Of the nutrients a budgie needs, calcium is perhaps the most difficult for owners to optimally provide. Too much calcium is just as harmful as too little calcium (hypercalcemia).
Budgies need calcium for a healthy body, as it fortifies their bones, beaks, and reproductive cycle. They can digest calcium through supplements, cuttlebones, and certain foods.
Dark, leafy vegetables and specific fruits and seeds are good sources of calcium. Also, some supplements can round out your budgie’s nutritional needs if it’s calcium deficient.
What Is Calcium?
According to the National Institute of Health, calcium is an essential mineral for all living creatures. It’s often stored in the bones and teeth, giving them solidity.
However, it also plays a vital role in blood clotting, muscle development and usage, nerve health, and heart function.
Why Do Budgies Need Calcium?
Budgies need calcium for the following reasons:
A budgie’s bones are different from other animals since they’re hollow. This allows budgies to fly more efficiently and reach higher altitudes without being dragged down or restricted by heavy bones.
However, it also makes them more susceptible to weak or broken bones. If budgies don’t get enough calcium, their less robust bones are more prone to damage.
According to the International Journal of Avian Research, females are oviparous (egg-layers) and need calcium to develop eggs. So, a calcium shortfall can lead to egg binding (dystocia).
Egg binding leads to misshapen and soft-shelled eggs. It’s an uncomfortable condition where the female can’t lay her eggs. Dystocia is a life-threatening condition that often requires surgery to resolve.
Without enough calcium, hens can’t form strong, healthy eggs. So, breeding budgies require extra calcium about a month before the commencement of the egg-laying season.
Even budgies that haven’t mated can lay unfertilized eggs due to certain environmental triggers.
According to The Veterinary Clinics of North America, calcium is responsible for blood coagulation, muscle contraction, nerve conduction, hormone release, and more.
Symptoms of Calcium Deficiencies in Budgies
The symptoms of calcium deficiency include:
- Lack of coordination
Younger budgies deficient in calcium may encounter developmental problems.
Their bones won’t form correctly, causing them to gradually deform under the weight of the budgie’s body. This can lead to discomfort, an inability to properly walk or eat, and even premature death.
Adult budgies can develop egg abnormalities. Eggs may have deformed/thin shells, or the embryos may develop abnormal skeletons. Also, eggs may be laid late and have less chance of hatching.
How To Feed Budgies Calcium
If your budgie isn’t breeding, it should get most of its calcium through its diet.
However, if your budgie manifests symptoms of calcium deficiency, you may need to provide calcium liquid or supplements to address the problem.
High Calcium Foods for Budgies
Some foods have more calcium than others, such as the following:
Dark, leafy vegetables are good sources of calcium for budgies. This includes:
- Bok choy, or Chinese cabbage
- Collard greens
- Mustard greens
- Dandelion greens
However, not all dark, leafy vegetables are as healthy for budgies as others, such as spinach and beets. While they contain calcium, they’re high in oxalates.
Oxalates bind to minerals, making them significantly harder for the body to absorb. So, while these vegetables are calcium-rich, your budgie’s body will absorb less calcium.
Also, oxalates are linked to the formation of kidney stones.
Nuts And Seeds
Nuts and seeds that are high in calcium include:
Nuts and seeds, especially those high in fat, should only be given in small amounts.
Dried fruits often contain more calcium than fresh fruits. The drying process can reduce the number of vitamins and minerals in fruit but often elevates the calcium content.
Dried fruit high in calcium includes:
Beans are a great source of calcium and protein, but they’re not all safe foods. When feeding beans to your pet parakeet, ensure that it’s cooked thoroughly, as raw beans are toxic.
Beans that are good for budgies include:
- Pinto beans
- Split peas
- Cooked lentils
Calcium Supplements for Budgies
These calcium sources will boost your budgie’s mineral levels:
Budgies know when they’re low in certain minerals and will seek them out. So, if a budgie thinks it needs more calcium, it’ll peck at its calcium block (or mineral block).
While mostly composed of calcium, calcium blocks can include other minerals, like iron and sodium. Calcium blocks are shaped into squares and rectangles and can be hung on the bars of a cage.
Cuttlefish bones are a good natural source of calcium that fits neatly in the bars of the cage. Cuttlefish bones also provide enrichment, helping wear down and shape the beak.
To offer eggshells, boil them for 10 minutes to sterilize the outer layer. Then, crush the shells into a fine powder (or use a blender), and sprinkle them onto your budgie’s food.
You can disguise crushed eggshells by mixing them into your budgie’s seed tray.
Liquid Calcium for Budgies
Liquid calcium is considered one of the most effective ways to offer calcium. It’s formulated especially for birds, which means the calcium is easily absorbed.
It often contains vitamin D3 and can be digested more easily than solid calcium sources.
How To Make A Calcium Block for Budgies
Calcium or mineral blocks are commonly found in pet stores, but you can make your own.
Gather these key ingredients before you begin:
- Oyster shells
- Plaster of Paris
- Molds, like ice cube trays, baking trays, or muffin cups
- A piece of wire
Plaster of Paris consists primarily of calcium sulfate (gypsum). When combined with water, it hardens quickly, making it the perfect ‘glue’ for your calcium block.
Here’s how to make a calcium block for budgies:
- Grind the eggshells, cuttlebone, and oyster shell into a fine powder.
- Do this by placing each ingredient separately into a blender or food processor.
- Weigh the total amount of these three ingredients.
- Double this amount to get the amount of plaster you require.
- Halve the amount to get the amount of water you’ll need.
- Mix the ingredients.
- Pour the mixture into your mold.
- Bend the wire in half, and position it in the middle of the mixture so that two ends of the wire stick out in the same direction. This will let you tie the block onto your budgie’s cage once it hardens.
- Allow the block to harden. For blocks that are the same size as those sold commercially, you’ll need to wait for a day. Thinner blocks will dry faster, while thicker blocks may take twice as long.
With these steps, you can create your own calcium supplement for your budgie, ensuring it receives all the minerals needed to stay strong and healthy.