Hen's Teeth - when, how and how often to give them rocks

Discussion in 'Feeding & Watering Your Flock' started by Raising Reds, Aug 29, 2010.

  1. Raising Reds

    Raising Reds Out Of The Brooder

    Jan 9, 2009
    North Carolina
    I've always been told that chickens use rocks in their stomachs to grind up their food. How should I best make this available to them? What size rocks? Are there any particular types that are better than others (pea gravel versus quartz) and how often do they need to replace what they have? Will oyster shell serve this purpose as well as their need for calcium?

    My chickens free range a couple of times a week for about an hour at a time and there are small rocks in the yard but I've never noticed one pecking at or swallowing a rock. I throw some small (pea sized to about 1/8 pea sized) rocks in their pen every month or so and wonder if this is sufficient or completely wrong. Please share your knowledge!
  2. booker81

    booker81 Redneck Tech Girl

    Apr 18, 2010
    You can purchase "grit" at the farm store - usually it's located near the chicken feed.

    Mine are out and about regularly, and the last roos I processed, I checked out what they had in their gizzards (where they "chew" food with rocks). Most of the rocks are about 1/8" to 1/4".

    You can throw out grit for them, mine don't really give one whit or another about it. The rocks in the gizzards looked like a few of the grit rocks (light colored) and the rest were normal yard small rocks (dark colored).
  3. Lorije1

    Lorije1 Chillin' With My Peeps

    Mar 13, 2010
    If your chickens free range they probably pick up dirt and sand from the roots of plants they destroy... I mean eat [​IMG]

    I still bought a little 5lb bag of crushed granite chicken grit (they have chick grit too) and keep some available in the run and the henhouse - they know if they need it.
  4. swimmer

    swimmer Chillin' With My Peeps

    Aug 17, 2010
    My qestion is, how would I know if my chickens ever needs grit? They free range every day for a few hours. But are there any signs that they may not be getting enough? I haven't added grit in their run and probably will do so once the snow flies, but for now they should be ok if they are free ranging every day?
  5. Lorije1

    Lorije1 Chillin' With My Peeps

    Mar 13, 2010
    I would say yes, they should be fine. Particularly if you have sandy soil or little pea gravel around. I rarely if ever see my chickens at the grit that I have out, but I'd rather play it safe.
    I think if it were causing problems you would notice their crops staying large, maybe being hard.... not sure
  6. dawg53

    dawg53 Humble Premium Member

    Nov 27, 2008
    Jacksonville, Florida
    When my chicks reached 2-3 weeks old I provided them with parakeet grit scattered on the floor of their cage near their feeder. As adults I mix crushed oyster shell and regular grit purchased from the feed store onto the ground in their pen. They seem to know when they need to eat it and there hasnt been any issues in that respect.
  7. swimmer

    swimmer Chillin' With My Peeps

    Aug 17, 2010
    I figure they are getting enough. But will put some in their run just in case. Can't hurt any.
  8. darkmatter

    darkmatter Chillin' With My Peeps

    Jul 10, 2009
    When I butcher, I always look at the Gizzard contents. I find some pretty polished pebbles that way; I once found a marble that was frosted ground down to a third of its original size. I live in the Midwest and the ground around here has glacial debris in it from Canada even. I have an old tractor tire I fill with creek sand and wood ashes, so I assume some of the Gizzard stones come from that and what they find in the Run.

  9. Yay Chicks!

    Yay Chicks! Chillin' With My Peeps

    Apr 15, 2010
    Forest Grove, OR
    My soil is very clay-like and thus my chickens eat all the grit I put out for them. Usually just a very small bowl per day. So, soil really is a determinate.
  10. Ridgerunner

    Ridgerunner True BYC Addict

    Feb 2, 2009
    Northwest Arkansas
    I don't know of any way to tell that they need grit. They use it in their gizzard to grind up some of their food like seeds, grass, hard shelled bugs, such as that. If they don't have grit, they could get an impacted gizzard, which means the exit from the gizzard gets blocked and they can starve to death even though they are eating plenty. It is also possible the stuff in the gizzard could turn septic. Not sure about that though. I'm pretty sure it does not back up all the way to the crop, so you would not have a clue what is going on. They'd just be "sick".

    Grown chickens can use rocks from about the size of a pea down to sand as grit. The harder the rock the longer it will last. Size makes a difference in how long it lasts to. Granite is one of the best since it is so hard. They can use sandstone, quartz, limestone, about anything. Diamonds would be fabulous, but I don't love my girls that much. One disadvantage to limestone and something that makes the relatively soft oyster shell pretty useless as grit is that the gizzard also contains acid. That acid dissolves the oyster shell so it is no good as grit. It's not really hard enough anyway but that does not matter. It will dissolve first.

    They will pick up rocks for grit while they are free ranging. How much I don't know. If the rock is fairly hard, they don't need a lot. If their pen is on the ground, they are getting grit there. I'd suggest you either keep throwing rocks in their pen as you have been doing or you can always buy a bag of grit and offer it free choice in a cup in their pen. It does not cost much and you will feel a lot better. You will also see how little they actually need. I used to go to a gravel road and gather small rocks and throw it in their run, but I got a couple of bags of pea gravel to put in a spot in their run that gets wet, so they can use that. If the gravel road were salted in the winter for ice, don't use it. Their bodies cannot handle the extra salt.

    Hope this helps a bit.
    Last edited: Aug 29, 2010

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