As a new parakeet and bird owner, there is a lot to think about. One question that new parakeet owners often ask is about grit. Certain birds, particularly in the wild, consume it. It is only logical to think that this is something that we need to provide. Wanting to know the answer this this myself, I have spent some time thoroughly researching the topic. I would like to share this with you today.
So, do parakeets need grit? Parakeets do not need grit. Studies on pet parakeets and similar birds, like parrots and cockatiels, show that grit is not essential to their diet. Aside from not needing the mechanical digestion of grit, it doesn’t provide them with any nutrition.
You should still, however, be sure to feed your parakeet a healthy diet and consider adding a calcium supplement. These are not something you can ignore.
Let us now explore the topic in greater depth.
We will look at why grit is not necessary for parakeets but what is. This will help to ensure that our pet bird lives a long, happy and healthy life.
Parakeets And Grit
Grit is a granular, dense mineral, which generally comes from quartz or granite and many birds cannot do without it in their diet, some of these birds include, pigeons, turkeys, guinea fowl, pheasants, and many more.
It helps the mechanical action of digestion and can be considered a grinding tool. It is also a great source of essential minerals, like calcium.
Many birds eat grit in the wild, it is widely believed to aid digestion, although it is a controversial subject.
There are two types of grit
Soluble grit is easily dissolved by acids in the stomach, because of this, it does little to aid the digestion of food. However, soluble grit is a good source of calcium and other minerals.
Insoluble grit is believed to aid in the breakdown of food because it remains in the gizzard ( a muscular portion of the stomach).
Birds in the wild have a different diet to birds in captivity, they must eat whatever is available. This can include seeds with tough shells or hulls, this is where grit is needed to break up these hard shells.
One question that new parakeet owners often ask is whether their pet parakeet therefore requires grit. The answer to that question is no. Studies on pet parakeets and similar birds, like parrots and cockatiels, show that grit is not essential to their diet.
Parakeets are fed seeds or pellets that are hulled and easily digestible, they eat the soft flesh inside the seed.
Grit can harm parakeets, especially if given in excess. Some of the health issues it can cause are the impaction of the ventriculus, proventriculus, or the crop. It can seriously irritate the digestive system of your parakeet.
Is Grit Necessary For Parakeets?
Grit is not necessary for parakeets or any birds of the psittacines family. Parakeets are able to digest their food because of the hulled seeds and pellets that they are given.
Aside from not needing the mechanical digestion of grit, it doesn’t provide them with any nutrition. Grit is no substitute for a balanced diet, so it is of no benefit to them whatsoever.
Parakeets whose core diet is pellet based, have all the nutrition they require to live and be healthy.
They do best with a variety of fruit and vegetables, that you can offer to them as treats. Bearing in mind, that treats should only make up around 10 percent of their daily intake of food.
Parakeets like dark leafy greens like broccoli, kale, spinach and they like carrots, sweet potatoes, squashes, apples, raspberries, bananas, and much more.
They need protein in their diet, so you can offer yogurt, small pieces of egg, and cheese, twice a week. Your parakeet will enjoy eating dairy, as it will make a nice change from what they would normally eat during the week.
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Do Parakeets Need Calcium?
Parakeets need a small amount of calcium to stay healthy. If your parakeet’s core diet are well-formulated pellets, they won’t require calcium supplements as pellets are nutritionally complete.
Parakeets that are on a seed-based diet, will require calcium supplements, as seeds are incomplete. Cuttlebone is a popular source of calcium for birds on such diets, and you can pick it up for a great price on Amazon.
It is possible to give your parakeet too much calcium. Calcium deposits can build up in the kidneys leading to kidney failure.
There was uncertainty before as to whether kidney failure was caused by an excess of calcium or vitamin D3.
Studies were conducted to determine the cause of kidney disease, and birds were offered varying concentrations of calcium and vitamin D3.
The studies showed that when parakeets were given calcium concentrations above 0.7%, calcium deposition began to develop.
When the concentrations rose above 1.5 %, it resulted in the death of young and adult birds. However, when calcium levels dropped to 0.3% it caused weak bones in laying hens and their eggs didn’t hatch.
This study is important, as it shows that parakeets need calcium but in a narrow range, between 0.3% to 0.7% appears to be the safe zone for calcium concentrations.
The symptoms of low calcium levels are as follows:
- Weak bones
- Poor eggshell formation
- Heart disease
The Symptoms of high calcium levels are as follows:
- Calcium deposition in the kidneys resulting in kidney failure
- Abdominal pain
- Females unable to lay eggs, or chicks unable to break out of their shells
Let’s look at some excellent supplemental sources of calcium:
- Bone, cheese, eggshell, yogurt and mineral blocks.
- Dried fruits like raisins, figs, and apricots – but be careful offering too many dried fruits as they are high in sugar.
- Beans like, chickpeas, black beans, kidney beans, and soybeans, but only offer cooked beans, as they are toxic in their raw state.
- Leafy dark green vegetables like kale. broccoli, cabbage, and bokchoy.
- Nuts and seeds like almonds, walnuts, flaxseed, and pumpkin seed – feed nuts in moderation as they are high in fat.
So as long as you a providing a well-formulated pellet feed, along with a lot of variety of including those referenced above, your parakeet should have sufficient and not excessive calcium in their diet.
Aside from needing protein and some calcium, your parakeet also needs vitamin D and magnesium.
Vitamin D helps to regulate the amount of phosphate and calcium, this is vital for bone and muscle health, as well as the health of the brain, immune system, and nervous system.
Vitamin D promotes cardiovascular health and lung function. Examples of vitamin D food sources include – cheese, egg yolks, beef liver, and fatty fish.
Magnesium promotes muscle and normal nerve function, as well as a healthy immune system. It steadies the heartbeat and strengthens bones. It supports the production of energy and protein and it helps to regulate blood glucose levels.
Examples of magnesium food sources include – cashews, almonds, brazil nuts, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, soybeans, peas, chickpeas, leafy dark green vegetables, and apples.
As long as your parakeet is on a predominantly pellet based diet, you don’t need to worry too much about achieving the right combination of vitamins and minerals.
With that being said, you still have to provide healthy treats, and offer a variety of other foods.
There is no guarantee that your parakeet will eat everything you put in front of him, it will involve much trial and error. But the effort will pay off in the end as you get to know your bird’s particular needs and likes.
Parakeets do not need grit and there is no advantage to including it in their diet. In fact, it can be problematic if not dangerous to do so.
Birds that need grit are those that are eating different foods and require its digestive properties. This is why wild birds will often seek it out and why your pet parakeet differs completely.
The best thing you can do for your parakeet is to offer them a healthy pellet based diet with regular and varied treats of fruits, vegetables and some nuts.
I am a practiced pet owner with decades of experience owning a number of different pets. I am also the main writer and chief editor here at Pet Educate; a site I created to share everything I’ve learned about pet ownership over the years and my extensive research along the way.