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Feeding grit to parrots

Expert Question

Do parrots need grit as a part of their diet?

Expert Answer

This is a controversial question to answer: for so many years, certain veterinarians and pet bird keepers have continued to preach that captive parrots can overdose on grit and become crop-impacted as a result…..truth is, field studies have shown that psittacines of all kinds do go to the ground and ingest grit for many reasons—they even feed it to the chicks in the nest. My breeder parrots, all of which have access to the ground, will begin to ingest soil and sand and crunchy substrate one to two weeks before the laying stage and continue to eat grit well through the first weeks of chick feeding. I first observed this in my older experienced and imported pairs of parrots and so I began to take notice!

The key for the pet owner is what species you are keeping—-certain parrots like cockatiels, lovebirds, princess and other ground foraging species (including cockatoos) will take more grit that eclectus, capes, lorikeets and the like. Soft food eaters need less grit than do seed eaters such as budgerigars. Sometimes the soft food lovers will choose less course grit to satisfy their needs—-things like clay and very fine soil. These are perhaps less gritty and do not precipitate the same digestive activity—instead acting as soil type filler and mineral supplement for the birds. Study your species…it will tell you much about a need for ground minerals…

Finally, it must be emphasized that the addition of grit to the domestic parrot diet can be done very safely if one gives small salt and pepper amounts of clean bird grit to the diet once every two or three weeks. For example, I add two tablespoons of oyster shell/sand/mineral grit to my flocks wet foods once every two to four weeks (more often during breeding season). This amount is for 24 full sized parrots, grey to macaw size. With aloha, EB

EB Cravens
About EB Cravens

“If we TRULY believe our captive-raised hookbills are important to world parrot conservation, we must work ceaselessly to ensure that these same psittacines retain as much of their wild instinctual behavior as is possible,” affirms avicultural writer and hobby breeder EB Cravens, from his small organic farm on the slopes of the Big Island Hawaii.

“Our goal is to birth and raise only a few baby parrots who know that they are parrots, but choose to befriend humans, because humans are nice to them… feed them… and are fun to be with!”

EB has bred, trained, raised, kept and rehabilitated more than 75 species of psittacines during the past twenty plus years both at his home and while managing the notable exotic bird shoppe, Feathered Friends of Santa Fe, New Mexico. His emphasis on natural environments for birds, the urging of babies to fully fledge during the extended weaning process, and the leaving of chicks for many weeks inside the nest box with their parents in order that they may learn the many intangibles of their species, have succeeded in changing for the better the lives of so many captive parrots.

A science writer by training, he was for years a regular contributor for AFA’s Watchbird Magazine and the Companion Parrot Quarterly. EB currently writes a monthly column entitled “The Complete Psittacine” in PARROTS Magazine out of England; and another, “The Hookbill Hobbyist” down under in the well-regarded Australian Birdkeeper. His monthly series of articles “Birdkeeping Naturally,” is sent out to bird clubs and individuals around the U.S.

“As devastating pressures continue upon avian species in the wilds,” he says, “it is critical that those keeping birds in captivity do so with responsibility and foresight.”