Home » Are Bones Good for Parrots? [Pork, Chicken, Turkey + Fish]
can you give bones to parrots?

Are Bones Good for Parrots? [Pork, Chicken, Turkey + Fish]

Many of us have leftover chicken, turkey, pork, and fish bones at the end of a meal. Rather than waste them, we might have considered giving them to our parrot, but is this a good idea?

Bones aren’t good for parrots. Although rich in calcium and other nutrients, the linoleic acid in the marrow may be harmful. Bones are also high in fat and calories, and parrots can get all the nutrients they need from a more natural diet. Parrots would rarely eat bones in the wild.

Some people feed bones to their parrots without issue. If that’s something you want to try, we suggest you opt for specific types of bone only. Also, keep bones as a treat rather than a regular meal.

Is It Natural for Parrots To Eat Bones?

To understand whether bones (and bone marrow) are a species-appropriate food, let’s consider what a parrot would eat in the wild.

According to Science Direct, most psittacine(parrot) species are granivores or frugivore-granivores. This means their diet consists of the following:

  • Grain
  • Seeds
  • Nuts
  • Fruit
  • Flowers

A smaller number of wild parrots are classed as omnivores, which means they eat all the above, as well as insects, larvae, and animal matter. This “animal matter” usually makes up a small part of their diet.

According to Bio-One Complete, the table shows the differences between the psittacine species in diet:

SpeciesFeeding StrategyCommon Diet Ingredients
Golden Parakeet (Aratinga guarouba)FrugivoreFruits, buds, flowers
Buffon’s Macaw (Ara ambigua)FrugivoreFruits, flowers
Red-fronted Macaw (Ara rubrogenys)Frugivore-GranivoreFruits, seeds
Budgerigar (Melopsittacus undulatus)GranivoreSeeds
Cockatiel (Nymphicus hollandicus)GranivoreSeeds (prefers soft young over hard mature seeds)
Hyacinth Macaw
(Anodorhynchus hyacinthinus)
GranivorePalm nuts
Yellow-crowned Parakeet (Kakariki)OmnivoreInvertebrates, plant matter
Corella (Cacatua pastinator)OmnivoreGrains and seeds up to 80%, some insect larvae

What Animal Matter Do Omnivorous Parrots Eat?

This “animal matter” comprises insects, invertebrates (e.g., butterflies, snails, worms), and larvae.

If a wild parrot is lucky enough to come across a carcass in the wild, it may scavenge the flesh from the bone and extract the bone marrow, too.  

So, bone marrow is somewhat “natural” for omnivorous parrots to eat. However, a parrot wouldn’t regularly consume bone marrow in the wild.

Beneficial Ingredients in Bones (and Marrow) for Parrots

When you look at the ingredients in bones and bone marrow, it’s easy to see why many owners would want to give this food to their parrots, as it contains:

  • Vitamin A, B2, B12, E
  • Omega 3
  • Calcium
  • Iron
  • Selenium
  • Zinc

Bones seem like a good choice because calcium and vitamin A deficiencies are common in pet parrots.

Bad Ingredients in Bones for Parrots

Some research suggests that the bone marrow’s linoleic acid (omega 6) could harm African Gray Parrots, especially in higher quantities. Alpha-linoleic acid (omega 3) is healthy for parrots, but the linoleic acid (omega 6) in bone marrow may not be. 

The other potential problem with bone marrow is that it’s high in calories and fat. If your parrot lives outside and needs to stay warm, this might not be a problem. However, adding excessive calories is unnecessary if your parrot is pampered and already has its dietary needs met.

According to CABI, high-fat diets can sometimes cause atherosclerosis in birds.

Can Parrots Crack Bones?

Granivorous and omnivorous parrots have strong beaks to help them crack through nuts and shells. This means most parrots could crack through small bones (to get at the bone marrow).

According to The Royal Society, chewing and pecking at surfaces is a natural behavior and can help to prevent overgrown beaks. Indeed, if parrots aren’t given things to peck at, they can become miserable.

However, frugivorous parrots will be less used to cracking hard things open as they tend to eat buds, flowers, and fruit. Some pet parrots are scared when presented with a bone, and it’s more likely to be frugivorous breeds scared by bones, as they’re unsure what to do with them. 

Some owners who give bones to their parrots will slice the bone in half so the bone marrow is easier to get at. This is safer if you’re worried about your parrot hurting its beak.

can parrots eat pork bones?

Can Parrots Eat Cooked Bones?

Giving your parrot cooked bones will be easier for it to scavenge any meat left on the bone and then retrieve the bone marrow inside.

However, cooked bones are more likely to splinter than raw bones, so they could more easily become a choking hazard.

Quite a lot of owners give their parrots cooked bones (chicken, turkey) without causing a choking hazard, but that’s not to say that it’s entirely safe.

Can Parrots Digest Bones?

Your parrot won’t technically be swallowing the bone. Rather, it’ll be pecking at the flesh left on the bone and picking out the bone marrow from inside.

Parrots seem to digest bone marrow, but linoleic acid could be bad for them (especially in large amounts).

Different Types of Bones for Parrots

You could give your parrot chicken, pork, or fish bones.

Chicken Bones

Chicken bone is the most common bone for pet parrots because owners are likelier to have leftovers. They’re relatively small and easy for a granivorous/carnivorous parrot to crack (once cooked).

Many parrots seem to love the taste of chicken, so the bone marrow is often devoured quickly.

Pork Bones

Pork bones are harder than chicken bones, so the risk of injury to your parrot’s beak is higher. For that reason, sticking with chicken bones (or cuttlefish bone) is better.

Fish Bones

Cuttlefish bone is popular for parrots and other birds. One of the benefits of this fish bone is its high calcium.

If your parrot is craving calcium to any degree, it would probably start pecking at a cuttlefish bone. Cuttlefish is a good bone for gnawing on to prevent scissor beak or an overgrown beak.

Points to Remember  

Some parrots are omnivorous (eat animal products), but most aren’t. This means that bones and bone marrow aren’t a particularly “natural” food for most parrots.

However, according to Springer Link, parrots have good “dietary plasticity,” which means they can adapt to changing diets quite well.

Pecking at a bone can be interesting for your parrot and help prevent an overgrown beak. It’s also a good source of calcium and vitamin A.

However, the linoleic acid in bone marrow may be bad for parrots. Bones should only be given in moderation as they’re high in fat and calories, leading to weight gain.

If you want to give your parrot a vitamin-and-mineral boost but don’t want to give it bones, dark greens (broccoli, spinach), cooked chickpeas, and Brazil nuts are good sources of calcium.

Orange and red fruits and veggies (carrots, oranges, melon, squash) are good sources of vitamin A.