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Digital Subscriptions > Chickens > NovDec 2018 > Grit & Oyster Shells

Grit & Oyster Shells

Chicken Feed Café

As with children, not everything a hen pops in her mouth is food. But unlike children, some of the nonfood items that hens snap up do keep them healthy. I’m talking about grit and crushed oyster shells. These are similar-looking products that play very different roles and aren’t interchangeable.

Nitty Gritty

When we joke about something being “as rare as hen’s teeth,” it’s because chickens have no teeth. They don’t chew their food. With their tongue, they shove whole leaves, bugs, grains or pellets down their throat where the food fills up their crop, which is a pouch for quickly storing food in case a chicken has to run for her life.

From there, the food bits start a 3- to 4-hour journey through the hen and to the coop bedding (or your pant leg, if you’re holding the chicken). Flowing first to the stomach, the bits get showered with enzymes that begin dissolving them. A second stomach is the gizzard, which is an organ chickens use instead of teeth. This leathery, muscular organ holds the food and small bits of stone or sand, aka grit.

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November/December 2018