Grit, Gravel and your Parakeet

What is Grit?
Grit is literally small pieces of gravel or rock. The use of grit and birds all began when scientists watched pigeons eat, and noticed that the pigeons ate their seeds, then ate some little rocks. They discovered that the rocks 'rolled around' in the pigeons' stomachs and helped to mash the food. They decided that ALL birds must need to eat rocks to digest their food, and soon people were buying grit to give to their parakeets, or putting gravel floor-paper in their parakeets' cages.

Do Parakeets Need Grit?
There has been over the years a pretty large debate over whether parakeets need grit / gravel in their diet. Every vet I have talked to in the last 3 years about this agrees completely that grit is NOT necessary for parakeets.

There ARE some birds such as pigeons that do need gravel. These birds eat seeds WHOLE and the gravel helps their stomachs wear through that outer layer of seed to get to the inner nutritious part. Remembers, birds don't have teeth :) However, parakeets eat SOFT food and hull their seeds. So they only swallow the soft, inner parts of the seeds. They do NOT need gravel.

You might say, what's the harm? So what if they eat some rocks along with their food? Well imagine if YOU ate rocks. You have a tender stomach lining that doesn't enjoy pointy stone things poking at it. The same is true for parakeets. In many cases gravel can cause harm to their digestive systems.

Not only that, but if you use gravel perches or gravel cage-bottoms, it rips up the feet of the parakeets, making them sore and perhaps even bleed. This is NOT a good idea. I remember when I was growing up that this was all the rage. The thought was that the gravel on the perch would trim the nails of the bird, just like bark would.

What they found out after a few years is that the gravel didn't do any better than a regular wood perch at keeping those bird nails trimmed nicely. On the other hand, the gravel tore up the soft feet of most birds, causing many medical problems. If a bird's nails really do get too long, a quick snip with regular fingernail trimmers (staying clear of the blood vessel within) will do the trick. Lesson of this story? Quick solutions often cause long term problems.

On the other hand, your birds do need a cuttlebone to trim their beak.

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