How Cuttlebones Are Beneficial For Parakeets & Tiels
Are cuttlebones really necessary for our parrots?
We see them in parakeet, cockatiel, and other parrot cages all the time, but are they actually needed or just a waste of space?
The answer to this commonly asked question and more coming up!
But first, I want you to know exactly what a cuttlebone is and what it’s made from…
- What Exactly Is A Cuttlebone & What’s It Made Out Of?
- How Do Cuttlefish Bones Benefit Your Bird? (Revealed)
- 6 Ways To Offer Cuttlebones To Your Birds
- Cuttlebones Or Mineral Blocks? Do Parakeets Need Both?
- How To Make Your Own Cuttlebones For Birds
What Exactly Is A Cuttlebone & What’s It Made Out Of?
Most bird owners know cuttlebones to be these white oval-shaped objects that go inside parrot cages, but many aren’t aware of where they come from.
Well, here’s your answer:
The term “cuttlebone” is really just an easier way of saying “cuttlefish bone”.
Cuttlebones help with the cuttlefish’s ability to float in the water and control their buoyancy. When the cuttlefish naturally dies, the remaining cuttlebone will float around in the ocean until it inevitably ends up on a beach somewhere.
They can end up on beaches almost anywhere, even in places not native to cuttlefish.
However, a majority of cuttlebones sold in pet stores were likely harvested when fishermen hunt the cuttlefish for food.
They’re sold for roughly 2$ at most pet stores.w
How Do Cuttlefish Bones Benefit Your BIrd? (Revealed)
Cuttlebones are 85% calcium according to thesprucepets.com, making them an ideal calcium supplement for budgies and cockatiels.
Calcium is not only beneficial, but absolutely critical to a parrot’s diet.
The important uses for calcium in birds include:
- Helps to grow and maintain beak and nails
- Feather growth and moulting
- Maintains healthy and strong bones
- Essential for nerve impulses
- Vital for heart rate and blood clotting
- General muscle functions
- Metabolic processes
Parrots simply could not function properly without an adequate intake of calcium.
Female parrots that are breeding require even more calcium intake as egg production uses up a lot of calcium from their system, which needs to be replenished to function normally.
Female birds use the calcium stored in their body to create eggs.
If they don’t have enough calcium sources (such as a cuttlebone), they can quickly suffer from calcium deficiencies.
Other Ways Parrots Use Cuttlefish Bones
While also benefitting as a good calcium supplement for birds, cuttlebones are often used for the following purposes:
- Beak filing
- Fun shredding toy
My cockatiel seems to have created his own use for the cuttlebone 😂
Are Cuttlebones Actually Necessary For Parakeets & Cockatiels?
We now know how crucial calcium is for a bird, but does that mean cuttlebones are essential?
Short answer: No, it doesn’t.
Allow me to explain…
Cuttlebones are merely a calcium supplement, which means they aren’t meant to be used as the sole calcium source.
Wild parrots, especially budgies and cockatiels, would rarely come into contact with a cuttlefish bone.
Instead, they get their calcium from the variety of vegetation they find in the wild.
Parrots don’t need calcium supplements (cuttlebones) as long as they’re getting enough calcium from a nutritionally balanced diet.
Egg-laying birds still require that extra boost of calcium in their system.
But non-breeding parakeets and cockatiels who are eating a large variety of healthy vegetables will not need added supplements.
For birds who struggle to eat a balanced diet, it’s safer to keep the cuttlefish bone inside their cage.
It’s always better to be safe than sorry, especially when it comes to your bird’s diet and health.
Key takeaway: Remember that cuttlebones are simply a supplement to something your bird should already get from their balanced diet. If you’re not 100% certain they’re getting enough calcium, you should leave the cuttlebone inside their cage. Cuttlebones are still essential for female parrots who are breeding and birds who are moulting.
6 Ways To Offer Cuttlebones To Your Birds
No matter how you decide to present the calcium supplement, your bird must have better access to the softer side than the hard shell side.
But how can you tell which is the softer side?
Well, the part of the cuttlebone your bird should be chewing on is more powdery than the much tougher shell side. Just scrape your fingernail on the cuttlebone and see which side you’re able to remove powder from.
The hard side is usually the side they put the clips on as well.
Below you’ll find 6 different ways to present cuttlebones to your parakeets.
1) Using The Clips Pre-Attached To The Cuttlebone
A majority of brands have metal clips on the back of the cuttlebone, which can be used to attach the bone to the side of the cage for easy access to the soft side.
However, the clips are often pretty flimsy and don’t hold the cuttlebone very well.
Because of this, I always just remove them and find my own way to attach the cuttlebone to the cage, such as one of the other 5 ways you’ll learn below.
2) Pegging The Cuttlebone To The Cage
A wooden peg is arguably better at holding cuttlebones on the cage than metal clips.
I say “wooden” pegs because they’re bird safe and what I use to clip food, toys, and my own cuttlebone to my cockatiels cage.
It might look a little… insecure, but it has never fallen off and my cockatiel can still easily access the cuttlebone. You can pick up some bird-safe wooden pegs from most shops that sell stationary and other household items.
3) Placing The Cuttlebone On The Cage Floor
Attaching cuttlebones to the cage bars is overrated anyways.
Another way to give cuttlebones to parrots is to simply put them on the floor or roof of the cage with the soft side facing upwards. This isn’t the ideal placement if your birds aren’t known to forage on the cage grounds as they likely won’t even interact with it.
But the cuttlebone will quickly become a favoured floor toy for birds who love ground foraging!
4) Stuffing The Cuttlebone Between The Cage Bars
If you can’t find anything to attach the cuttlebone with, you can always just push it through the cage bars.
This works best with cages that have tighter bar spacing, such as cockatiel and parakeet cages.
If the bar spacing is tight enough and the cuttlefish bone won’t just fall straight through, this is a quick and easy way to offer the calcium supplement.
5) Sprinkle The Cuttlebone Dust Over Food
One neat way to give your birds the benefits of the cuttlebone is to sprinkle the cuttlebone powder over pellets, seeds, fruits, and vegetables.
By doing this, you’re essentially giving those foods an extra boost of calcium.
This is one of the best options for parrots who avoid cuttlebones but still require a calcium-supplemented diet.
It’s pretty easy to grind up some cuttlebone over a food bowl.
6) Purchase A Proper Cuttlebone Holder
A lot of parrot owners decide to buy a cuttlebone holder because it can be used virtually anywhere on the side of the cage.
It even has a little perch for your parakeets to sit on while they munch on the cuttlebone.
Although it’s not an absolute necessity, the holder is a pretty useful object that you can easily slip the cuttlebone into.
Cuttlebones Or Mineral Blocks? Do Parakeets Need Both?
Cuttlebones and mineral blocks were created for the same purpose:
To provide calcium to small pets.
However, there’s a bit of debate within the avian community about which is better, but for the most part, they’re pretty much the same. Some sources state that mineral blocks have more, well… minerals, but only trace amounts.
Many more of those minerals can be found in your parrot’s balanced diet and vegetable varieties.
Despite this, you can still have one or both of these supplements inside the cage if you like!
Both cuttlebones and mineral/calcium blocks can be used as a beak filer and a toy while also serving as a calcium supplement, so it definitely doesn’t hurt to have them both inside your parakeet’s cage.
How Often Should You Replace The Cuttlebone
Cuttlefish bones being sold for parakeets and cockatiels do not have expiry dates.
Look at the front and back of my cuttlebone packet, there’s no “use by” or “best before” date to be found:
This means you can keep the cuttlebone inside the cage until your bird finishes it or poops on it.
Once your bird drops a gross package on the cuttlebone, it’ll become a breeding ground for harmful bacteria.
It might also be a good idea to remove the cuttlebone once the soft side is gone.
How To Make Your Own Cuttlebone For Birds
If you live in an area where cuttlefish bones wash up on the beach regularly, you might be able to make one for your birds!
Here’s my super simple step-by-step guide on how to make cuttlebones for birds:
- Find a good-sized cuttlefish bone from the beach
- Clean it
- Present it to your bird
It doesn’t get any easier than that!
However, you need to be thorough when cleaning as you don’t want your bird to consume any unknown beach toxins.
Here are some ways you can wash and sanitise wild cuttlebones:
- Rinse it
- Boil it in water (kills germs)
- Use a knife to scrape away any tough dirt or stains on the cuttlebone
- Bake it in the oven (will release an unpleasant smell) or leave it out in the sun for 24 – 48 hours
After using a few of these cleaning methods on the cuttlefish bone, it should be clean and ready for your parakeet’s enclosure.
Although cuttlebones are a good calcium supplement, they aren’t 100% necessary as long as your parrots are eating a nutritionally balanced diet with sufficient calcium.
Many reliable sources (linked below) have stated this.
However, cuttlebones are still essential for egg-laying birds as they require extra calcium in their body.
As mentioned, egg production takes calcium straight from the parrot’s body.
If that calcium isn’t quickly replenished, the bird can suffer from calcium deficiencies.
For this reason, it’s always best to have a cuttlebone (and maybe also a mineral block) inside the cage of breeding birds to ensure they have a reliable source of calcium.
The same rule applies to birds who refuse to eat a healthy diet.
If your parrot isn’t eating a balanced diet, it’s best to keep a cuttlebone in the cage to ensure they’re getting adequate calcium.
Here’s why calcium is so important for parrots:
- Beak growth and maintenance
- Feather construction and moulting
- Bone strength
- Nerve impulses
- Essential for heart rate and blood clotting
- Vital for general muscle functioning
- Metabolic processes
Hopefully, this article has helped you understand a little more about cuttlebones and why they’re necessary for providing calcium in some cases.
Thank you for reading 🙂