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Stones essential for proper chicken digestion

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By George Munene

According to an analysis by the Research Institute of Organic Agriculture on African organic poultry production, small/crushed stones (grit) are crucial but often neglected in poultry diets.

Chickens need to swallow and grind down small stones in their stomach as they aren’t able to chew their food during digestion. Grit helps grind food in their stomachs which are soaked in their crops and swallowed whole as chickens do not have teeth.

Over time, these stones are ground down, and chickens must swallow new ones. Therefore, chickens need to have access to appropriate stones regularly and from the first week of life. Stones of e.g. quartz, granite, or basalt, which are resistant to the acidic surroundings in the stomach, last the longest and are therefore most suitable.

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For chicken fed exclusively on commercial feed, grit is often not required. However, if they are fed on whole grain, providing or allowing them to forage for grit is essential as it aids in digesting larger particles of food.

Chickens in traditional free-range systems usually find appropriate stones themselves, as they roam around freely and are usually guided by their mother hen. In a semi-intensive system, it is important to offer stomach stones to the chickens, e.g. presented in a shallow dish in the chicken house. This dish can be placed next to the dish containing the minerals.

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