Do Chicks Need Poultry Grit?

Do Chicks Need Poultry Grit?

“We all know that poultry grit is just another product that farm supply stores want to sell us, right?” “It’s not very important either to our chickens or our baby chicks, is it?” These are two very good questions, and I’ve got to share that in my experience, grit is VERY important.

Today, we’ll explore the idea of grit, and I will answer the question “Is chicken grit really necessary?”

[brid video=”468113″ player=”19074″ title=”Feeding Poultry Grit To Baby Chicks!” description=”Is poultry grit really necessary for chicks? In some cases yes, and sometimes you can skip it. Do you know when? Our favorite chick starter: https://amzn.to/…” duration=”230″ uploaddate=”2019-09-17 19:19:25″ thumbnailurl=”//cdn.brid.tv/live/partners/14575/thumb/468113_t_1568747954.png”]

What is Poultry Grit?

Grit is small stones (yes, rocks) that help a chicken digest their food. Chickens will naturally pick up rocks, since it’s an instinctual behavior. But if your chickens don’t free range, or if you just want to make sure they’re as healthy as possible, poultry grit is pretty important. 

It’s different from oyster shells, which are from oysters (the same animal that makes pearls). Oyster shells will dissolve in your chickens digestive system, and are an important source of calcium. 

Grit, however, will not dissolve. While oyster shells can help chickens grind down their food, they’re not as effective as grit.

Chicken Grit: Necessary or Not? 

People aren’t sure to give grit to their chicks or whether the chicks actually need it, but chickens need grit to digest their food, and there’s really no reason to not offer it.  

What Exactly Is Chick Grit?

Chick grit is the same stuff that you give adult chickens, but it’s smaller, finer, and easier for chicks to pick up with their tiny beak. It looks like tiny flakes of rocks. There’s really no health reason to not give it to them. If you want peace of mind, make chick grit available, you can. 

If you buy them at your local farm store, double check the label, and make sure the poultry grit is specifically for chicks. Certainly, if you let your chicks free range outside, you definitely want to provide it because if they pick up seeds, bugs, grains, or whatever, they can digest it better than they would without the grit. Remember your flock’s digestive systems are new, so any food your chicks pick up if they play outside will be harder for them to digest.

Similarly, if you’re giving your chicks extra treats like vegetables, leafy greens, herbs, black soldier fly larvae, mealworms, or shrimp, all of which I give to my chicks because they love them, you should also give them chick grit. This helps ensure they can digest them properly. 

If your chicks are just going to be in a brooder and the only thing you’re going to give them is chick starter, the chick grit isn’t 100% necessary because commercial chicks starters are formulated to be easily digestible. However, it’s still not a bad idea to give them the extra grit just for precaution’s sake. 

In the wild, the chicks will go out and get the grit themselves, their mother will teach them to pick up little stones and they’ll naturally gravitate towards picking up these little stones. But in a domesticated setting like us raising chickens, it’s always a good idea just to have the chick grit available. 

How to Feed Poultry Grit To Chicks

There’s two ways to feed poultry grit to chicks. You can mix it with their feed, or offer it in a bowl separately. Both have their advantages. Mixing it with the feed means the chicks automatically will think it’s food and eat it. It’s also convenient and you don’t need to think about it. 

However, you might want to offer the grit separately to make sure your chicks eat enough real food AND to monitor their feed and grit intake. Both options are perfectly fine, and it’s up to you and what’s best for your situation.

Got questions about poultry grit? Got comments? Got suggestions? Leave a comment below.  Want to know more about grit, and your choices? Read my recent article about poultry grit here.

Poultry Grit: Your Questions Answered!

Poultry Grit: Your Questions Answered!

Chickens don’t have teeth. To help them digest their food, owners must provide their hens and roosters with poultry grit. 

Mainly made of crushed granite, it helps the chicken grind down their food while in the gizzard, the part of their stomach where food and grit are mixed together with all the acids and digestive enzymes. This process allows for the breakdown and absorption of the nutrients chickens need to be healthy.   

Many free-range chickens get the grit they need from small stones and rocks while foraging for food. But if your flock doesn’t free range, it can be difficult for the chickens to access the poultry grit they require, especially when they’re kept in fenced enclosures. For this reason, you should introduce one of the numerous varieties available of chicken grit substitutes into your flock´s daily diet.

In this article, we’ll cover the different types of poultry grit available, their quality, and their advantages.  

Grit and Oyster Shells Aren’t The Same

Grit is small stones that chickens naturally pick up. They’re important for digestion, and help chickens break down their food. Sometimes, you’ll see oyster shells referred to as grit on the Internet. While oyster shells can perform some digestive activities that grit does, these two things aren’t the same.

Oyster shells are an important source of calcium, and you should feed it so your hens lay eggs with thick shells that don’t break easily. However, it will be digested eventually, whereas rock grit will stay in your chicken’s digestive system until it’s pooped out.

Grit, on the other hand, is usually granite, and doesn’t provide any nutrients or minerals. However, because they aren’t digested, they will remain in your flock’s digestive system longer. Stones are also stronger, and better at helping break down food. It’s best to offer both of these important supplements to your chickens to help them be as healthy as possible. Now that we got that clear, let’s talk about the different types of poultry grit available.

There’s 5 Types of Poultry Grit

Small stones found in nature

Yep, if you’re on a budget or just want to use materials already available to you, then you can go collect a bunch of small stones and make them available free choice. Stones smaller than a pea are best (about the size of an elderberry). You want to make sure your chickens can swallow them! If you don’t want to search for stones, then you have commercial options listed below.

Chick grit/Flint grit

It’s very tiny and thin flakes of crushed granite. It is used for grinding down food and helping chickens, ducks, and other poultry with their digestive processes. You typically see this type for baby chicks, and used in quail grits and turkey grits because the stones are small and easy for chicks to swallow. Smaller flakes are less useful for adults.

Granite grit

This is probably what you’ll see when you look for poultry grit at your local farm store. It’s larger pieces of granite that are the perfect size for adult chickens to swallow. You can offer this granite grit free choice or mix it with your flock’s feed. Your chickens will pick up the stones as they need them.

Oyster shell grit

As mentioned above, this isn’t the same type of poultry grit as granite grit, but it can still help your flock breakdown food in their gizzard. Unlike rocks, it will eventually break down in their digestive system. This type of grit is mainly made of ground up oyster shells and it is a great source of calcium to help chickens develop stronger egg shells.

Mixed poultry grit

Because these 2 types of grit described above behave in different ways in the chicken gizzard, one is soluble and the other one is not, they can be mixed together to allow for a greater benefit.

Poultry grit with probiotics

Lately, a lot of commercial companies have started adding probiotics to oyster shells. Probiotics are always a good idea – studies show that chickens with healthy digestive systems are healthier overall, weigh more, have better food absorption, and lay better eggs.

4 brands of poultry grit

The purchase of chicken grit can be quite affordable nowadays, and doesn’t need to break your bank. To choose the best option for your flock, first of all, it is important to understand the different types of grit available and what specific benefits they can offer to your chicken and their needs. 

We have done the homework for you, so let´s have a look at some of the best considered brands and varieties of poultry grit you can buy and which will not cost you a fortune:

Manna Pro Poultry Grit

This poultry grit is made of insoluble crushed granite, and it has been specially created to aid your chickens with a thorough digestion. Additionally, it comes in a handy 25lb bag. For more detailed information and to buy this product click here.

Nest Herbs With Oyster Shells

If you want to provide your flock with oyster shells, then this product makes it easy. Chickens love it! The oyster shells are the perfect size for hens, and the aromatic herbs make their coop a more relaxing place to lay eggs. You can buy this product here.

Purina Chick Grit

Ideal for chicks, young turkeys and game birds of up to 10 weeks of age. The crushed granite has been sized smaller, making it easier to swallow for chicks and helping them to support a healthy digestion. You can purchase Purina Chick Grit here.

Cherry Stone Poultry Grit

By Cherry Stone, this poultry grit has been specially designed to enable a more efficient digestive process. It is made of 100% crushed quartzite, which is harder and sharper than granite. To buy Cherry Cherry Stone Grit click here.

Is sand good poultry grit?

While you might hear that sand is a good poultry grit substitute, it’s not. Because it’s very fine, and absorbs water, sand can clump together in the crop and digestive system, causing sour crop or an impact. Larger stones will pass through the digestive tract better.

How much poultry grit should I feed my chickens?

In most cases, you can offer it free choice and let your flock decide when they need it. Put the poultry grit in a separate container from the food. A small bowl, chicken feeder (check out my recommendations here) or poultry grit feeder will work just fine. Check on the feeder regularly, and top off as needed.

Can I feed my chick the same grit as the adults?

No. You should feed chicks a type of grit specifically created for their size. Otherwise, your chicks might not eat it, or they might choke or become impacted because the stones are too large. Most commercial chick grits will say on the package that they’re for younger poultry. You can introduce adult sized grit at about 16 weeks. Until then, providing the chicks with a high quality starter chicken feed will suffice. 

I hope this poultry grit guide has helped you decide which type is best for you and how to feed it so your chickens are as healthy as possible!

7 Natural Chicken Keeping Mistakes New Owners Make

7 Natural Chicken Keeping Mistakes New Owners Make

The second we got our farm, natural chicken keeping became a priority.

 

The egg itself is said to be the perfect source of protein, and chickens are so easy to keep that they make sense for any farm.

 

Natural chicken keeping also has the added benefit of saving you money, as long as you do it right (and there certainly are times when it’s best to not cut financial corners.)

We’ve saved by using fermented feed, herbs to keep our chickens healthy, and using food we could easily grow on our farm.

 

Buuuut….

 

We also made mistakes. 

 

At one point, we went 6 months with no eggs. That’s a huge bummer, believe me!

 

We’ve also had chickens stop laying in nesting boxes—and had to figure our way out of that one! (hint: placing eggs where you want them to lay helps!)

But we improved and got better.

 

Trust me, as a chicken owner, you will make mistakes (which you’ll learn from and get better from!)

 

As I’ve gained more experience in natural chicken keeping, and become a resource for new hen owners, there are certain mistakes I see time and again.

 

Here’s the top 7 natural chicken keeping mistakes that you can avoid—and the chickens you have hunting and pecking in your backyard will thank you!

 

1. Worrying too much about the GMO/Non-GMO debate

 

I frequently get emails from new owners who want to know whether they should provide non-GMO feed, or who don’t know what to do because they can’t afford organic non-GMO layer mash.

 

The bottom line is the quality of your hen’s diet is the most important thing. If you can’t afford organic, non-GMO feed, then just opt for what you can afford.

 

While people will tell you that natural chicken keeping begins with feeding non-GMO, organic feed, it’s also about using naturally-found herbs, fermented grain and vegetables, or even crafting your own feed to raise healthy hens.

 

It’s more important that you enjoy your “pets with benefits” and feel good about them—and if you’re stressing about not being able to afford organic feed, or if you’re putting yourself in financial distress over it, then keeping a backyard chicken flock won’t be any fun. 

 

Do your best, and enjoy the parts of natural chicken keeping that are within your budget and time constraints.

 

2. Getting a rooster so your hens lay eggs

 

Every so often I encounter new owners who believe they need a rooster to get eggs from their hens, and that roosters are a part of natural chicken keeping.

 

One of the nice things about owning hens is they’ll lay eggs whether a rooster is present or not—you only need a rooster if you want eggs to hatch. 

 

(If you’re wondering how chickens mate, it’s pretty wild.)

 

Getting a rooster isn’t a bad idea, and it helps your hens feel safer and completes their social hierarchy, but you definitely don’t need a rooster to start all natural chicken keeping.

 

Which is good news if your town doesn’t allow them!

 

3. Underestimating chicken predators

 

Every time I hear about a new owner who loses their flock to a formidable predator, I feel terrible for them. 

 

There’s nothing more heartbreaking than working hard to raise a natural, healthy chicken flock only to have it ripped apart in one night by a raccoon. 

 

I’ve found that a lot of new chicken owners don’t realize just how crafty predators can be, and how much energy they’ll exert to get a free dinner.

 

Part of natural chicken keeping is making sure your flock stays safe. 
Sometimes new owners think chickens will be fine left to their own devices, but hens are pretty much defenseless against chicken predators

 

Usually, they either run away or fly up away from predators. Other than that, they don’t have many natural defenses.

 

You might not realize that predators aren’t just wild animals—domestic cats and dogs can cast an eye at your flock.

 

We made the same mistake, until we started losing them to our dog! I’ll never forget the day we learned that our dog, who was so great with people, was a chicken killer.

 

So, even if you don’t have wild predators, remember that a secure coop and run will help prevent your flock from becoming a chicken chew toy.

 

4. Assuming chickens will fend for themselves and stay healthy

 

Probably one of the biggest mistakes I see is when new owners assume that natural chicken keeping means letting the hens forage for their own sustenance.  

 

Natural chicken keeping doesn’t mean allowing your hens to fend for themselves, and if you go this route, you run the risk of unhealthy hens, no eggs.

 

You won’t believe how many emails I get from owners who aren’t getting eggs and have no idea that diet is the issue.

 

You might also lose chickens to predators as they stray further and further from their home.

 

Sometimes I read advice that it’s natural to allow a chicken flock to feed itself because our ancestors did it, but it’s simply not true.

 

For example, what happened in the winter with snow on the ground and nothing growing? Were the hens foraging then?

 

Natural chicken keeping doesn’t necessarily mean throwing chickens in your backyard and forgetting about them until you want eggs, but it’s a common mistake I see new owners making.

5. Thinking oyster shells and grit are the same thing

 

When I read Facebook posts from people trying to explain natural chicken keeping, they frequently say something like “give your hens oyster shells or grit to help them digest.”

 

While you should offer both to your chicken flock, oyster shells and grit serve two different purposes.

 

Oyster shells are used as a calcium supplement so your hens can form healthy, hard egg shells. 

 

Without some sort of calcium supplement, your hen might become deficient in the mineral.

 

She then might start to lay soft shell or other abnormal eggs, or she might start drawing calcium from her own bones to lay natural normal-looking eggs.

 

Grit, on the other hand, helps your hen digest food, and without it, she might develop an impacted crop or even sour crop.

 

Your hen will swallow the grit, and it will make it’s way into her gizzard, where the stones will sit and help “chew” whatever food she’s eaten.

 

So, each serves a very different purpose, and shouldn’t be confused (but both are equally important for your chicken.)

 

6. Using vinegar to clean wounds

 

While vinegar works well in natural cleaning solutions, it’s not a good idea to use it in wounds. 

 

I do see this advice from time to time, and it’s a common issue in my area.

 

Even my vet asked me whether I use vinegar to clean wounds when I brought a rabbit to see her, and was relieved to hear that I don’t use it.

 

Vinegar doesn’t have the same bacteria-killing qualities as alcohol or hydrogen peroxide, for example, and it simply won’t be as effective in preventing an infection.

 

You’ll be doing your chicken a disservice by using it.

Failing to learn about common illnesses and how to treat them

 

Although many of my readers DO try to learn about common chicken illnesses before getting a flock (and a hearty high-five to them!), many owners out there DON’T—and then use Facebook groups as a way to diagnose their chickens.

 

Similarly, about once a week I get a message over Facebook from an owner who asks me to diagnose their sick chicken—something that’s virtually impossible to do over social media.

 

While I feel for every flock owner out there with a sick hen, and it’s natural to want answers, don’t wait until you’re in trouble to learn about chicken illnesses.

 

There’s many natural remedies out there for common illnesses, but the time to learn about them is not when you have a sick chicken.

 

Learn about common ailments and how to treat them (natural remedies or conventional) before or as soon as you get your flock—life will get a lot simpler, and you’ll be better prepared to help your hen when she’s in trouble.

 

While as a new flock owner, you will likely make mistakes, natural chicken keeping is full of rewards—just give it your best shot!

I’d like to hear from you!

Is there anything on this list of natural chicken keeping mistakes you would add? Leave a comment below!

Is Chick Grit Necessary?

Is Chick Grit Necessary?

A common question I get is whether chick grit is necessary. And the answer is yes….and no.

 

It depends on a few factors, namely, whether your feeding your chicks treats, letting them forage, or feeding extra things like herbs.

 

Like older chickens, grit can help chicks digest their food. In fact, if you’re feeding anything other than chick starter, I’d say you 100% should provide your new mini flock members with chick grit.

 

Luckily, that’s an easy thing to do. In this article, I show you what your chicks should eat, what supplements can make them healthier, and when chick grit is necessary.

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What is Chick Grit?

Chick grit is tiny rock fragments (naturally occurring rocks – nothing created in a lab) that have been broken down so they’re easier for baby chicks to ingest.

 

In nature, chicks will pick up rocks outside as they forage with their mothers.

 

If your chicks were incubated and/or live indoors (we keep our chicks indoors until fully feathered) OR if you feed your chicks anything other than chick starter, chick grit can be the difference between a well-functioning digestive system and one that might prevent your chicks from absorbing nutrients, eventually causing death.

 

What Should Chicks Eat?

For the full breakdown of what your chicks should eat, click here.

 

To summarize, your chicks should have 24 hour access to a high quality chick starter. I prefer to go with a commercial brand so I can be sure my chicks are getting the healthiest start possible.

 

Commercial companies put a lot of effort into making sure their feeds are properly formulated!

 

You CAN make your own chick starter (and organic chicken feed) however. Just be sure it has at least 18% protein so they grow into healthy backyard chickens.

 

To make things easier on yourself, however, especially if you’re new to chickens, going with a commercial blend takes out the guesswork. There’s plenty of non-GMO organic options out there.

Is chick grit necessary?

Medicated or Non-Medicated?

In the past, I’ve fed both medicated and non-medicated feed. Both are equally healthy.

 

The difference between them is that medicated feed contains an additive called amprolium that helps chicks develop a resistance to parasites (coccidia) naturally found in soil.

 

Yes, amprolium is a drug, and no, it’s not an antibiotic. It’s an anthelmintic, which means it helps prevent parasites.

 

These parasites can cause coccidiosis – a potentially deadly parasite infection.

 

It’s completely up to you whether you want to feed medicated or non-medicated start. Both have a place and your decision is individual to your flock.

 

If my chicks seem to do ok, then I might use non-medicated starter. If I’ve gotten chicks from a hatchery or they seem to have some health issue, then I’ll turn to medicated chick starter so I have one less issue.

 

To Ferment or Not To Ferment?

You can ferment your chick starter if you want to. Fermenting chicken feed is easy to do, and has a lot of health benefits.

 

Particularly if you plan to ferment their feed when they turn into adults, it’s a good idea to start young so they get used to the texture.

 

If you ferment the chick starter for 24 hours, it will have some beneficial bacteria in it and won’t turn moldy in that short of a period of time.

 

Apple Cider Vinegar

Something I ALWAYS give chicks is apple cider vinegar. I have a tutorial about how to make it yourself right here.

 

The beneficial bacteria in apple cider vinegar can help your chicks get a great start to life since it helps them establish good, healthy gut flora.

 

Ever heard of pasty butt? It’s similar to scours in young mammals like pigs, cows, and horses, or diarrhea in humans.  Let unattended, it can cause major health issues, including death, in chicks because their vents get clogged and they can’t defecate easily.

 

It can happen for a variety of reasons, and one big one is if their guts aren’t quite ready for life in the big world. Apple cider vinegar can help chickens avoid digestive issues and overall be healthier.

 

We found over the years that it reduces death rates in our chicks. So, it’s always in the first water our chicks get, and they love it.

 

Simply add it to their waterers and dip their beaks in very gently so they get a drink. I’ve never had a chick not take to it.

 

Herbs for Chicks

Now, before I begin this section, let me start out by saying that I’m not a fan of feeding chicks much of anything else except starter.

 

I like to be sure they’re only eating the healthiest food so they grow right and their bodies, feathers, and organs develop correctly.

 

That being said, I do have numerous readers who feed their chicks herbs so they’re healthier.

 

If you want to go this direction, then the best thing to do is offer simple, healthy herbs such as oregano or sage.

 

Oregano has strong antibiotic properties, while sage has properties that can help prevent parasites.

 

Most herbs for hens are okay, although I would stick with the two above.

 

Chick Grit

Finally, if you do feed your chicks herbs or allow them to forage outside, be sure to offer chick grit so they can easily digest anything they might ingest.

 

If they’re foraging and eat bugs or seeds, the chick grit will help them break down the hard shells so they can absorb nutrients from the goodies they’re eating.

 

You can offer chick grit as a preventative as well. When I offer chick grit, I mix it with their feed to make sure they taste test some. If you offer it separately, they might not understand what it’s about, and ignore it. It’s hard to ignore something in your feed!