Should I feed grit?

Your Chickens - - Ask Our Experts -

Q I have four hens that are six months old. Should I be feed­ing them grit?

A Julie Moore says: There are two types of poul­try grit avail­able: in­sol­u­ble and sol­u­ble.

As chick­ens do not have teeth, in­sol­u­ble grit such as small stones, passes through the bird to the giz­zard where it is used to grind down food so that it can be eas­ily di­gested. The grit has to be a suit­able size for the hen, oth­er­wise it will pass straight through the bird.

When hens are able to free-range, they should be able to find enough of their own grit when for­ag­ing.

Sol­u­ble grit or oys­ter shell grit pro­vides a source of cal­cium for lay­ing hens. Oys­ter shell is not a sup­ply of grit for di­ges­tion be­cause the sharp edges are eas­ily worn away by the acid in the giz­zard.

Lay­ing hens need a di­etary source of cal­cium for shell for­ma­tion — eggshells are com­posed of around 97 per cent cal­cium car­bon­ate. Many layer feeds do con­tain a source of cal­cium in the form of crushed lime­stone. Hens de­prived of ad­e­quate amounts of di­etary cal­cium will use cal­cium stored in their bones to pro­duce eggshells. This can cause brit­tle bones that frac­ture eas­ily. Even though your feed may con­tain cal­cium, it’s ad­vis­able to of­fer your hens oys­ter shell as free choice in a sep­a­rate dis­penser from their feed. As each hen has dif­fer­ent cal­cium re­quire­ments, they will be able to con­sume as much cal­cium as they need.

Free-rang­ing hens should be able to find enough of their own in­sol­u­ble grit such as small stones, when for­ag­ing. With the bird flu re­stric­tions, of course, they are un­able to free range

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