your situation. If you are going to provide I would recommend separate. It doesn't hurt to have them but it is an extra expense if you are looking to cut costs and determine that you don't need.
     
    Last edited: Feb 27, 2013
  8. GreenMountainEric

    GreenMountainEric Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Not at all. Most people do not feed grit. Maybe only 50% feed oyster shell. If they are eating mostly layer feed, you usually don't need to supplement anything. If they forage, or eat scratch feed, etc... it is usually a good idea to have oyster shell available. If your birds live in a cage, you should give them grit.
     
  9. mrjoemomma

    mrjoemomma Out Of The Brooder

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    These are all fantastic comments I appreciate it very much.
     
  10. donrae

    donrae Hopelessly Addicted Premium Member

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    My run is on top of decomposed granite, so I skip the grit.

    Oyster shell I just toss a handful in the run and let them scratch around for it. Gives them something to do.
     

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