A question came up the other day on the Facebook page asking whether we are supposed to use grit in our parrot’s diet. I have talked about this in posts before, but this question is important enough that it justifies another mention. Everyone needs to understand this topic so that no parrot’s health is compromised.
What is grit?
There are two types of grit – soluble and insoluble. Soluble grit, such as cuttlebone and oyster shell, is sometimes recommended by a veterinarian as a dietary supplement. It is the insoluble type of grit, sometimes referred to as gravel because it actually contains small stones, that is improper for use with certain birds. Insoluble grit can not be passed from the birds system.
What purpose does it serve?
The purpose of insoluble grit is to assist in the break down of foods, with birds most specifically the hard hulls (shells) of the seeds that they eat. The grit stays in the gizzard (the muscular portion of the stomach) and helps to pulverize food during digestion.
Do parrots need it?
This is NOT necessary in the diet of parrot species (as well as passerines such as finches and canaries) because they shell their seeds before they eat them and leave the hulls behind. Other species, like pigeons and doves swallow their seed whole and would need assistance with their digestion. The enzymatic and the muscular stomachs of a healthy parrot are entirely capable of sufficient digestion.
Unless it is recommended by your vetinarian because of difficulty with digestion, grit should not be considered for use. In fact, its can cause serious impaction in the digestive system. It is possible that your local bird store carries grit. Please walk right past this product as it is not meant for your parrot.
Author Patty Jourgensen specializes in avian health, behavior and nutrition and has been working with and caring for rescue birds since 1987.