Crushed Egg Shells And Gravel In A Parrot's Diet?

Crushed Egg Shells And Gravel In A Parrot’s Diet?

 September 20th, 2010
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Blue throated macaw

There was a question following one of my recent posts that I thought would make an interesting topic for a new blog post.  I had made a reference to adding crushed egg shells to an omelet I was preparing for my birds.  I do this often because of the added calcium provided by the shells of the eggs, which are made mostly of calcium.  This is particularly a good idea for parrots producing eggs during breeding season.

It was asked if the shells weren’t harmful to the bird’s throat in swallowing them, and should they be finely crushed or powdered before serving.  She also commented that many wild birds use gravel or grit in their diets and wondered if we should be doing the same with our parrots.

Rose Breasted Cockatoo

To answer both questions, I want to first explain the digestive system of a parrot:  a parrot will first break apart their food with their beak, which is then passed along to the crop.  It is my understanding that the amount processing the food undergoes in the beak is determined by the intentions of its final destination.  If the food is stored in the crop for the purpose of regurgitation to a chick, it is more finely broken down by the beak.

The food is passed from the crop to the proventriculus, which is the first section of their two part stomach.  It is in this secreting area that the food is broken down by enzymes before being passed to the ventriculus , the muscular portion of the stomach. The food there is pulverized before being passed further into the bird’s system where nutrients are separated from waste materials and distributed.

Congo African Grey Parrot

Grit or gravel (which is made of from rock, sand, oyster shells etc. in many wild bird’s diets), is there to provide the same service that is accomplished by our parrot’s ventriculus, or muscular stomach.  Since parrot’s also hull their seeds and nuts and eat only the soft inner parts, gravel is NOT a requirement in their diet.  It is simply an unnecessary aid to breaking down food and can actually cause harm to the digestive system.  Unfortunately, it is sold in many pet stores without any warnings as to it’s hazard to parrots.

With regards to adding egg shells to the diet, I can understand how it would be of concern that your bird eat anything that resembles a shard.  However, your bird is equipped to properly break down the pieces as necessary before ingesting them.  I have never heard of any parrot choking on or becoming impacted by an egg shell.  I do want to recommend that you thoroughly clean the shells before introducing them into your parrot’s food.  They are porous in texture and tend to grab and hold onto germs.

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4 Comments on “Crushed Egg Shells And Gravel In A Parrot’s Diet?”

Vincent  09/20/2010 4:20 pm

I never heard nor read (and I have read a lot about parrots) about gravel or grit being hazardous. My galah seriously eats brick and cement every single day for 18 months now. When he finds stones, sand or dirt, he will eat it too! That’s why I called him Pica. (psych: the intention of eating uneatable things in humans)

2 parrotvets and 5 parrotbreeders tolt me there should be no risk in this behavour.

I believe this might be caused because a Galah’s beaks might grow faster than in oyher parrots. So it’s not really eating but chewing. They are the only species I know that are known for breaking out trough a meter (3.28083 ft) of concrete!!!!

I have a CAG that uses wood to keep his beak in shape.

I just wanted to share so people don’t start to panic to fast,

Egg shells might not be useful. I gueass. But they are certainly outstanding for a crunchy variation. I guess also a lot of germs get killed in the cooking proces.

Then I wanted to share that only really small parts of organic material might be harmfull to parrots because they could block the digestion system. That’s why some people choose syntatic fabric over natural fabric. Not me tough!

I think I need to start my own birdieblog!

O, the bottomline is I believe when a bird has choice and is in good mental health, they will eat mostly what is best for them personally.

Love this site! Loved this post!

Jackie  09/26/2010 1:58 pm

Hello. I read the article where you made the omelet and wondered the same thing about the shells chocking the parrot. This may be a silly question but does this relate to all parrots regardless of their size?

Patty  09/26/2010 11:00 pm

Hi Jackie,
When I serve anything to my smaller birds I always scale things down to their sizes. I would just crush the pieces smaller for them. My quaker and cockatiels do well with eggshells, but can always avoid them if they are a little big. As I said in one of the articles, I have never known of a parrot to choke on an eggshell.

Eun Fletcher  12/24/2012 6:32 am

Wow! I am very happy I came across this blog! Some points I completely agree with and knew about, but few ideas I had not thought about! Thanks!