For humans, teeth play a crucial role in the whole digestion process. After all, good digestion starts with excellent chewing. Chickens, on the other hand, are forced to swallow their feed whole. So how do they manage to digest their food?
The digestive system of a chicken
In order to understand better how chickens manage to digest their food without actually chewing it, let’s look at their digestive system. It includes:
- A crop, a large pouch in the chicken’s throat that accumulates food and water before channelling it to the stomach.
- A stomach, an acidic environment that softens and breaks down the food before sending it to the gizzard.
- A gizzard, that consists of two very strong muscles whose movements grind the food before channelling it to the intestine.
- An intestine, which allows the chicken to absorb most of the essential nutrients for its health.
The secret to good digestion: a gizzard-gravel collaboration
The gizzard counts on support from a key element to digest food: gravel! The simultaneous action of the gizzard muscles and small stones inside it helps to grind the food.
When done, the gravel ends up as dust and passes through the intestine. This is why you should give gravel to your beautiful hens regularly.
The importance of gravel in winter
In summer your chickens can peck at the ground to gulp down gravel as needed. However, in winter, the ground is frozen and generally covered with ice or snow. This is when it becomes essential to supplement their food with gravel.
Evaluating your chicken’s digestion
Feel your chicken’s breast.
- If it is hard, it could be a sign of an obstruction.
- If not, and your chicken has a full breast at the end of the day and a deflated one next morning, they are eating enough and digesting well!