Birds are social creatures that depend on seeds, fruits, vegetables, meat, and nuts as a primary food in their diet. Some bird feeders feed pellets for their captive birds’ meals.
In general, many bird fanciers would notice bags of sand in the bird supply aisle at the road shops. Some might think it’s a good feed for birds, while others see it as dangerous for their health. Feeding grit to pet birds is reported to aid birds in their digestion process. Although there is a long history of providing grit to the birds, it has become quite controversial.
Grit might be defined as ‘gravel, a sharp granule or a sand”, and it’s necessary to be a part of a pet bird’s diet. The grit helps birds grind their food in the digestive tract, especially the ventriculus (gizzard), and gives necessary minerals for their gradual growth life.
Birds can have grit theory from the evidence of finding grit in wild birds’ digestive tract. The wild birds often pick up foreign materials like sand when they forage.
Why should grit be a part of birds’ diet? Does grit use mechanisms to grind the food materials? Does grit provide a complete supplement that meets all needs of the birds? This article provides additional information about grit with extensive footnotes and the necessity of including grit in their diet.
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What is grit?
Grits for birds are specially formulated feed from the ground up sand and minerals. In general, grit is defined as a chunk or small bit pieces of rocks or minerals. Its size and solid details of lump identify it as grit nor by its chemical properties.
Grit is available in different forms in the market. It is not the same thing as providing substances from gravel bags or sand from sandboxes. Some of the substances like silicates and sandstones cannot be easily digested and are insoluble.
In general, digestive grit is made up of limestone, which contains calcium carbonate. The grit made from ground-up oyster shells and cuttlebones are soluble and also an accessible digestive grit substance.
One of the famous grit forms is the oyster shell, which has an additional calcium supplementation to the birds. Substance like mineral blocks, crushed eggshells, mineral blocks, powder supplements, and other high calcium foods can supply calcium to the birds.
Some grit mixes in the market contain charcoal chunks, which bind toxins in the bird’s digestive tract.
What are the types of grit?
There are two types of grit mixes available in the market. They are
- Soluble grit
- Insoluble grit
Most of the commercial market’s grit mixes act as a nutritional supplement value added to the bird’s growth and not digestive aid.
Soluble grit is grit that dissolves by the acid as it passes through the digestive tract and adds valuable minerals and nutritional supplements to the bird’s diet.
Soluble grit includes substances like oyster shells, limestone, gypsum, and cuttlebones. Soluble grit may or may not help in grinding the food in the digestive tract, depending on the time limit it takes to dissolve.
It’s not necessary to dissolve grit in the water. If water cannot do the job, then acid certainly would do it. Soluble grit helps to compensate for anti-nutrients present in the bird’s food.
Grains, nuts, and seeds have high levels of phytic acid and oxalate, which mix minerals, especially calcium, in food. The vegetables and crops contain high amounts of antinutrients, which may degrade birds’ health. Consuming other minerals and calcium ensures the body gets enough mineral supplements that help steady growth inspired by toxic antinutrients.
Soluble grit causes a little danger by accumulating in large amounts or obstructs the bird’s digestive system. However, it serves as a good source of calcium and other nutritious supply to the bird’s body.
Insoluble grit materials do not dissolve by the acid or water in the digestive system. It remains in the gizzard. It helps in the mechanical breakdown of food throughout the process.
Insoluble grit does not provide any nutritious supplements to the body. It can be solely intaken as a food-grinding aid to the digestive tract. Insoluble grit includes substances like granite, quartz, and silica. The material’s size can vary from sand to small pebbles to grind the digestive tract’s food particles.
What does grit do?
The grit helps the birds to grind the food items that are hard to digest. By grinding, birds can utilize all nutrients and minerals from food items. Mostly, the grit is an undigested substance and will stay in the gizzard for a long time (more than a year) until it is passed in the feces.
The wild birds tend to eat many food items because they need many calories to fly throughout the day. Birds are not particular about food items. They will eat whatever they see and, at times, even undigestable food items. These undigested items will grind up the food items and help for digestion.
The ventriculus or gizzard is a muscular portion of the stomach and the primary organ for the grinding process, which grinds and crushes food items passing through it. The enzymes present in the digestive tract can easily break down the tiny food particles.
The large food particles like shells and husks are hard to grind up by gizzard, but with grit forms like sand and rocks, the grinding process becomes more effective and easy.
If the birds shallow seed without removing the outer shell, then grit aids in removing fibrous outer shell-like sunflower and helps in easy digestive.
Who needs grit?
Birds of the wild’s diet differ from captivity or pet birds. Wild birds would eat whatever is available, and the seeds have rigid hulls or shells and need grit for digestion.
On the other hand, pet birds have a proper diet plan and generally feed on pellet mixes that get digested and hulled easily without grit substances.
Birds that need grit in their diet
The primary purpose of the digestive grit is to remove shells and hunks of the whole seeds. Some birds like doves and pigeons can ingest seeds without removing their shells. They are the best candidates for having grit in their meals.
The grit materials never give a proper diet to the birds. It’s essential to feed a nutritionally balanced and healthy diet, easily-digestive pellets along with nuts, fruits, seeds, and vegetables.
Birds which does not need grit in their diet
Most veterans suggest that healthy psittacines like budgies, cockatiels, and parrots can easily remove shells and hucks with their beaks, and having a proper diet does not require adding grit in their meal.
In the passerine world, birds like finches, canaries, etc., usually have sharp beaks to remove shells and hulls from the seeds and do not need the grit to help in their digestion or grinding process.
The passerine birds have the nutritional or behavioral needs for the ingestion of the soluble grit forms. Studies have no evidence that the presence of insoluble grit in the canary diet can cause health problems due to the over-supplementation of grit or any other minerals.
It’s better to feed soluble grit in small amounts of particular grains every few weeks to the passerine birds.
- Birds with pancreatic diseases
Birds with pancreatic diseases- the pancreas produces certain digestive enzymes. Adding a little more amount of grit to their meal can cure some of the digestive problems. It’s better to consult your bird veterinarian regarding adding grit to their diet for digestive issues.
Birds fanciers and feeders can keep on debating about grit, and some of them recommend feeding small amounts of soluble grit to the pet birds every few weeks. Consult your bird veterinarian to determine which grit is the best option for your bird’s growth.
Popular brands in the commercial market
- Hagen oyster shells are made up of 100% digestible Gravier grit. It contains an excellent source of essential minerals and natural calcium.
- Oyster shells are a superior alternative to gravel.
- Oyster shells are soluble grit and can easily digest a substance and provide a natural source of calcium carbonate to all caged and aviary birds.
- It provides essential minerals year-round and maintains normal cell function, necessary to produce more robust egg formation during breeding.
- This grit will not cause impaction or remain in the gizzard for a long time because of its soluble properties that the acid can easily digest in the intestine.
- No preparation is needed before serving the birds. Sprinkle less quantity on the bottom of the caged birds at least three times per week.
- The aviary digestive problem birds get benefited when small amounts of soluble grit to their diet.
- Worldwide, bird owners and veterinarians trust Hagen oyster shells.
- Manna pro poultry Grit is manufactured from insoluble granite that helps grinding hard digest food particles and proper digestion.
- All classes of poultry birds can feed on them.
- It contains all nutrients and helps poultry to have a balanced diet.
- Coarse grains can be added as a feed to the Manna pro poultry grit.
- Mineral grit is made up of all-natural oyster shells with zero gravel at excellent quality, and it contains a great source of essential minerals and calcium.
- This grit is made from nature, not human-made, and gives additional minerals to support overall bird health.
- It is enriched with minerals like copper, zinc, manganese, iron, and other nutrient content.
- Oyster shell has a unique feature – color, having a pleasing natural anise oil, and licorice aroma enriched with essential minerals.
- Oyster shells are soluble grit materials and rich in calcium carbonate and aids in proper digestion.
- It can be served on its own or can be mixed with bird food as a health-supporting supplement.
- Higgins mineral grit is made in the USA and sold in resealable packages for easy storage; it does not contain fillers or gravel.
- Manna pro chick grit has microscopic grit particles than standard commercial grit.
- It gives the same benefits as Manna Pro poultry grit, but it’s easy to feed small-sized insoluble crushed granite grit for bantam-sized, young, and growing birds.
- It supports proper digestion and grinding process in young bird gizzard.