Budgies need plenty of space, places to perch and climb, toys to provide entertainment, and cuttlebone to keep them healthy.
Cuttlebone is the internal shell of the cuttlefish, an aquatic mollusk with a tough, brittle shell. Like the budgie, the cuttlefish is native to Australia. As cuttlefish rarely live longer than two years, vacant shells rise to the ocean surface.
According to the Journal of Crystal Growth, the primary component of cuttlebone is aragonite. This carbonate is popular among homeopaths and spiritualists, but budgies use it differently.
Cuttlebone is placed in a budgie’s cage so the bird can peck and chew at it. In doing so, budgies will significantly increase their calcium intake, bolstering a budgie’s health and trimming its beak.
As omnivores, your budgie shouldn’t object to consuming cuttlebone. If the taste isn’t appealing to your budgie, consider grinding cuttlebone into a food bowl or replacing it with a mineral block.
Why Should Budgies Have Cuttlebone?
The benefits of cuttlebone for budgies are the delivery of calcium, the trace presence of other minerals, and trimming of the beak during the chewing process. Playing with a cuttlebone is a further bonus.
The calcium content is the main advantage of putting a cuttlebone in a budgie’s cage.
Materials Science and Engineering stated that cuttlebone has long been used in bioengineering because it contains calcium carbonate.
Calcium is vital to budgies, and a calcium deficiency can have severe health repercussions. Budgies use calcium to strengthen their bones; calcium is absorbed using Vitamin D, ideally from the sun.
If your budgie is female and you plan to breed her, the presence of a cuttlebone is especially significant. Females need calcium for stronger and sturdier eggs, reducing the likelihood of egg binding.
Aragonite also contains trace levels of other essential minerals, including:
- Iron: Encourages the formation of red blood cells and healthy blood flow.
- Potassium: This is vital to keeping the muscles and internal organs functional.
- Zinc: Promotes a healthy immune system and prevents respiratory infections.
- Copper: Aids wound healing and keeps a budgie’s circulation healthy.
Regular consumption of aragonite will keep your budgie healthy and strong.
Trimming the Beak
A budgie’s beak never stops growing, so it may need to be trimmed periodically to prevent overgrowth, misalignment, or malocclusion.
As cuttlebone is tough, chewing on it will naturally grind down a budgie’s beak. If your budgie can be encouraged to use cuttlebone daily, it’ll enjoy superior beak health.
How To Give Cuttlebone to Budgies
Having established that cuttlebone should be added to a budgie’s cage, we need to determine how you can encourage your budgie to take advantage of its presence.
Obtaining Cuttlebone for Budgies
Should you buy cuttlebone from a pet store or get cuttlebone from the beach?
Getting cuttlebone from the beach is appealing if you live nearby, as it’s a fun activity and you’ll save money. However, any cuttlebone will need to be cleaned before it can be offered to budgies.
If you intend to use cuttlebone from the beach, they’ll need to be in good condition and sanitized to kill any mold, fungus, and bacteria that may have accumulated.
Sanitization can be achieved by doing one or more of the following:
- Boil the cuttlebone in water for 15-20 minutes and allow it to dry in the sun.
- Leave the cuttlebone to soak in salty, room temperature water for 24 hours and dry in the sun.
- Bake the cuttlebone on medium heat for several hours.
Store any cuttlebones in an airtight container to prevent moisture absorption. This is essential as it’ll prevent mold, fungus, and bacteria from accumulating.
We recommend you buy cuttlebone at any pet shop, ensuring that the product is labeled as “washed and desalinated.” This will ensure that you’re providing safe cuttlebone for budgies.
Providing Cuttlebone for Budgies
Cuttlebone should be attached to the side of the cage. Use zip ties to fasten the cuttlebone to the cage bars and hold it in place. The cuttlebone should be placed near a perch or platform for easy access.
When you touch the cuttlebone, you’ll notice that one side is softer than the other. Ensure this soft side faces your budgie. This will be easier to chew and be more appealing to your budgie.
You may find that your budgie takes to cuttlebone immediately, playing with and chewing on it. If this is the case, leave the budgie alone, as it’ll use the cuttlebone at its leisure.
Alternatively, you can grind up cuttlebone traces into your budgie’s food. Consuming the ground-up cuttlebone means your budgie gets the calcium it needs.
How Long Does Cuttlebone Last?
The shelf life of cuttlebone depends on how your budgie takes to it.
Aragonite is tough, and it doesn’t have an expiration date. Cuttlebone could be decades old before placing it in a budgie’s cage, assuming it has remained dry.
However, according to Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta, aragonite will dissolve if left in water, meaning prolonged seawater exposure will weaken the cuttlebone’s integrity.
The same warning applies to a birdcage. Keep your budgie’s cuttlebone away from a water supply to prolong its usefulness. If a bird chews in softened cuttlebone, its beak won’t be worn down.
Once a budgie starts interacting with cuttlebone, it may last for weeks, months, or even years.
The more a budgie uses the cuttlebone, the sooner it’ll need replacing.
Note that budgies can consume too much calcium. If your budgie gets through its cuttlebone too quickly, you may wish to only add it for 2-3 days a week.
Cuttlebone vs. Mineral Block for Budgies
A mineral block is an alternative if your budgie shows no interest in cuttlebone.
As the name suggests, a mineral block consists of concentrated vitamins and minerals. These can be placed in your budgie’s cage and consumed at will to gain these dietary benefits.
Some budgies prefer mineral blocks to cuttlebone as manufacturers frequently add flavors, making them more appealing to a budgie palate than pure cuttlebone. As an owner, you may prefer the natural approach. Ensure that any artificial flavorings don’t negate the benefits of the minerals.
A block is likely the best option if your budgie has an illness that leaves it deficient in certain minerals. For a healthy budgie, cuttlebone is a more well-rounded solution.
Cuttlebone should be ever-present in a budgie’s cage, especially for females during the breeding season. It’s a cost-effective way of preventing a budgie from developing painful misalignments of the beak while offering essential nutrients, such as calcium, and providing much-needed enrichment.