How to get rid of the bugs in your yard? Get the birds involved

After reading that insect-eating birds need grit to aid digestion, I bought a five-pound bag of chicken grit from a local farm store, scattered a cupful along the edge of the concrete driveway, and watched.

In short order, barn swallows swooped in for samples. Now, after three years, they’re still swooping in.

Grit is a finely ground, hard substance, usually oyster shell, fed to chickens, helping to make strong eggshells and to aid digestion. Wild birds benefit in the same ways.

Barn swallows function as insect vacuum cleaners. According to, they hunt on the wing and eat “all types of flies as well as beetles, bees, wasps, butterflies, moths, and other flying insects, [preferring] Larger insects rather than feasting on lots of small bugs.” All those bugs, however, have hard exoskeletons, a substance difficult to digest.

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