Perhaps at least once you came across a chicken eating a piece of rocks. Neither do rocks have any nutritional value nor tasty flavor? So, why do chickens eat rocks? Do they eat them for fun or any reason behind that we do not know? Let’s uncover the mask in my article below.
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Why do chickens eat rocks?
Chickens do eat rocks, but not as their feed. They actually use rocks in order to digest and grind up their intake of food. As chickens have no teeth, they have to swallow mouthfuls of food whole instead of tearing food into small pieces.
Chickens are omnivores, they hence enjoy a diversity of food, ranging from fruits, insects, grains to grass or even table scrap. Even without possessing teeth, the digestive system of chickens is one of the most effective ones in the animal kingdom.
When food is ingested into the mouth, the chicken’s tongue is used to push the feed to the back of its mouth to be swallowed. The feed then is moved into an area called “crop” – a storage space that allows chickens to consume a quantity of feed at one time. Afterward, the food slowly moves to the chicken’s gizzard where digestive juices are added to the intact food and the breaking down of the food occurs.
The gizzard is a specialized area where those previous rocks turn out to be useful. It is a muscular part of the stomach that grinds the mostly intact food in order to break the food down further, thus the chicken can get vital nutrients into its body in a usable form.
Those small rocks that act like “teeth” in the chicken’s gizzard grinding up the food before it enters the intestinal tract of a chicken.
On the other hand, the human digestive system works in the opposite way. We use teeth to grind up food first and then send it to our stomach for digestion.
Do you know: Do Chickens have Ears?
When do chicks start to eat rocks?
Baby chicks do not need rocks in their diet. They should be offered starter feed with vitamins needed for early growth. Until they start scratching, about at the age of 8 weeks, you can take them off starter feed. In time, you can mix a small number of tiny sand particles in their food.
Should you provide grit for your chickens and in what size?
The answer depends on what your chickens eat.
Commercial feed (crumbles and pellets) are designed to maintain their nutrients. They already ground up finely that chickens do not need the grit to digest food.
Conversely, if your chickens are fed the whole grains, scratch, or allow them to forage for all or a portion of their diet, they should be given the grit to digest these larger food particles.
If chickens have unlimited space to forage, you should give them grit only to make sure they access to enough food. Chickens understand what measure is suitable for them so, you do not need to manage how much grit they should eat.
To get the best digest results, the grit size needs to be suitable with the age of your chickens. Too large and their little gizzards will not be able to deal with the grit. Too small and the grit will simply pass straight through the digestive system without doing its job.
There are two sizes of rocks available and it is extremely important to buy the right size for your chickens. The regular size is for mature chickens and another for the younger. Chickens reach the age of 2 months can start eating the smaller size. When they grow larger, you can swap to the size for adults. For turkeys, they actually require larger sizes for their big gizzard.
Read more: Top 7 Best Chiken Pluckers
Should it be soluble or insoluble grit?
When it comes to types of grit, there are two different kinds of chicken grit: insoluble or soluble grit.
Insoluble grit includes small stones, generally granite which is not digestible as well as has no nutritional value. It is used to grind down food, contributing to the digest process of chickens.
The second type of grit is soluble and is made of flaked oyster shells or limestone. Soluble grit is used as a calcium supplement and aids in producing strong bones and eggshells. It is digestible and impossible to break up larger food particles.
If your chickens need grit in their diets, the soluble type is not suitable to use in assisting digestion.
Hopefully, the article did help you answer the question of whether chickens eat rocks. Rocks help to break up the food in the gizzard of chickens, ensuring their digestive system run smoothly. Therefore, it is worth spending money on purchasing this product to keep your chickens stay healthy and happy!