Did you know that chickens eat rocks? They do! Read on to find out how eating small rocks is good for chickens and why grit is an important part of their diet.
Why Do Chickens Eat Rocks?
A chicken’s regular diet consists of grains, seeds, insects, and grasses, all things that need to be chewed to be properly digested. There’s just one small problem – chickens don’t have teeth. So, how do they chew their food? Backwards, of course!
When humans eat food, we chew it with our teeth first and then send that chewed up food to our stomach for digestion before it enters our intestines. We eat and digest the food we need at each meal.
When a chicken eats, it first swallows its food and sends it to its crop — a storage area that allows them to eat large amounts at once. The food moves from the crop to the chicken’s stomach where the intact food is exposed to digestive juices that start to break it down. The food then moves to a specialized organ called a gizzard. This is where those rocks and grit the chicken ate earlier come in handy!
The gizzard is a muscle that grinds the mostly intact food against the previously swallowed rocks in order to break the food down further and help extract vital nutrients. The small rocks, stones, and grit that have made it into the chicken’s gizzard act like human molars breaking down the food before it moves into the chicken’s intestinal tract. So, a chicken’s “teeth” are actually small rocks that the chicken swallowed while foraging for food.
Compared to a human, a chicken’s digestive process seems backwards — thanks to the small rocks in their gizzards, they eat their food and then chew it!