Home » Do Parrots Need Cuttlebones? [6 Benefits of Cuttlefish Bone]
are cuttlebones good for parrots?

Do Parrots Need Cuttlebones? [6 Benefits of Cuttlefish Bone]

(Last Updated On: November 24, 2022)

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 most significant health benefits of cuttlebone is that it’s constructed from 85% calcium carbonate. The Netherlands Journal of Veterinary Science explains how a calcium deficiency (also known as hypocalcemia) is a common concern, especially among African grey parrots.

Cuttlebone also offers other essential minerals to parrots, including potassium, magnesium, and zinc. In addition, nibbling on cuttlebones can keep the beak optimized, minimizing the risk of malocclusion.

If applying a cuttlebone to a parrot’s cage, consider hanging or suspending it from the roof or wall of a cage. Cuttlebone has two sides – one soft, one hard. Ensure the soft side is made accessible. 

Parrots that willingly consume cuttlebone won’t need calcium supplements. Just as a calcium deficiency is a concern, parrots can struggle with hypercalcemia – too much of this mineral.

Do Parrots Need Cuttlefish Bone?

A cuttlebone can be considered an optional addition to your parrot’s cage, but it is highly recommended. The health benefits associated with cuttlebone are vital.

If your parrot’s diet is insufficient in calcium, cuttlefish bone is more important than ever.

Some owners offer their parrots supplementation to ensure they receive all the necessary vitamins and minerals, but cuttlebone can be considered a natural alternative.

A cuttlebone can also be a toy for your parrot, adding fun to their cage time.

Why is Cuttlebone Good for Parrots?

Cuttlebone, including parrots, should be considered an essential component of a captive bird’s cage.

Hanging a cuttlefish bone offers a range of health benefits and provides play and exercise opportunities. The core cuttlebone benefits for parrots are as follows.

1/ Calcium Carbonate

Cuttlefish bone is calcareous, meaning it is primarily constructed from calcium carbonate.

As you can imagine, this makes cuttlebone a vital source of calcium for your parrot, especially if your bird primarily eats nuts, seeds, and pellets.

Calcium, alongside phosphorous (also found in cuttlebone), plays a crucial role in bone formation. A parrot that enjoys sufficient calcium will remain strong and healthy.

A lack of calcium leads to hypocalcemia, the symptoms of which include:

  • Lethargy
  • Depression
  • Weak muscles
  • Poor balance
  • Fragile bones that are easily harmed by even the mildest of impacts
  • Growth disorders
  • Tremors and seizures
  • Poor reproductive health and high chick mortality

Cuttlebone is a comparatively straightforward way of keeping these risks at bay while eradicating the need for dietary supplements.

In addition to ensuring your parrot enjoys sufficient calcium in its diet, ensure it doesn’t consume excessive phosphorus, as this mineral interferes with the processing and absorption of calcium.

2/ Additional Vitamins and Minerals

Cuttlefish bone is also rich in other essential minerals that’ll bolster a parrot’s health, including:

Magnesium:According to the Journal of Avian Medicine and Surgery, magnesium is just as vital as calcium in preventing hypocalcemia. Magnesium sends messages to a parrot’s body that calcium should be broken down and stored in the bones.
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 will also help regulate a parrot’s appetite and enable them to gain benefits linked to Vitamin A.

As with calcium, ensure that your parrot’s diet, alongside the consumption of cuttlebone, doesn’t lead to mineral toxicity and hypervitaminosis.

3/ Enhanced Heart Health and Circulation

Cuttlebone consumption bolsters the heart health of a parrot, leading to superior blood circulation and keeping all internal organs functioning to capacity.

Naturally, you’ll hope that your parrot avoids injury. If accidents arise, cuttlefish bone also promotes blood clotting and rapid healing.

Biomolecules and Therapeutics explain how this is due to the presence of chitin, a biopolymer found in the exoskeleton of arthropods – and cephalopods like the cuttlefish.

4/ Beak Health

Parrots typically understand when to wear away their beaks. Providing a cuttlebone allows a parrot to wear down its upper and lower beak, preventing misalignment and malocclusion.

Regular nibbling on a cuttlefish bone will retain the ideal shape of the beak.

5/ Entertainment and Recreation

While parrots need at least 2-3 hours of free time outside a cage for recreation and exercise, they’ll still spend significant time inside the confines of captivity.

As intelligent animals, parrots need regular entertainment and enrichment.

Applied Animal Behaviour Science explains how chewing is an instinctive behavior in parrots and a way for your bird to pass the time.

While chew toys should also be provided, many parrots will have fun biting at a cuttlefish bone.

6/ Fertility

Cuttlebone should be included in a cage if you have a female parrot of breeding age. Consuming cuttlebone will encourage the development of sturdy, healthy eggs.

This reduces the risk of egg binding (dystocia) and enhances the likelihood of chicks hatching safely.

how to get a bird to use cuttlebone

Are Cuttlebones Safe for Parrots?

Overall, cuttlebone is perfectly safe for parrots when used appropriately. The health benefits make cuttlebone a great addition to a parrot’s diet, but balance remains critical.

If you provide a parrot with this complementary food, you’ll need to reduce the provision of foods high in calcium, magnesium, and zinc.

The only other concern with cuttlebone is that it can be brittle, creating sharp edges. Keep an eye on any cuttlebone that hangs in a cage, filing any 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 offers bird supplies should have a ready stock, and you should not 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:

  1. Boil it in saline water for around 10 minutes, then rinse it.
  2. Apply a spray solution of vinegar and water, then rinse again.
  3. Leave the cuttlebone to dry in the sun, ideally for at least 24 hours.

How Long Do Cuttlebones Last?

If your parrot enjoys chewing on this addition to its cage, a single cuttlebone may be devoured within a week. If your parrot nibbles cautiously or is smaller in stature, it could last a month or longer.

If your parrot shows limited interest, don’t leave a cuttlebone in a cage for too long. 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?

You can suspend or hang the cuttlebone, allowing your parrot to nibble at will. Alternatively, you can grind the cuttlebone to dust and sprinkle it over food.

If you wish to apply a cuttlefish bone to a cage, ensure the softer side is facing upward.

The easiest way to hang a cuttlebone in a cage is to drill two small holes in the base, then attach it to cage bars using zip ties. You could hang it from the cage roof, but using the walls provides easier access.

A pulverized cuttlebone can be sprinkled over your parrot’s food, but ensure the pieces are so small your parrot doesn’t notice them. You could also mix it with a parrot’s water.

Cuttlebone is recommended if your parrot’s diet lacks traditional calcium sources, as it’s a convenient, low-cost, and enriching alternative to calcium supplements for pet parrots.