Your Chicken Questions Answered by a Veterinarian. Honest and Practical Advice

Do Chickens Need Grit and Ground Oyster Shells?

Yes, chickens do need grit in order to digest their food properly. Without grit, chickens would not be able to eat many of the things that they need to survive. Unlike most animals, chickens do not have teeth to assist them in breaking down food into smaller, more digestible sizes. In addition, unlike other animals with teeth that masticate their food, chickens need grit in their gut to assist them in chewing their food.

The importance of grit, both soluble and solid, in a chicken’s diet cannot be overstated. Chickens need grit to help digest the food in their gizzards.

do chickens need grit: Why Should Chickens Be Fed Grit And Ground Oyster Shells?

While most animals have a fairly simple digestive system, chickens have a crop and gizzard that work together to grind up their food. The crop holds food until it is softened by enzymes, and then it is passed on to the gizzard. The gizzard is lined with muscular walls, and it contains small stones known as grit. The grit helps to grind up the food so that the chicken can digest it properly.

Do Chickens Need Grit? The Importance Of Grit In Your Chicken’s Diet

Grit is the fancy word referring to all small stones, and shells chickens need to aid their digestive system. Remember that not all grit is the same.

Grit grinds the food in the chicken’s gizzard into smaller, softer, and more digestible pieces. The body extracts all the nutrition and moisture it needs from the food paste in the gizzard before disposing of the rest.

Grit plays a vital role in the health of chickens. Without grit in their diet, chickens will suffer from diseases like sour crop and brittle bones. Solid grit will stay in the chicken’s digestive system till it is small enough to be cast out. Solid grit does not hurt the chickens; they will only digest grit when needed. The most crucial factor is to ensure that chickens always have access to grit.

The two types of grit needed by chickens are small stones, usually ground flint or granite, and soluble grit, crushed oyster shells. Please do not think they serve the same purpose. Chickens need both types of grit at various stages throughout their lives.

Grit and ground oyster shells fulfill different roles in your chickens’ digestive systems:


Grit is ground, solid, small stones. Chickens know when they need to ingest these small stones and how much of them. The small rocks move down their body into the gizzard. The gizzard, the equivalent of a human stomach, is a muscular organ that contracts. The contractions squeeze and break down the food into a paste. The small pebbles help to grind the food into the paste ball, making digestion possible.

Crushed Oyster Shells:

Crushed oyster shells are precisely what the name suggests. Oyster shells are crushed, and as with the grit, the chickens decide when and how much grit to digest. Oyster shells are high in calcium, chickens need them to strengthen their bones, and layers need them to produce eggs with solid surfaces.

When ingested, oyster shells move to the gizzard. Initially, ground oyster shells serve the same purpose as the grit but with one exception. The oyster shells dissolve and are absorbed into the body, providing much-needed calcium.

How Often Do Chickens Need Access To Grit?

Chickens always need access to grit. There is a misconception that free-roaming chickens find grit on their own, but the amount of grit available is determined by the soil they live off.

Grit is essential for chickens’ health, and chicken keepers need to make sure that their flock has access to it at all times. Grit is not expensive and can be easily sourced, so there’s no excuse for not providing it to your chickens. Be particularly mindful of the type of grit you’re giving your chickens if they are free-range in areas with different soil conditions, such as lawns, heavily snowed areas, grass pastures or clay soil.

Birds that are kept in coops that get scraps of vegetables and other feed needs extra grit to help them digest their food.

How Should You Feed Grit To Your Chicken?

When it comes to giving your hens grit, there is a pretty straightforward process. Putting the grit in a bowl in the middle of the run seems to work perfectly. The hens that need to eat more grit than others come to get their fill.

You can also throw it onto the run floor, this technique works just as well, however, we find some grit does get wasted when doing so.

Your hens will eat as much grit as they need, so keeping the bowl topped up with grit is a good idea, especially if you want to get the most out of your hens. Essentially, if the hens are consuming more food and need a higher grit intake to digest that food properly, they will do so – it’s good to leave this option open to the hens.

Check out my full article on feeding chickens here

when should I start giving my chickens grit?

Chickens should have access to grit from the time they move to pullet food. This typically occurs when they are around 4-6 weeks old. If you are not sure if your chickens need grit, you can offer it to them and see if they eat it. Chickens typically will not eat grit if they do not need it.

how much grit do chickens need a day?

Chickens need about 1/2 teaspoon of grit per day which amounts to around 2lbs per year. They should have an unlimited amount available at all times for your feathered friends to self-regulate.

Our general grit recommendation

Manna Pro Poultry Grit with Probiotics

If you’re looking for an all-around excellent grit that will keep your hens churning out eggs at maximum capacity as well as maintaining all round good health then consider taking a look at the Manna Pro Poultry Grit with Probiotics it’ll do exactly that. Having personally tried this grit out on our own chickens I can assure you we noticed a significant difference in the hardness of their eggshells. If your hens have been laying softer eggs or you just want to provide them with some of the best grit on the market then it’s definitely worth considering.

The Consequences of Insufficient Grit

An insufficient supply of grit will lead to an array of illnesses in chickens, one of which is a sour crop.

Chickens develop sour crop if the food they eat start to rot in their crop because the chicken cannot digest it properly.

The impacted gizzard is another painful consequence for chickens that do not have access to adequate amounts of grit. Insufficient grit supplies may lead to chicken deaths.

Chickens Also Need Access To Ground Oyster Shells

Ground oyster shells are crucial for laying hens. Oyster shells should be introduced as soon as they are ready to start laying as they contain elevated levels of calcium that get absorbed into the body through the chicken’s digestive system.

Oyster shell grit is also referred to as soluble grit. Unlike solid grit dispersed from the chicken, oyster shell grit dissolves inside the chicken.

How Much Ground Oyster Shells Does My Chicken Need?

Do not be concerned about the number of oyster shell grit each laying hen needs to take. Each chicken will take enough to fulfill their needs. As with humans, each hen has her own needs at various times and will adjust the intake of oyster shells as needed. Make sure laying hens always have access to oyster shell grit.

Laying hens needs the calcium in oyster shells to keep their bones strong and to produce eggs with healthy hard surfaces.

Manna Pro Crushed Oyster Shell

Manna Pro crushed oyster shell is another one of our favorite grits. This grit will also help your hen’s eggs have super hard shells, perfect if you’re trying to improve egg production and keep your birds happy. I would highly recommend this grit to anyone keeping chickens.

Should All Chickens Be Fed Oyster Grit?

The only chickens that need to be fed ouster grit are laying hens to restore their calcium levels.

Producing eggs requires a lot of calcium. If there is a calcium deficit within the chicken, the calcium needed to make the eggs will be extracted from the bones of the laying hen, leaving her bones brittle, and causing injury and pain.

Young hens and all roosters and cockerels do not need additional calcium. Taking extra calcium will damage their kidneys.

Never mix oyster shell grit with other grit or feed. Instead, put oyster shell grit in a separate container. This way, the chickens that need it will use it, and the others will ignore it, keeping them healthy and safe.

Can I Feed Chickens Egg Shells?

Egg shells contain elevated levels of calcium and other nutrients. Crushed eggshells are an excellent addition to oyster grit and can be given similarly.

Things to remember when feeding chickens crushed eggshells.

1.     For safety’s sake, always cook the eggshells. Raw eggshells may contain bacteria that will cause illness.

2.     Crush the eggshells into grit size pieces.

3.     Please do not mix the crushed eggshells into other grit or feed to prevent chickens that do not need the extra calcium from digesting it.

do chickens need grit if they have access to dirt?

If your chickens are free-ranging in the backyard you may wonder if your chickens need grit if they have access to dirt. While some argue that chickens don’t need grit if they have access to dirt, others contend that grit is still an essential part of a chicken’s diet. So, what’s the truth? In general, chickens don’t need grit if they have access to a clean, spacious coop and free range for most of the day.

However, I would always verge on the side of always providing grit to be on the safe side. Remember oyster shell grit is a great source of calcium for your chooks and it won’t do them any harm (and is dirt cheap) to provide for them. Chickens that don’t have access to grit may not be able to digest their food properly if the dirt is too fine, which can lead to health problems as well.


While chickens don’t need grit if they have access to dirt, I would always provide grit (particularly oyster shell grit) as a source of calcium and as a digestive aid. It’s cheap, easy to do, and will help keep your chooks healthy!

Frequently Asked Questions

Do chickens need grit if they free range?

In general, chickens don’t need grit if they have access to a clean, spacious coop and free range for most of the day. However, I would always verge on the side of always providing grit to be on the safe side.

What happens if a chicken doesn’t have grit?

Chickens that don’t have access to grit may not be able to digest their food properly if the dirt is too fine, which can lead to health problems.

Is oyster shell grit the same as chicken grit?

Oyster shell grit is a type of soluble chicken grit. It’s made from crushed oyster shells and is a great source of calcium for your chickens.

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