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Do chickens need shell grit?

Chicken health, How to..

Adding shell grit to your chicken’s diet is vitally important – it’s essential to their digestive system healthy and functioning well, and helps to ensure they have access to the nutrients their bodies demand.

What is shell grit?

Shell grit is a chicken dietary supplement, aiding in digestion and also benefiting their dietary health. Shell grit is made of ground-up, gritty sea shells. It both looks and feels like coarse gravel.

Digestion

Chickens do not have teeth. They eat with the beak. This is the perfect tool for pecking feed in crumble or pellet form, small grains, grass, or insects – sometimes a mouse! Their mouth contains glands that secrete saliva, which wets the feed to make it easier to swallow. Chickens use their tongue to push the feed to the back of the mouth to be swallowed.

Once they consume their feed, their esophagus takes the food down to the crop (a pouch in the esophagus used to store food temporarily before moving it onto the stomach) to be stored.

Food from the crop then slowly passes down to the stomach (proventriculus). The proventriculus mixes the food with acids and digestive enzymes. Food is then passed through to the gizzard, where insoluble grit has accumulated. This grit may contain small, hard particles of pebbles or sand. Grit gradually wears down in the gizzard, so birds need to occasionally swallow new stones. Food is then ground down by extremely strong muscular action, combined with the grit in the gizzard. The gizzard essentially works as the chicken’s teeth!

Wild and free-ranging chickens eat small stones and shells to help their digestion. And backyard chicken keepers provide shell grit so their chickens are able to break down foods in the gizzard. 

Nutrition

Shell grit for chooks helps them digest food and is an excellent source of slow-release calcium, critical for bone health and strong eggshells. 

When chickens don’t get enough calcium from their diet, they draw it from their bones’ reserves. This, in turn, results in poor, weak egg shells and chickens with a weakened skeletal system.

Without a sufficient intake, hens are more likely to lay thin-shelled or soft-shelled eggs, and become prone to internal egg breakages and becoming egg bound. Calcium is also used in many other processes inside the hen’s body. It functions in association with a smaller amount of phosphorus, and these can only be utilised in the presence of vitamin D3. Protein is also required to facilitate the process. This is why a balanced diet is a must for chooks.

How to feed shell grit to chickens

Shell grit needs to be provided to hens from point of lay (around 20 weeks) onwards. Chicks and roosters don’t require calcium beyond what’s in their proprietary feed and don’t tend to help themselves to the hens’ stash.

Shell grit should always be provided ad lib so that your hens can eat it whenever they want to. Your chickens will know when they need more calcium or grit, and providing the supplement this way lessens any risk of overdose or deficiency. You will find that your chickens often consume grit before roosting ready for the 18-hour shell formation process that occurs overnight. 

Our popular product Calci-Protein Blend is a highly palatable and favoured mix of shell grit with natural calcium and proteins.

This is a unique blend of all-natural grains, herbs, and spices.  And, has been designed to increase your hen’s protein and calcium levels, giving them the best chance to lay healthy nutritious eggs with a strong hard shell.

It is also a perfect addition to your hen’s diet during moulting season. They require a boost of protein and calcium to aid in growing their new feathers.

Are eggshells grit?

Not really, once they have been roasted and crushed to small pieces they are very easy for the chickens to digest.

You can give crushed egg shells for a calcium boost. Learn how to do this here.

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