Help, tips & advice by chicken keepers
Question: I have four hens that are six months old. Should I be feeding them grit?
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.