Many birds, like chickens, need grit to help them digest seeds and other food items that have a hard outer shell. But do cockatiels need grit as well?
For bird owners, figuring out the dietary requirements of their feathered friends often proves to be a challenge.
If you’ve got yourself a pet cockatiel for the first time, you might be wondering if you need to feed it grit.
While many species of bird need insoluble grit to properly digest their food, but cockatiels don’t.
Rather, there’s a chance that your cockatiel might develop health issues upon consuming insoluble grit.
Do Cockatiels Need Grit?
In short, grit isn’t essential to cockatiels. Before we get into the details, you need to understand why seed-eating birds are fed grit in the first place.
Unlike us, birds don’t have teeth. So, they need an alternative mechanism to break down hard seeds, right?
Wild birds often consume sand and tiny gravel particles to help themselves with this issue.
These sand and gravel are then stored in the gizzard or crop – a part of the stomach located before the main stomach.
As the seeds move past the sand and gravel, they’re broken down through attrition.
Grit usually refers to insoluble grit – a mix of various bits of rocks and pebbles that pet birds are fed to help them digest seeds.
Cockatiels, as well as other bird species under the parrot family, don’t require grit to break down the seeds, but they still need minerals that are present in those rocks.
They use their beaks to break down the seed instead of the grit mechanism.
Why Do They Need It?
Proper breakdown of food isn’t the only purpose that grit serves. Alongside fresh fruits, vegetables, grains, and seeds, cockatiels also need minerals in their diet.
These minerals are present in the grit in varying quantities.
While that isn’t the main reason they consume grit, it does provide cockatiels with crucial nutrients.
As an alternative to it, you can feed your cockatiel soluble grit.
Unlike insoluble grit, it can dissolve into a cockatiel’s digestive system and act as a mineral food supplement.
Birds need minerals for food clotting, strong bone structure, and egg formation.
How Much Grit Should You Give Your Bird?
If you’re going to feed your cockatiel grit, you must be careful about the quantity.
Too much of it would fill up the bird’s crop and prevent actual food from passing through.
Remember, grit alone isn’t enough – a bird still needs regular foods to meet its nutritional needs.
On average, you need only a tablespoon of grit for every five cockatiels per day. If it’s just one cockatiel, a teaspoon per day should be enough.
What Type of Grit is Safe For Cockatiels?
Of course, before you give a cockatiel any grit to eat, you need to make sure it’s safe.
You should refrain from giving a cockatiel insoluble grit due to the health issues they can potentially cause.
Soluble grit, on the other hand, is a perfectly safe option.
Insoluble Grit – Do Cockatiels Need It?
Cockatiels do not need insoluble grit as they have beaks designed to break down the seeds.
They remove the hard outer layer of seeds using their curved beaks in a process known as de-hulling.
This covering is the hard-to-digest part of a seed – the soft inner part is digestible.
Apart from being unnecessary, insoluble grit can also be harmful to your cockatiel. It would remain in the gizzard and can potentially cause an intestinal blockage.
Soluble Grit- Do Cockatiels Need It?
Cockatiels need a source of calcium and other essential minerals, which might often be scarce in their diet.
A healthy cockatiel needs a balanced diet, which includes the minerals they need.
Soluble grit is perfect for this. It will provide your pet with the necessary nutrition without subjecting the bird to the adverse effects of insoluble grit.
Cuttlebones, mineral blocks, and oyster shells should serve this purpose well.
Your cockatiel can digest them and absorb the mineral content they offer.
Where Can I Get Grit for My Cockatiel?
Finding grit shouldn’t be much of an issue since most pet stores sell grit mixes.
If you usually buy your bird seeds online, you can get the grit the same way too. However, you’ll have to choose the right types of grit.
Go through the ingredients in the grit mix to make sure it doesn’t contain any insoluble ingredients and can be digested.
You can also look for grit mixes made specifically for cockatiels, with soluble grit ingredients containing the nutrients they need.
When & How Should I Give Grit to My Bird?
There’s no hard and fast rule regarding this. Pretty much anytime is fine, although it’s best to feed a bird grit during its mealtimes.
Just put it in the food bowls, along with the regular food. This should be convenient for you while making sure your pet bird can easily consume the grit.
The other option is to leave small quantities of grit in the cage, just like water dishes.
The bird can peck at it as and when it pleases. Cuttlebones are a particularly good choice if you take this approach.
Apart from being soluble grit, they also double as toys and help keep birds entertained.
Do Cockatiels Need Bird Sand?
Bird sand counts as insoluble grit, which means cockatiels don’t need it.
It’s a mix consisting primarily of sand, along with other insoluble ingredients.
Sand isn’t beneficial to cockatiels and can instead pose problems for their health.
Just like other types of insoluble grit, bird sand can potentially damage a cockatiel’s digestive organs.
Hence, feeding a cockatiel bird sand would do more harm than good.
Do Cockatiels Need Mineral Blocks?
Yes, it’s a good idea to give your cockatiel mineral blocks.
They can provide your avian buddy with various necessary minerals and vitamins. In particular, mineral blocks are a great source of calcium for birds.
Other necessary soluble grit like cuttlebones and oyster shells are already present as ingredients in most mineral blocks.
Mineral blocks also act as a source of entertainment to birds and help them file their beak naturally.
Do Cockatiels Need Cuttlebone?
Apart from being safe to consume, cuttlebone is great for a bird’s health.
This soluble grit is an inexpensive and rich source of calcium and phosphorus, both of which are essential.
Calcium is particularly hard to supply in a bird’s diet, which makes cuttlebone an excellent food supplement for cockatiels.
Calcium is crucial for strong bone structure in birds, just like in the case of humans.
Phosphorus helps in skeletal growth too, along with the maintenance of soft tissue. In female cockatiels, both minerals are necessary for egg production.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is gravel good for cockatiels?
Giving your cockatiel gravel to eat as grit won’t do it any good. Firstly, they do not need gravel to break down seed hulls – their curved beaks are enough.
Secondly, gravel can potentially cause health complications in cockatiels and damage their internal organs.
What grains are good for cockatiels?
On average, 15% of a cockatiel’s diet should comprise different grains.
The best and most common grains for feeding a cockatiel are sprouted pulses, black-eye beans, whole-grain toast, cooked rice, pasta, and cooked oats.
How often should I change my cockatiels food?
To keep your feathered friend healthy, you need to provide it with fresh foods.
Generally speaking, you should empty the food bowl once a day and change the food completely.
If you have a busy schedule and there isn’t much food left in the bowl to change, doing it once every two days should be good enough too.
Do cockatiels need a calcium block?
Cockatiels need calcium for egg binding and bone development, but the mineral is often scarce in their diet.
A calcium block would be a great supplement to fulfill your cockatiel’s calcium requirements.
However, you may also give it other calcium-rich soluble grit instead.
Although cockatiels don’t quite need grit for the same reason as most other birds that do, it’s necessary.
A proper diet would include all the essential nutrients, including minerals.
Just like nutritious food and clean water, feed your cockatiel some soluble grit regularly to keep it fit and healthy.
Since soluble grit isn’t very expensive and is easy to find, you shouldn’t have any problems in this regard.
Thank you for reading, and I hope this article has been helpful.