hen grit

Why does my hen need grit?

We are often asked why we advise giving hens grit on a regular basis.  Grit is a vital part of your hen’s digestive process, however, it is important to remember that there are different grades of grit and they perform two different functions in your hen. First of all, there is Soluble and Insoluble grit.

Fine or soluble grit is the sort that dissolves in the hens’ digestive system. This is mostly calcium-based and can be in the form of limestone (calcium carbonate) either as small chips or ground flour in commercial poultry feeds or as crushed oyster or mussel shells. These different forms of the ‘grit’ are essential for healthy egg shell formation.

Insoluble grit is comprised of things like small pea-sized gravel chips or small stones which birds pick up if they are allowed to forage around outside. These stones do not dissolve, nor do they provide calcium, but they do provide a mechanical aid to break down food.

Did you know that hens don’t have any teeth (remember the expression “as rare as hen’s teeth”)?

How does grit work?

When your hen tucks into her pellets or corn, the food passes into her crop (imagine that this is the hen’s shopping basket). Feed is stored for up to six hours where it softens and swells and starts the process of digestion.  During the course of the day, the food leaves the crops and enters the Proventriculus (basically her stomach). At this stage, the feed is mixed with enzymes which break down protein and peptides and assist with absorption.

Having left the Proventriculus the feed enters a tough muscular structure called the Gizzard. This is the grinding mill of the gut. Here the insoluble grit helps to grind up the fibres in vegetation and breaks down the hard husks of grains and seeds that your hen might eat. This grinding processes the food into a form that allows the nutrients to be worked on by digestive enzymes and absorbed into the bloodstream.

Ideally, your hen should be fed a mixture of soluble and insoluble grit to maintain good health. You can find a variety of different grits on our online shop!

If you’d like advice on your hen’s health, why not visit our Hen Health page, where we discuss important things to look for in your hen’s health, whether its personality or physical symptoms. Or, head to our Hen Examination Guidelines where we can show you where to find things like the crop or the wattle.

If you need to seek medical advice, click here to find your nearest Hen Friendly Vet.
You can also call Hen Central on 01884 860084 to speak to one of our rehoming assistants.

Giving a gift today helps fund our Hen Helpline. It helps support hen keepers, giving them the best advice on how to care for their hens. If you have found our advice helpful, please consider giving a gift towards the hen helpline here.

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