Believe it or not, birds do indeed eat rocks. Some birds, like hummingbirds, may eat rocks to get minerals in their diet. More importantly, birds digest gravel to strengthen their stomachs or gastroliths to grind their food.
In birds, the stomach is a muscular bag with a thick mucus membrane lining. The gastric juices that produce hydrochloric acid and digestive enzymes are typically corrosive enough to dissolve bones and other tough materials. Birds will also use the rocks to break up food to better digest it.
Read on for more information about this interesting topic!
Why Do Birds Eat Stones?
There are several reasons birds might eat rocks, and understanding why they do so can help you better care for your pet birds.
1. Build Gastrolith To Grind Food
Birds need the grit to help them digest their food properly. Grit is tiny pebbles that help grind up the food in the bird’s stomach. Without it, birds can’t extract all the nutrients from their food and could become malnourished over time.
Gastrolith or stomach stones are built because birds swallow small rocks over time. Once this part is smoothened after grinding much hard food, birds vomit it out and eat new ones.
If you think your bird might be eating rocks because she needs grit in her diet, you can:
- Buy specially made grit at most pet stores
- Try adding some untreated, unprocessed sand to your bird’s diet instead. Just make sure the sand is free of any harmful chemicals or parasites that could make your bird sick!
2. Get Calcium
It’s essential to understand what happens if your flock doesn’t get enough calcium. Feathers need lots of calcium to stay healthy, strong, and beautiful – but it isn’t just feathers that need this mineral!
Other body parts like bones, beaks, and eggs also require calcium. In truth, Rocks are made of minerals and birds need these to make their eggs healthy.
And, when birds don’t get enough, it causes a deficiency that can lead to problems with health, laying habits, egg production in hens, bone strength and development in young birds (and even adults), beak deformities like crossed bills or thin-shelled eggs – the list goes on!
Some birds might eat rocks because they think they are getting sufficient calcium from these objects.
If you notice your flock has eaten pebbles and sand in their regular diet, you can try:
- Adding more leafy greens like kale which contain lots of this vital nutrient
- Feeding them cuttlebone. You can buy one at any pet store to keep in your bird’s cage for extra calcium access when needed!
- Having your birds’ blood calcium levels checked by an avian veterinarian every so often, especially if they are diagnosed with a calcium deficiency
3. Out of Boredom
Some birds might start eating rocks out of boredom if they don’t have enough toys or activities to keep them busy in their cages. This usually isn’t a problem for birds, who are often allowed outside their cages. But birds who spend most of their time inside can become bored very quickly!
If you think your bird might be eating rocks because she’s bored, try:
- Adding more toys to her cage or letting her out to play more often
- Training your bird tricks or teaching her new words. The more mentally stimulated your bird is, the less likely she’ll be to start eating rocks out of boredom!
Do all Birds Eat Gravel?
Birds eat a variety of different things, depending on their species. Some birds, like crows, will eat insects and other small animals. Other birds, like cardinals or blue jays, will typically eat seeds and fruits.
However, most birds have in common that they all seem to enjoy eating gravel. Gravel plays a vital role in bird diets.
To prevent malnutrition, make sure to include various types of foods with all the necessary vitamins and minerals. Make sure to check your birds’ health to see if it needs extra care and nutrition to maintain good health.
As you can see, there are a few things you can do to help prevent your birds from engaging in this potentially dangerous behavior. If you have any other questions about why birds eat stones, feel free to leave them in the comments below!