Grit for chickens

Chicken digestionChickens can’t chew, but
their food does get ground up before being digested.  Those of you
who have killed and gutted chickens for the table have probably
discovered the gizzard — a round object about half the size of your
fist that, when cut open, is often full of hard objects like stones and
sand.  The gizzard is a muscle that expands and contracts, working
your chickens’ dinner up against these objects (known as grit) to break
the food into smaller pieces and aid in digestion.

People who keep their
flocks in artificial environments have to provide grit for their birds
or the chickens will be like a lot of old geezers who’ve lost their
teeth and can only eat Chickens with gritapplesauce.  Chickens with
no access to any kind of grit can do okay on commercial chicken feed
since it’s pre-ground, but they won’t be able to digest whole grains
and will have a tough time with most wild foods.

Pastured chickens
usually pick up enough natural grit to do the job — bones, rocks, and
shells all act as grit in the wild.  But after reading that
chickens will be less prone to forage if they don’t have enough grit to
grind up the tougher food, I decided to introduce some grit and see
what happened.  You can buy grit in the feed store if money is
burning a hole in your pocket, but I figured our flock would be fine
with some creek gravel.  Our girls didn’t seem very interested
once they realized there was no food in the pile, which I figure is a
good sign and indicates that our chickens are getting plenty of natural
grit after all.

Unlimited clean water from our chicken waterer is the other
component in a healthy chicken diet.

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