So, you have recently joined the parakeet-owners-club… WELCOME! And, you keep hearing about how important grit is to parakeets and how much they need it. But you feel embarrassed to ask the seemingly basic questions that have been burning in your mind. Do Parakeets Need Grit? And, What Exactly Is Grit?
To make it worse, you have more than likely been reading mixed responses and are now trying to figure out ‘do parakeets actually need it?' and if so, ‘how do i give my parakeet grit?' Not to worry, these are all questions we will answer in this article! And, hopefully, we manage to answer all of your questions surrounding grit and your new feathered-friend!
- What Is Grit?
- Do Parakeets Need Grit?
- Different Types Of Grit
- Are Oyster Shells Good For Parakeets?
- What Is The Difference Between Grit And Oyster Shell?
- What Are The Benefits Of Grit For Birds?
- How Do Parakeets In The Wild Consume Grit?
- Do Parakeets Need To Eat Sand?
- How Do I Give My Parakeet Grit?
What Is Grit?
Ornithologists have traditionally defined grit as a natural abrasive substance, that when consumed by birds provides material for the grinding mechanism that is part of the gizzard.
Gritty sand and small pebbles are the most common form of grit, but various different forms of grit are available at many pet stores and birdfeed companies as well.
Nutritionally, grit provides birds with calcium and other minerals, which are important in the production of eggshells.
Grit can also be seen as important because it helps greatly in managing the body's pH balance by providing more alkaline substrates than what could be ingested through typical food sources.
With that being said…
Do Parakeets Need Grit?
It is a common misconception that parakeets and other birds from the parrot family need grit in their diet, but it's false.
Nutritionally, parakeets do not need grit. Grit can also cause crop impaction or death if too much of it accumulates in its gut.
Crop impaction is when grit or other small objects become trapped in the crop, which is a storage and mixing area for food before it leaves through the esophagus.
This leads to blockages of important bodily fluids that do not get mixed with other parts of the digestive system. This can lead to starvation as well as death from lack of oxygen if untreated.
Different Types Of Grit
You might see different types of grit in the pet stores under the names;
- Ground oyster shell,
- Ground mineral grit,
- Ground limestone,
- Calcium grit
They are all essentially the same thing, and your parakeet will be just fine without it (as will your wallet!)
Are Oyster Shells Good For Parakeets?
Many parakeet owners swear by ground oyster shells as they do not provide the same dangers as grit does.
The oyster shell is ground and mixed with a small amount of food to help grind it up so that it can be passed through the digestive system easily.
This provides parakeets with important minerals but does not create any sort of blockage in their crop or gizzard.
So, technically, oyster shells are better for your parakeet than grit, however, if you do choose to buy oyster shells, do not oversupply this food item as it is more than likely the pellet mix you buy already has some ground oyster shells in it.
Be sure to read the packaging of your pellet or seed mix thoroughly before buying any additional oyster shell food.
What Is The Difference Between Grit And Oyster Shell?
Birds use the calcium carbonate in oyster shells to create and maintain eggshells. They also eat it to maintain their beaks, which are used for breaking open seeds and other foods.
Grit is tiny particles of sand, rock, or crushed oyster shell that can help birds grind food more efficiently. The grit helps break down fibrous plant seeds like corn and wheat.
Although oftentimes oyster shells are included in bags of grit, a bird owner might single out oyster shells specifically for the sole purpose of adding calcium to the bird's diet and not because it is needed to break down food.
What Are The Benefits Of Grit For Birds?
For other birds, such as doves, pigeons, turkeys, guinea fowl and pheasants, grit is an essential part of their diet.
One of the main benefits of grit for these birds is that it helps them grind up the food that they consume, which in turn provides many nutrients and minerals that are crucial to a bird's health.
How Do Parakeets In The Wild Consume Grit?
In the wild, grit is typically a part of a parakeet's diet in the form of seeds with grit; while they peck at seeds on the ground, they are also consuming the grit. So you see, they do not go out of their way to consume grit, but do so by accident.
Similarly, some parrots in the rainforest enjoy a good clay lick. This is because some of their food (fruit and seeds) contains toxins. The geophagia (or clay licking) helps them to detoxify their body.
Do Parakeets Need To Eat Sand?
Do Parakeets Need To Eat Sand?
You may have seen parakeets eating sand during your time as a pet owner, but do parakeets need to eat sand?
The answer is no.
Sand is still just grit, and while some parakeets may consume it with the food they peck at on the ground, there is no need to go out of your way to add sand to your parakeet's diet.
How Do I Give My Parakeet Grit?
As mentioned above, your parakeet does not need grit for its survival. If anything, provide your parakeet with a clay block or mineral block. You can find clay mineral blocks at most pet shops or quite cheaply on Amazon.
You can read all about mineral blocks, cuttlebones, and the best practice for introducing them to your parakeet here:
Grit is a granular, dense mineral that comes from quartz or granite and many birds do not do without it in their diet. Grit can also be seen as important because it helps greatly to manage the body's pH balance by providing more alkaline substrates than what could be ingested through typical food sources.
While parakeets do not need grit for survival, they might benefit from some ground oyster shell mixed with pellets or seeds if you choose to provide them this type of food item. If you do choose to feed your parakeet grit, do not allow him to consume too much! It may lead to crop impaction which can cause starvation and death due to lack of oxygen. For this reason, we suggest avoiding it altogether.