You may find your parrot chewing on its toys or cage bars to keep its beak ground down. If so, your parrot needs something tough and abrasive to chew on to stop its beak from overgrowing or becoming too sharp.
Parrots need cuttlebones when their activities aren’t grinding down their continuously growing beaks. Cuttlebones are a good source of calcium. Also, adding cuttlebone to your parrot’s cage set-up is a source of enrichment.
You should get a smaller cuttlebone to suit the tiny beaks of budgies, parrotlets, and cockatiels. For large species, like macaws, they’ll need a bigger and more durable cuttlebone to compensate for their powerful beaks. If you have the right size, your cuttlebone should last a few weeks at the minimum, but up to several months.
Where Does Cuttlebone Come From?
Cuttlebone isn’t made up of bone but the shell of the cuttlefish.
The cuttlefish itself is not a fish but a mollusk akin to an octopus or squid belonging to the cephalopod family. When cuttlebones are harvested, the meat is often used for food, while the shell is turned into calcium supplements.
The cuttlebone is best described as a white, oblong shell comprised of two parts: the outer and inner cone. You can expect to find your parrot’s cuttlebone to be somewhat hollow on the inside.
According to the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the inner cone of the cuttlefish is used to store gas and liquid to keep the fish buoyant.
It’s known to be quite brittle and hard. Of course, harvested cuttlebones will not have any gas stored within them, though you may detect a mild fishy smell still lingering on them.
The cuttlebones that you’ll see are largely comprised of aragonite and calcium carbonate. They have a tough texture that your parrot will have fun nibbling on. Cuttlebone is easy to find in bulk at pet stores everywhere.
How Long Do Cuttlebones Last?
Cuttlebones don’t expire or go bad. Of course, if your cuttlebones become dirty or have been chewed down to the piece you used to attach it to your parrot’s cage, then you should replace it.
Otherwise, this small piece could be swallowed whole. Parrots are adept at swallowing whole objects since they cannot chew, but the sharp nature of a ground-down cuttlebone may pose a danger.
The average parrot will take a few weeks to finish chewing through a cuttlebone. If you give an especially large cuttlebone piece to a smaller bird, then this shell may provide your parrot with months of entertainment.
You can leave a cuttlebone in your parrot’s cage until it gets worn down enough or it becomes dirty. As long as your parrot can safely chew on the shell itself, it should be okay to leave it clipped to its cage for a while.
Do Parrots Need Cuttlefish Bone?
The use of grit in a parrot’s diet is a highly contentious topic among veterinarians.
The Journal of Avian Medicine and Surgery states that a soluble grit like cuttlebone can be completely and safely digested as a part of a parrot’s daily diet.
Others at the Niles Animal Hospital and Bird Medical Center argue that grit is not normally needed for digestion and can cause pet birds to become over-reliant on it to fill their stomach.
Grit can include anything from:
- Oyster shell
- Sanitized eggshells
- Mineral blocks
Veterinarians agree that cuttlebone and other mineral supplements are fine to give to your parrot in moderation. If your pet seems to restlessly chew at its toys or on the bars of its cage, give it a cuttlebone to grind its beak on.
Parrot beaks are made up of keratin, which will continue to grow as long as your bird is alive. Of course, this means that you need to give your parrot something to grind its beak along to prevent it from growing painfully sharp.
Are Cuttlebones Safe for Parrots?
Cuttlebone is safe for parrots to chew or consume.
These shells are durable and nutritious, though some owners might wonder how safe these shells are. Though it is true that cuttlebones provide plenty of nutrients, it’s also true that these shells will also contain sodium as well.
According to the Journal of the Marine Biological Association of the United Kingdom, cuttlebones comprise several chambers that have absorbed sodium levels akin to seawater.
Too much sodium in your parrot’s diet can cause your parrot to develop health issues such as kidney failure. However, cuttlebones aren’t known to have excess levels of sodium after harvesting.
Benefits of Cuttlebones for Parrots
Cuttlebones provide a wealth of calcium for your parrot, which is useful for developing strong bones and increasing blood flow.
According to the Ocean University of China, the cuttlebone is also largely comprised of proteins and sugars. These proteins aid in the shell’s calcification process, which results in more calcium for your bird to consume.
Cuttlebone also contains:
All that extra calcium is especially valuable for breeding females. Developing strong eggs can ensure that her brood will be quite healthy in turn. The additional nutrients work to round out your parrot’s diet, although cuttlebone cannot be the main source of these extras.
The tough exterior of a cuttlebone is perfect for your parrot to grind its beak down on. You might even catch it nibbling on this shell every so often to do so.
You can expect cuttlebones to be a great supplement to your parrot’s diet. They act as a great source of minerals for your parrot, as well as a tough toy to use as a beak grinder.
Best Cuttlebone for Parrots
All cuttlebones will be relatively the same in terms of nutritional content.
Different parrots will have different nutritional needs, however, so you need to take that into account before choosing the best cuttlebone for your parrot.
Cuttlebones come in many different sizes and flavors that will suit some parrots more than others.
Let’s take a closer look into these different types below:
Cuttlebones for Smaller Parrots
Smaller parrot variations will do better with small cuttlebones in their cages. Larger cuttlebones can intimidate your small parrot, which means it will most likely ignore them in favor of other toys provided.
Some smaller parrot breeds include:
Of course, if your pet parrot still ignores a small cuttlebone, you need to reconsider if your parrot likes chewing on cuttlebone or not.
Sometimes parrots manage to grind their beaks enough on their toys and will not need the cuttlebone. You can continue to leave it in its cage until it does start to nibble on it or if it gets too dirty.
Cuttlebones for Larger Parrots
According to the Avocetta Journal of Ornithology, wild marine birds were observed to peck larger cuttlebones far more often. This is thought to be because of the larger shell’s thickness and higher proportion of calcium aragonite.
This includes species such as:
- Amazon parrots
- Quaker parrots
If your large parrot ignores the cuttlebone, try moving it to a different angle to entice the parrot to chew on the shell. Some parrots might be intimidated by the size and avoid it for some time. You can also swap out the larger shell out for a smaller one to test if your parrot likes cuttlebone or not.
Some pet stores also sell flavored varieties of cuttlebone that your parrot might appreciate as well. These varieties have the benefit of additional minerals being mixed into the flavored powder, too. Of course, some of these might be imbued with harmful food dyes, so you should stick to natural cuttlebones.
The cuttlebone is a great addition to any parrot cage setup. It is a reliable source of calcium that may be lacking in your parrot’s typical daily diet. Your parrot can also enjoy chewing on it for weeks or even months at a time. Overall, your parrot will benefit from having a piece of cuttlebone in its cage.