The cuttlebone is the long, oblong shell of the cuttlefish, a marine cephalopod that resembles a squid. Cuttlebone is applied to many animal habitats, including bird cages.
Among the main health benefits of cuttlebone is that it comprises 85% calcium carbonate. The Netherlands Journal of Veterinary Science explains how a calcium deficiency (hypocalcemia) is a common concern in parrots, especially among African greys.
Cuttlebone offers other essential minerals for parrots, including potassium, magnesium, and zinc. In addition, nibbling on cuttlebones can wear down the beak, minimizing the risk of overgrowth.
If applying a cuttlebone to a parrot’s cage, consider hanging or suspending it from the roof or wall of the cage. Cuttlebone has two sides – one soft, one hard. Ensure the soft side is accessible.
Parrots that have a cuttlebone won’t need calcium supplements. Just as a calcium deficiency is a concern, parrots can develop hypercalcemia due to too much calcium.
Do Parrots Need Cuttlefish Bone?
A cuttlebone is an optional addition to a parrot’s cage, but it’s recommended. If a parrot’s diet contains insufficient calcium, cuttlefish bone is more important than ever.
Some owners provide supplements to ensure parrots receive all essential vitamins and minerals, but cuttlebone is an inexpensive, natural alternative.
A cuttlebone can also be a toy for a parrot, adding enrichment and preventing boredom.
Why is Cuttlebone Good for Parrots?
Cuttlebones are for a pet bird’s cage. Hanging a cuttlefish bone offers health benefits and provides play and exercise opportunities. The core cuttlebone benefits for parrots are as follows:
Cuttlefish bone is calcareous, meaning it’s primarily made from calcium carbonate.
As you can imagine, this makes cuttlebone a vital source of calcium for a parrot, especially if the bird primarily eats nuts, seeds, and pellets.
Phosphorous and magnesium (also found in cuttlebone) are crucial to bone formation. A lack of calcium leads to hypocalcemia, the symptoms of which include:
- Weak muscles.
- Poor balance.
- Fragile bones.
- Growth disorders.
- Tremors and seizures.
- Poor reproductive health.
- High chick mortality.
Cuttlebone is an easy way to avoid these risks without dietary supplements.
Vitamins and Minerals
Cuttlefish bone is rich in other minerals that aid a parrot’s health, including:
|Magnesium:||According to the Journal of Avian Medicine and Surgery, magnesium is as vital as calcium in preventing hypocalcemia.|
|Potassium:||Potassium ensures heart health and helps a parrot metabolize protein and glucose. Potassium also keeps a parrot’s excretion waste at safe levels.|
|Zinc:||Zinc promises healthy bone and feather growth in parrots. Zinc helps regulate a parrot’s appetite and enables them to benefit from vitamin A.|
Heart Health And Circulation
Cuttlebone consumption aids heart health, improving blood circulation and keeping internal organs functioning optimally.
Cuttlefish bone also promotes blood clotting (coagulation) and faster healing if accidents arise.
Biomolecules and Therapeutics explain how this is due to chitin, a biopolymer found in the exoskeleton of arthropods – and cephalopods like cuttlefish.
Parrots know when to grind away the excess of their beaks. Providing a cuttlebone allows a parrot to wear down its upper and lower beak, preventing overgrowth, misalignment, and malocclusion.
Regular nibbling on a cuttlefish bone will retain the optimal shape of the beak.
Entertainment and Recreation
While parrots need 2-3 hours of free time outside a cage for recreation and exercise, they’ll still spend significant time inside their cages. Parrots need regular entertainment and enrichment.
Applied Animal Behaviour Science explains how chewing is an instinctive behavior in parrots and a way for a bird to pass the time. Many parrots have fun chewing and pecking cuttlefish bones.
Cuttlebone should be included in a cage if you have a female parrot of breeding age. Consuming cuttlebone will encourage the development of strong, well-formed eggshells.
This reduces the risk of egg binding (dystocia) and chick mortality.
Are Cuttlebones Safe for Parrots?
Cuttlebone is safe for parrots when used appropriately. The health benefits make cuttlebone a welcome addition to a parrot’s diet, but balance remains critical.
If you provide a cuttlefish bone, reduce the provision of foods high in calcium, magnesium, and zinc.
The only other concern with cuttlebones is they can be brittle, creating sharp edges. Monitor cuttlebones that hang in the cage, filing away corners to prevent cuts.
Where To Find Cuttlebone for Parrots
The best way to acquire cuttlebone is by purchasing from a pet store.
Any store that sells bird supplies should have a ready stock, and you shouldn’t need to pay more than $5. This cuttlebone will be pre-washed and ready to use.
You can also purchase cuttlebone from a fishmonger or trawl the beach for raw cuttlefish bones. These cuttlebones should be washed, as they’ll be coated with seawater and may contain traces of bacteria.
If you wish to sanitize raw cuttlebone, do the following:
- Boil it in saline water for around 10 minutes, then rinse it.
- Apply a spray solution of vinegar and water, then rinse again.
- Leave the cuttlebone to dry in the sun, ideally for at least 24 hours.
How Long Do Cuttlebones Last?
A single cuttlebone may be devoured within a week if a parrot enjoys chewing on it. If a parrot nibbles cautiously or is smaller in stature, it could last a month or longer.
Cuttlebone attracts moisture from the air, so it doesn’t take long for bacteria and fungi to take hold. Check the cuttlebone regularly to ensure it remains fit for purpose.
How Do You Give Cuttlebone To A Parrot?
To apply a cuttlefish bone to a cage, ensure the softer side faces upward.
The easiest way to hang a cuttlebone in a cage is to drill 2 small holes in the base, then attach it to cage bars using zip ties. You can hang it from the cage roof, but using the walls provides easier access.
A pulverized cuttlebone can be sprinkled over the parrot’s food, but ensure the pieces are so small the parrot doesn’t notice them. You may be able to mix it with a parrot’s water.
Cuttlebone is recommended if a pet parrot’s diet lacks other calcium sources because it’s a convenient, low-cost, and enriching alternative to calcium supplements.