Pigeons are opportunistic feeding birds that can consume almost everything readily available to them, as their bodies are designed to digest soft to hard particles.
Why Do Pigeons Need Grit? Pigeons need the grit to efficiently digest the complex food particles as their gizzards are weak muscular organs that cannot break down the larger, hard particles. Moreover, they have no teeth to crush them into fine particles, so it helps convert gizzards into grinding machines. Furthermore, grit allows better absorption of nutrients after removing the seed hull that these birds cannot remove.
Most probably, you have seen pigeons eating soil, sand, stones, and grit that do not provide food to these birds but help efficiently process food.
Why is grit essential for pigeons?
Grit or stones are part of the pigeon’s diet in addition to seeds, fruits, and food leftovers for many reasons, including that they do not have teeth to break the food particles.
Absence of teeth
Many birds lack teeth as they have adapted to their eating habits and quickly consume whole food particles and prey.
These birds do not have teeth and pick up food with the help of their tongue and beak. Moreover, the absence of teeth facilitates them to consume seeds easily as they can engulf the whole seed.
Moreover, it helped improve flight by reducing their body weight. They need hard material for crushing the food particles when there are no such tough bony structures in their mouth.
The teeth perform this task of crushing and turning large food particles into fine particles in animals and humans, aiding quick digestion.
Accordingly, it can help them consume bigger particles without worrying about their digestion.
Weak muscular gizzards
Gizzards are a muscular part of the stomach, also known as grinding machines. They have to break down the complex and large food particles by muscular contraction.
Pigeons have weak muscular gizzards that cannot efficiently perform the grinding task and rely on other materials like grit to perform crushing tasks.
It can store the small stones consumed by the birds for efficiently breaking down the particles entering this muscular organ.
Moreover, the larger particles are pressed against the hard surfaces when the muscles contract and relax continuously, resulting in the formation of fine particles.
Therefore, the gizzard cannot perform its function without it and only facilitate the task by offering muscular movements.
Unable to remove seed hull
Their beaks are not strong enough to remove the outer covering of seeds or hulls and consume the refined form of food.
They like to eat wheat, sorghum, and sunflower seeds as they provide good nutritional value but consume their shells also that are not required.
Accordingly, pigeons can eat rocks to get rid of the husks that have no nutritional value to them.
Most pet pigeons get refined seeds with no husk on them, which helps avoid the need for grit to remove the outer shell and get nutrition from the inner seed.
Improved digestion and absorption
They have two parts of their stomach, including a glandular one that is considered a true stomach, as it helps digestion by secreting digestive enzymes.
The second one is the muscular stomach that contains tiny stones for the efficient breakdown of food particles.
The pre-digestion process completes in the gizzard, where the hard particles are crushed into powder to absorb nutrients in the small intestine efficiently.
Furthermore, these chemically complex particles are further broken down by the digestive enzymes that convert proteins into amino acids providing energy and maintaining health.
Therefore, it can help improve digestion; otherwise, the true stomach cannot break the linked chemicals to convert them into simpler molecules.
How much grit do pigeons need?
Pigeons do not need grit frequently as they can store it in the gizzard for a long. You have to offer small stones or particles of concrete after every 1.5 to 2 years.
They need a small quantity of grit stored inside their gizzards like you can give almost 1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon after a year.
In addition, almost 1/2 teaspoon is enough for these birds to grind food for the next 1.5 to 2 years.
Moreover, the estimated quantity depends on its type, as insoluble grit can retain for years, and you do not have to feed them frequently.
Furthermore, the pet birds do not require much grit as they are provided with refined seeds having no shells or husks that do not pose stress over the stomach, and the process runs smoothly.
What type of grit is good for pigeons?
Different types of grits are available for pigeons to improve their digestion process. The insoluble grit has silica particles, small pebbles, and sand grains.
However, the soluble form cannot sustain after passing through the true stomach as acidic fluid dissolves it partially. Therefore, you can add cuttlefish, oyster shells, and limestone to their food.
It is not responsible for a prominent effect on the gizzards due to the negative impact of acidic fluids but provides minerals and calcium to improve their health.
So, you can provide a soluble form to the pet birds because it is healthy for them instead of offering insoluble ones when their diet is based on refined pellets or seeds.
Do all pigeons need grit?
It benefits the pigeon’s soluble or insoluble health as it helps grind and crush food particles by pressing them against hard surfaces.
Moreover, domestic and feral birds’ requirement varies depending on their diet.
Domestic birds get attention from their owners to maintain their health, while wild birds must develop strategies to cope with digestion issues.
Feral birds have to consume stones because their gizzards are not strong enough to break the hard food particles. Their muscular organs have to work as grindstones or grinding machines.
In addition, it can help prevent issues of sour crops due to poor food consumption and inefficient absorption of food particles.
However, domestic pigeons can consume high-quality feed or processed food that requires less effort from gizzards and stomach to digest and absorb nutrients.