Even backyard chickens on a diet of good-quality layer feed need two very necessary supplements: grit and oyster- or eggshell. Grit is basically coarse dirt, small stones or pebbles, which is stored in their crop and helps them grind and digest anything they eat other than commercial feed, and the oyster shell or egg shell provides additional calcium that they need to make hard shells on the eggs they lay.
Both supplements can be purchased commercially. True free range flocks generally don't need grit, they will find enough small stones and pebbles while they roam, and crushed eggshells can be provided more economically from home by saving and crushing your hens' shells, but either way, you'll need a dispenser of some sort. Both grit and the calcium supplement should be fed free-choice, meaning in a separate container, not mixed into the feed, so your chickens can eat as much or as little as they need.
You've all seen the DIY tutorials for the PVC pipe grit and oyster shell dispensers, but I made something that I think is a bit more quaint and rustic AND easier and less expensive to make, repurposing some materials you probably have lying around.
What You'll Need:
An empty wine bottle, or other glass bottle
A shallow metal can, such as a tuna fish can
A board approximately the same height as the wine bottle
A length of twine (I used baling twine from a bale of straw)
One or two small screws
What To Do:
Position the wine bottle centered upside down on your board and with a pencil mark one either side of the bottle a few inches down from the top (base) of the bottle and again just where the neck begins to narrow. (You will want to position your bottle so there's about a half inch of board below the narrow mouth of the bottle.)
With a good-sized drill bit, drill your holes where you marked and also drill an additional hole centered at the top to hang your dispenser when it's done.
Position your wine bottle and then thread a length of twine through the two upper and two lower holes to hold the bottle in place snugly, knotting the twine on the backside.
Position your tuna can under the mouth of the bottle, flush with the bottom of the board. This should leave about 1/2" of headroom between the bottom of the can and the bottle. Mark where the can should go with your pencil.
Pre-drill a hole or two in the side of the can and then remove the bottle so you can screw the can in place onto the board, lining it up with the pencil mark you drew.
Using a funnel, fill your bottle with crushed oyster shell or eggshell (or a mixture of both as I did here) for your calcium dispenser, or grit/coarse dirt for your grit dispenser, and slide the bottle back down into place with the twine holding it. The can will auto fill as it is emptied.
Hang your dispenser on the side of your coop wall or run fence post using a nail and the hole you drilled at the top of your board. Be sure it's protected from the weather so rain doesn't fill your tun can.
You can easily see when it's time to refill the bottle. Just slide the bottle up and out, flip rightside, and refill using your funnel. If you keep the cork, you can recork the bottle so the contents stay put while you invert the bottle and get it repositioned.
It won't take long until someone strolls by to have a look-see. Since we have a huge dirt run and our flock gets out to roam free in our pasture for a portion of each day, I don't provide them commercial grit, but this came out so cute, I'm tempted to make them a grit dispenser also!
|~Idea inspired by an idea for a wild bird seed feeder Yvette found~|
And of course if you're super crafty and talented like my friend Kate from Farmhouse38, you'll come up with this version below [click HERE for detailed instructions for Kate's dispensers]
Which inspired ME to go back to the drawing board and create this slightly upscale version...same idea, different materials:
BECAUSE LIFE IS JUST BETTER WITH CHICKENS!
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