There is some uncertainty as to whether this actually means "dove's dung" or not (More on this below). I am inclined to accept as is because Josephus reports that in one of the Roman sieges, the citizens were reduced to eating excrement. Note this quote from Josephus, Wars, V, 13, 7.
And they told him further, that when they were no longer able to carry
out the dead bodies of the poor, they laid their corpses on heaps in
very large houses, and shut them up therein. As also that a medimnus
of wheat, was sold for a talent: and that when, a while afterward, it
was not possible to gather herbs, by reason the city was all walled
about, some persons were driven to that terrible distress, as to
search the common sewers, and old dunghills of cattle, and to eat the
dung which they got there: and what they of old could not endure so
much as to see, they now used for food.
Whether "dove's dung is understood literally or not we should note the following:
- A donkey is an unclean animal and the head is the cheapest part of the donkey and so it was usually very cheap. During the siege of Samaria, it was selling for 80 silver coins - an exorbitant sum.
- Dove's dung (assuming it is literal) could be used either for food or fuel, most likely the former. Again a small porting attracted a price of 5 silver coins, equally exorbitant!
Thus, the listed prices shows how desperate the Samarians had become in the face of imminent starvation.
The Pulpit commentary has similar suggestions:
The ass, being an unclean animal (Leviticus 11:4), would not be eaten
at all except in the last extremity, and the head was the worst and so
the cheapest part; yet it sold for "eighty pieces" (rather, shekels)
of silver, or about £5 of our money; as in the Cadusian famine
mentioned by Plutarch ('Wit. Artaxerx.,' § 24), where an ass's head
was sold for sixty drachmas (about forty shillings). "Dove's dung" is
thought by some to be the name of a plant; but it is better to
understand the term literally. Both animal and human excrement have
been eaten in sieges (Josephus, ' Bell. Jud.,' 5:13. § 7; Cels.,
'Hierobot.,' 2. p. 233), when a city was in the last extremity.
Benson, Barnes, Gill and Bochart suggest that "dove's dung" is either a kind of pulse (vegetable), but this is uncertain.