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The proper diet and nutrition is important to helping your chicken stay healthy and getting those delicious eggs you want. As you make a meal plan for your chickens, you may wonder do chickens need oyster shells and grit.
Chickens need oyster shells and grit. Oyster shells provide some valuable calcium to the chickens that they can’t get from other food sources. The grit is great for helping to break down the food the chicken eats since they do not have teeth. Without the grit, the chicken will struggle to with digestion and eating their food.
Grit and oyster shells often seem to have a similar job in your chickens, yet each is important to help keep them healthy. Let’s take a closer look at the importance of grit and oyster shells for your chicken.
Do Chickens Need Oyster Shells and Grit?
Your chickens need both oyster shells and grit. Chickens are not designed to grind or masticate their own food. Without teeth, they need to use something that will reduce the size of the food particles that they eat into a more manageable form. This is often done with the use of grit and oyster shells.
If you are after some more information on what to feed chickens then i wrote an article on what and how much to feed them.
After the grit is ingested, it will travel down to the gizzard, where it will take up space until the chicken has worn it down enough that it can pass to the stomach without causing injury. While in the gizzard, the grit is going to work to help grind down the food into a paste that is easier for the chicken to absorb in the stomach. They can take all the nutrients out of the paste and then eliminate everything else.
Without the help of grit for chickens (Amazon link), the food is not going to be useable by the bird. Without the right amount of grit in the diet, the gut will not be able to deal with the food the chicken eats and that can make them really sick.
Your chickens will also need oyster shells (Amazon link) to help out too. While some varieties are going to contain other shells in the mixture as well, they are all going to be high in calcium, which most chickens need. Oyster shell is basically a soluble grit. It is going to dissolve in the gut of the hen and then is absorbed by the body. That will help it be stored to use in making shells or strengthening bones.
Is Oyster Shell the Same as Grit for Chickens?
Your hens will need both of these items. If one is missing from their diet, they could deal with some serious health issues like brittle bones and sour crop. Grit is for digestion while oyster shells are for calcium.
Many chicken owners wonder Is oyster shell the same as grit for chickens. They assume that grit and oyster shells are the same things for their chickens. This leads them to just give one or the other to their chickens. This is a common misconception that’s wrong – they both have different purposes for your chickens.
The grit is used more to break down the food that the chicken will eat each day, making it more digestible in the stomach. It will spend most of its time in the gizzard to help with digestion until it has time to move into the stomach because it is worn down. Oyster shells can help break down food, but they are more there to help provide calcium and other nutrients to the chicken.
Grit can be started for your chicken at an earlier stage. This can help them learn how to self-regulate and will give them a chance to digest their food, even when they are young. You can start this when the chicken is just a few weeks old, though you need to pick the right type of grit based on their age. Oyster shells are more of a nutritional supplement and can help the chicken get some of the calcium that they need, especially when they are about to lay eggs.
When Do Chicks Need Grit?
It is fine to start feeding the grit to the chickens when they are young. Some start when the chickens are only a few days old. This allows the chicken a way to get used to using the grit and can prevent some of the different digestive issues. It is often ideal for them to acclimatize to different feeds, so doing this at a young age is a good option.
You should be careful about the type of grit that you use. There are different types based on the age of the chicken. For chickens that are under eight weeks old, chick grit is a good option. Usually, by the time they reach eight weeks and older, they will be ready for some regular poultry grit.
A question I get asked is can baby chicks eat bread, if you are curious then be sure to click the link.
Your chickens will need to have grit each day. You can provide it to them along with their food to make sure that they get enough. Allow your hens a chance to self-regulate on this. They know when they need some more or not. While the grit itself will not have nutritional value, it helps them digest their food and get nutrition from other food sources, so it is very important.
When to Start Feeding Chickens Oyster Shells
While the chickens can start having grit while they are very young, you should wait a little bit longer before they get the oyster shells. These are calcium booster that is meant for hens that are old enough to leg eggs.
Therefore, answering, when to start feeding chickens oyster shells, it doesn’t make sense to feed it to your hens before they are able to lay eggs.
Once your hens get to being 18 weeks old, you should start purchasing these shells. You can start to slowly add it into their diet to see how they react, adding a bit more when they start to lay their first eggs.
There is no risk to your chickens having too much calcium. If they do not need more, then they will not eat more of the oyster shells. As long as it does not get added directly to the water or the food, it is not going to be an issue. Just wait until the chicken is at least 18 weeks old or the extra calcium can cause some kidney damage.
How to Feed Oyster Shells to Chickens
Feeding the oyster shells to your chicken, or even the grit, does not need to be difficult. This is something that the chicken can self-regulate. If they want to eat them, they will. Just fill a bowl of the oyster shells and leave it there. The average hen will take in 100 grams of feed with 4% calcium each day. Some hens will have a little more and some will have less.
You do not need to force the chicken to eat a certain amount. They can figure that out themselves. It is a good idea to provide oyster shells to the chicken throughout the year, no matter the season. Do not mix it with their feed though. Leave it in a separate container so they can make the decision.
For my flock of 12, I usually give a handful of grit and a handful of oyster shells in their scratch grain every day.
The Importance of Grit and Oyster Shells for Your Chicken
Both grit and oyster shells are important for the health of your chickens. While they may seem to serve similar functions, they do different work for the chicken. Your chicken will need both to stay healthy. The grit is a great option to grind up the feed you provide them, making it easier to digest, and the oyster shells will provide some extra calcium to the chickens. Simply offer these to the side of the traditional feed to help give your chickens everything they need.
to sum up, do Chickens need oyster shells and grit, the answer is yes! The main reasons for oyster shells are for their calcium content and for grit to aid with digestion. Both complement each other and will help your chickens lead healthier lives.
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