Does Your Bird Really Need Grit?



The use of grit is an option that each individual bird owner can decide for themselves.  Birds in the wild have used gravel as a digestive aid since the beginning of time. Keeping this in mind, I would much rather give my bird grit even if it turned out that they do not need it, rather than to find out later that they did need it.

We use grit, but only offer it on occasion, in small amounts. Birds that hull their seeds don't need grit as much as birds that do not, but it still will aid in their digestion. Grit cannot hurt your bird if given in small amounts. Do not forget that when you do offer grit, just keep a close eye on any signs of over eating the grit. Nature tells a bird how much grit it needs. So over eating it is not always normal. A sick bird will automatically start to over eat grit. If your bird over eats his/her grit, then as a safe precaution, have the vet examine your bird. If an expecting mother over eats her grit, this does not mean that she may be ill. It is only natural for an expectant mother to stock up on grit for that long nesting period in her nest box. In conclusion, it is only our opinion, but we believe that we should offer grit now and then. The only problem with grit is that on occasion a bird may over eat it, which sometimes causes the grit to impact itself. 

The information below was taken from the Lafeber's Co. website.

Grit. It's been used by bird owners for years and can be found in almost any pet store that carries bird supplies. But is it really necessary?

Let's look at the physical structure of a bird. Birds are made for flight - lean, lightweight and muscular. To fuel the metabolism that allows it to fly, a bird needs to eat quite a bit, sometimes up to 10% of its body weight each day! In the wild, the bird eats lots of different kinds of food. Some of these foods are easy-to-digest, some aren't.

In many seed mixes, neither calcium nor phosphorous is readily abundant which creates the need for supplementation. In fortified seed mixes, it is important that the ratio of calcium/phosphorous be maintained, but because of a bird's tendency to "pick and choose" the items in a seed mix, achieving the correct ratio could be very tricky if not impossible.

The bird's digestive tract is unique among animals in that it has a gizzard. The gizzard has the ability to crush and grind various foods into a form that is rapidly digested. This allows the bird to process relatively large volumes of food each day.

Grit aids in this grinding process. The small pieces of sand and rock act as "teeth" to help the gizzard "chew" the food. Grit is vital to birds in the wild because they will eat things that are difficult to digest.

However, in captivity, a bird's diet is fairly controlled. We feed our pets seeds which are easily hulled or pellets which can be ground up easily by the bird's beak and digestive system. This controlled diet eliminates the real and purpose of grit.

Is grit then bad? Not necessarily. Nature seems to tell birds to keep a little grit in their gizzard. There is a danger, though. Birds on a deficient diet, in trying to find nutrients lacking in their food, will often overeat grit. Excessive grit can irritate or even obstruct the digestive system of the bird causing numerous problems.

In summary, a small amount of grit offered to your bird once every few weeks should not cause any problems. On the other hand, leaving a dish of grit in the cage at all times may be inviting problems. The best solution is to provide your bird with a nutritionally balanced diet that is easy-to-digest.


STARescue, Inc.

Copyright 2004 [Southeast Texas Avian Rescue, Inc.]. All rights reserved. Revised: 12/10/11