Oyster Shells for Birds
Birds have behavioral and/or nutritional needs for ingestion of soluble grit. Specially ground for all cage and aviary birds, HARI Oyster Shells soluble grit is completely digestible and provides a natural source of calcium which is required by all caged birds year-round.
Did you know that finely crushed Oyster Shells…
- are a rich source of calcium required by all caged birds for stronger bones and health.
- help to maintain normal cell function, which is essential when breeding for stronger egg shell formation
- are soluble, and therefore digested by acids in the intestinal tract and will not remain in the gizzard or cause impaction
- may benefit birds with digestive problems when including of small amounts of soluble grit to their diet
If you suspect your birds has a digestive problem, consult your Avian vet regarding your bird’s need for a soluble grit.
Types of Grit – Soluble Versus Insoluble Grit.
What is grit good for?
There are two forms of grit available for birds; insoluble and soluble. Insoluble grit (sometimes referred to as gravel) is composed of minute stones and commonly contains silicate and sandstone. Insoluble grit passes through the bird to the gizzard and is used to help grind and breakdown seeds that have hulls or food that has passed into the digestive tract in larger pieces.
Soluble grit is organic and includes cuttle bone and oyster shells. Soluble grit is mostly gypsum or limestone (calcium carbonate). Soluble grit dissolves and is readily digested by acids in the proventriculus and in doing so does not remain in the gizzard or cause impaction.
Should we offer grit to pet birds?Is grit dangerous for pet birds?
Deciding whether to provide soluble or insoluble grit to a bird is a controversial topic in the avian community and answers vary from expert to expert and continent to continent.
All birds have two parts to the stomach. The first is the proventricular (or glandular) stomach, where digestive enzymes help begin the process of digestion. The second part of the stomach is the gizzard (or muscular stomach).
Some birds have a thicker gizzard and eat grit from the ground – little stones and sand – so that when the digestive juices and hard items such as seeds and nuts enter the gizzard, the thick muscles of the gizzard along with the grit help breakdown the food for easier digestion and nutrient absorption.
Birds like doves, pigeons, and small softbills need to eat a bit of insoluble grit (or gravel) to help them digests seeds with hulls. These types of birds usually eat seeds whole and need the insoluble grit to grind the seeds down in order to digest them.
All pet birds need plenty of calcium in their diets.
Calcium deficiency can be a problem for companion parrots, and they can easily become calcium deficient, so it’s important to feed calcium rich foods and supplements. Because soluble grit like Oyster Shells is mostly digested in the proventriculus it is not used as much to grind food particles but can be very beneficial in providing calcium and certain minerals that are required by birds but are not often found in their diet. It is particularly vital for laying females. They need an especially high amount of calcium to form their eggs – the shells are almost pure calcium carbonate. Birds on an all-seed diet and not given mineral supplements will be deficient in calcium, phosphorus, sodium, and other trace elements. Calcium works along with phosphorus and magnesium to aid in stronger bone growth and normal nerve, brain and muscle function.
Calcium is essential for the well-being of all birds. But it is very easy to provide too much calcium and that can cause just as many issues as not providing enough. Always speak with your avian veterinarian to ensure you are providing the right amount for your feathered friend.
Do pet birds need grit in their daily diet?
How much grit should I feed to my bird?
Companion pet birds have a very different diet than those of their wild cousins. In the wild, birds must eat what is available, many seeds have tough shells or hulls and they need grit to help grind down difficult to digest foods.
With the exception of dove, pigeons, and some softbills, in captivity most birds require little if any insoluble grit. However, some experts point out that although insoluble grit is not essential to parrots, there may be an instinctive need for them to consume it. Many believe that having small amount available occasionally (in salt and pepper amounts) allows the bird to decide when and if it’s needed. It’s important to note that there have been cases where birds on a poor diet or suffering from digestive issues may cause them to over consume insoluble grit (*pica syndrome) causing impaction of the crop, ventriculus, or proventriculus. Pica behavior observations should be an indication to the caretaker to seek avian veterinarian advice. It is important to speak with your avian vet about your birds’ nutritional requirements or if you suspect a digestive problem. Remove grit from sick birds until your vet provides care instructions.
* Pica syndrome, pica-overconsumption or craving food or non-food item as a result of deficiency or undesirable internal condition.
Approximately 1.5% of a bird’s body weight is made up of calcium, largely located in the skeletal system. Most available seeds are extremely calcium deficient, often with an unsuitable calcium to phosphorous ratio. Insufficient calcium in the diet can cause poor bone growth, and in breeding/developing birds contribute to thin egg shells and egg binding. Soluble grit (like finely crushed Oyster Shells) can provide birds with essential calcium for bone formation and egg shell production.
Companion birds should have access to soluble finely crushed grit like Oyster Shells as needed. Offer in a separate treat cup. Replace every few days with a clean fresh amount of product. Discard unused portion if soiled. Important: in order for the calcium to be absorbed, it is vital to ensure that the right amount of vitamin D3 is also provided. One of the best ways to provide this essential vitamin is through sunlight or an avian full spectrum UVB light
For all pet birds
Birds should have access to HARI Crushed Oyster Shells as needed. Offer in a separate treat cup. Replace every few days with a clean fresh amount of product. Discard unused portion if soiled. This product may also be sprinkled over seed in salt & pepper amounts. Be sure an ample supply of clean fresh water and food are always available.