Traditionally, it was believed that pigeons need to ingest grit to help them with the digestive process.
Now many pigeon owners claim that pigeons don’t need to take grit along with their feed and that it serves no purpose.
Grit & Digestion
Pigeons need grit to help with their digestive process.
As they swallow their food whole, it has to be broken down in order to get the nourishment out of it.
Pigeons just have stomachs that dissolve their food, they also have gizzards, a muscular part of the stomach.
The gizzard is essentially a food processor where the tiny pieces of grit act as grindstones to crush the whole grains, seeds, and Big Macs (in the case of the city slickers), into pulp which is then worked on by digestive enzymes.
Types Of Grit
There are two types of grit:
- Insoluble grit remains in the gizzard and is usually a form of silica, which can be anything from coarse grains of sand to small pebbles.
- Soluble grit is dissolved by acids as it passes through the pigeon’s digestive system with food.
Forms of soluble grit include cuttlefish (hence its inclusion in the cages of domesticated birds like budgies), limestone, gypsum, and oyster shells.
Because it does not accumulate in the gizzard or stomach, soluble grit has little to do with the digestive process, but it does provide the bird with calcium and other minerals.
Pigeons are voracious eaters.
Food goes in one end and out the other, as you can tell by the amount of droppings they produce.
They have very high metabolic rates.
The insoluble grit they ingest is expelled when they defecate and has to be replaced along with the food they gobble up.
So Grit or No Grit?
The general consensus is that domesticated pigeons do not need grit if they are fed the appropriate diet.
Good quality feeds which may come as processed pellets or mixes of natural foods will have the husks removed from seeds and grains which means the grit is not needed to grind away the outer casings.
Some owners may still provide their pigeons with forms of soluble grit because they contain minerals and salt, plus calcium, which helps form healthy eggs and strong bone in hatchlings.
The addition of grit to a pigeon’s diet will not make up for any lack of vital nutrients.
Pigeons should be provided with a nutritionally-balanced, easily-digestible diet which includes fruit and vegetables alongside the proprietary feed.
Feral pigeons will continue to require grit because they need their gizzards to be able to function as grindstones to remove the outer casings of seeds and grains so that they can get the nutrients from the food they eat.