Around 80 million years ago, the great-great ancestor of the chicken we know today stopped producing teeth during development. This may sound like no big deal, but surprisingly, birds are actually descendents of reptiles and dinosaurs, a group called Archosaurs. Why their teeth went ‘the way of the dinosaur’ has many theories – the lighter weight of the bird provided better agility, poultry adjusted to more of a plant-based diet rather than meat and scavenging, etc, – But what it means for your flock is they are unable to chew their food? How does a chicken process food without teeth?
When poultry eat, the food first travels down the esophagus into the crop, a temporary storage pouch, before it moves into the proventriculus and gizzard (stomachs). The gizzard is simply a very strong muscle – with the aid of the digestive enzymes produced by the proventriculus, the gizzard compresses to break down grains and fibrous plant matter. Because the gizzard is just a muscle capable of squeezing, it relies on grit, or small rocks, that the bird has previously ingested to pulverize and grind the food into small enough particles to be absorbed later in the intestines.
Cluckin’ Good Poultry Grit is essential to provide throughout the lifetime of the bird and having access to grit at a young age is necessary for the healthy development of a chicken’s gizzard. Grit will stay in the gizzard until it has been ground fine enough to pass through the digestive tract along with the food particles. If the bird eats grit that is too small, it will pass through the digestive tract without assisting in the breakdown of food, while if the grit is too big, the bird will simply not eat it. Cluckin’ Good Oyster Shell, which provides calcium for eggshell strength, is not to be substituted for grit. Even the oyster shell needs grit to be present in the gizzard for proper digestion. Offering the appropriate sized grit allows for the maximum nutrient benefit from whole grain feeds and more.
Due to the need for such a particular sized grit, we have several age-specific sizes available:
- Chick Grit – For use with poultry less than approximately 8 weeks old
- Grower Grit – For use with poultry from approximately 8 to 20 weeks of age
- Layer Grit – For use with poultry from 20 weeks on