Why do Chickens Eat Rocks and Stones?

The idea of chickens eating rocks and stones might sound peculiar to any chicken keepers. However, stones and rocks are a vital part of every chicken’s diet since they help chickens digest food effectively.

While rocks and stones don’t provide chickens with nutritional value and neither do they taste good, your birds will need them to grind the food in their gizzards lest they get a sour crop.

Why do Chickens Need Grit?

Chickens have no teeth and therefore these birds can’t grind down food. If you leave your chicken to forage over your backyard or garden, they will end up picking up grit that is usually available in tiny pebbles.

Chickens store grit in their gizzards and they digest it alongside other foods these birds consume each day. Grit is vital for enabling a chicken’s digestive system to work smoothly.

A chicken’s gizzard is a special stomach with thick muscular walls. Chickens rely on their gizzards to grind up food, with the help of grit or stone particles. Grit, therefore, helps gizzards to function properly.

Simply put, the gizzard plays the same role as teeth, helping the chickens grind up food because they have no teeth to chew the foods they consume each day.

How do Chickens Digest Food?

Chickens digest food in a completely different manner from humans. First, chickens consume the foods that either their owners give them, or the foods they forage on their own. The food then goes down a chicken’s esophagus into its crop.

The food can remain in the crop, at least for 12 hours before going down to its stomach. The stomach then releases digestive enzymes on the food before passing it on to the gizzard.

The food makes the gizzard expand, prompting this organ to start grinding up the food until it turns to tiny, digestible particles. The gizzard grinds up the food by grinding it up together with tiny stone pieces.

The tiny food particles move on to the chicken’s small intestines, which absorb the nutrients in the food particles. These tiny food particles go through the ceca, whereby there is bacteria that break these particles even further.

The food particles then proceed to the large intestine en route to the cloaca and finally go out through the chicken’s vent as feces.

What Grit Is Best for Chickens?

There are two common types of grit that are suitable for chickens of all ages and sizes. These two types of grit are namely flint grit and oyster shell grit. Flint grit comes in tiny particles made from milled granite.

Due to its fine nature, flint grit is suitable for chicks aged below eight weeks. Oyster Shell grit has large particles and it is derived from calcium.

This type of grit is ideal for adult hens because their mouths are large enough to swallow its particles. In addition, this grit is ideal for hens because of its calcium-rich content that makes their eggshells stronger.

Besides these two types of grit, there are other excellent types of grit for chickens. Let’s take a look at a rundown of different types of grits that are ideal for chickens.

– Manna Pro Grit

The chicken grit comes from crushed granite and it is ideal for chickens of all ages, from baby chicks to adult chickens. It is especially an excellent supplement for backyard chickens or free-range chickens.

The insoluble chicken grit is also perfect for bantam breeds, ducklings and chicks. Since this grit is calcium-free, it can supplement different types of a chickens’ diet.

– Scratch & Peck Feeds

The chicken grit comes from crushed granite and quartzite. Since this grit has large particles, it is ideal for adult birds, including chickens and ducks because they can easily swallow it. The grit enhances digestion in a chicken’s gizzard.

Its large particles allow a chicken’s gizzard to absorb all the nutrients from regular chicken feed.  It is an excellent supplement for all types of grain-fed birds. Furthermore, the grit is ideal for non-layers and roosters. However, its particles can be too large for small-sized chicken species.

– Manna Pro Chick Grit

This grit is specifically formulated for baby chicks. The grit bits are the perfect size to help aid your baby chicks’ digestion and keep your chicks happy. The grit contains probiotics that promote healthy digestion in baby chicks.

It doesn’t contain preservatives and artificial ingredients like most commercial chicken grits. The fine grit is suitable for two-week old baby chicks since it is fine enough to move through a chick’s delicate digestive system.

However, it isn’t the most suitable chicken grit for adult chickens since older chickens need a coarser version of grit to promote their digestion.

– Little Farmer Chicken Grit

The fine chicken grit is a worthy addition to your chickens’ diet regardless of their size and age. It helps promote excellent digestion in chickens. Even baby chicks can rely on this grit to promote their digestion since its bits are tiny enough for chicks to swallow.

The premium chicken grit contains limestone, Redmond clay and granite, which will promote your chickens’’ health. Its high quality ingredients aren’t only ideal for promoting a healthy digestion, but they are also suitable for boosting egg production in all egg-laying birds.

– Purina Land O’Lakes

Purina is an industry leader when it gets to manufacturing high-quality feed and other grit supplements. This supplement comes from finely-grinded granite, making it suitable for poultry birds of all ages.

Its ingredients make it capable of enhancing healthy digestion in your chickens. You can either add the grit to your chicken feed, or, you can place the grit in another separate feeder. Your chickens will peck on whatever amount of this grit they desire.

However, the huge granite bits might be unsuitable for chicks and young chickens that can’t swallow large food items down their crops. Besides promoting a healthy digestion in your birds, the grit will also supply your hens with plenty of nutrients these birds require to lay more eggs.

Some of these nutrients that this grit offers to your chickens include calcium, meaning the grit will enable your birds to lay better-tasting eggs. The grit contains natural ingredients, which means there are no ingredients in it that will harm your birds.

When do Baby Chickens Start Eating Rocks?

Baby chicks have very delicate stomachs and therefore they won’t be able to eat grit in their first days of life. Grit is too complex for newly hatched babies, although chicks can improve their digestive system after eating grit.

If a baby chicks eats grit in its first days of life, the grit might not pass smoothly through its crop. Their stomach, either, won’t be able to release enough digestive juices to digest the grit alongside other food items that your chicks could have eaten.

Baby chicks should start eating grit at least when they are 8 weeks old. At that age, the chicks will have a strong digestive system to digest the grit effectively. Even at that age, baby chicks should eat grit in moderate amounts.

Furthermore, get the finest milled grit for your chicks to ensure the grit is fine enough for your baby chicks to swallow.

Can Chickens Digest the Rocks and Stones?

Yes, chicken can digest rocks and stones although they don’t have the teeth to digest them. A chicken’s gizzard is strong enough to digest rocks and stones since it acts like the teeth we have for grinding the variety of foods we consume each day.

Irrespective of the size of rocks and stones your chickens eat, their gizzards will still digest them successfully.

What Happens if Chickens Don’t Get Grit?

Chickens won’t die because of not getting grit. What happens is that their digestive systems won’t run as smoothly as it would run if they were getting enough grit every day.

Chickens can however get a sour crop due to lack of proper digestion as a result of not getting grit. A sour crop will expose your birds to myriads of digestive problems.

Conclusion

While some of us might not agree that chickens need to eat rocks and stones, the reality is that these birds need enough grit to digest food. If your chickens don’t get enough grit, the food in their crops will start to rot making your birds vulnerable to sour crops.

Ensure every chicken in the flock gets enough grit to promote a healthy digestive system.

Chickens   Updated: March 24, 2022
avatar Hey, I'm James, a hardworking homesteader for more than 30 years. I enjoy the feeling of accomplishment that comes from tending my flock. I've raised chickens and ducks for eggs and meat for many years. I also have experience with other poultry too.

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