Do Budgies Need Cuttlebone to Survive?

Last updated on February 5th, 2024 at 10:36 pm

Written by Isra P

Do budgies need cuttlebone? That’s a good question. Budgies need lots of nutrients, and although most can be provided through a balanced diet, some supplementation is almost always necessary. That’s when cuttlebones come in.

Budgies need cuttlebone for many reasons. It is an excellent source of calcium, trace minerals, and can help prevent beak overgrowth. It’s also useful to keep budgies entertained. Still, initially, some birds may not want to nibble on cuttlebone; however, there are a few solutions to this problem.

Giving your budgies cuttlebone is often trickier than it seems. Sometimes you may have to prepare it before offering it to them, and there are instances in which your pets may not want anything to do with it.

Keep reading to find out how it can make your budgie healthier and what you can do if they are too stubborn to try it.

Cuttlefish bone or cuttlebone is the internal shell of an organism known as cuttlefish, which is a mollusk and not a fish (reference). Interestingly enough, a cuttlefish is similar to a squid or an octopus and has this calcified structure or bone inside its body that remains long after it dies.

cuttlefish mollusks

This bone is made out of calcium carbonate (CaCO3) and possesses several chambers containing gas, which lets the mollusk floats whenever it needs. It is often used as an accessory in birds’ cages to provide nutrients such as calcium to birds.

What Does Cuttlebone do for Budgies?

Cuttlebone offers valuable nutrition to budgies. You see, budgies often get too picky and refuse to eat pellets, which can provide calcium and other minerals they need. In such cases, a cuttlebone may be more attractive to them, allowing it to deliver vital nutrients like zinc, magnesium, potassium, phosphorus, and iron.

Calcium

Calcium is a crucial element in a budgie’s health. It’s necessary to develop strong bones, proper nerve signaling, improve muscle function, enzyme synthesis, and a healthy cardiovascular system.

Although it can be obtained through superfoods such as spinach, kale, collard greens, figs, and others, your pet may not like it. Moreover, some of these foods are high in oxalates, which may bind to the free calcium and limit its absorption.

Cuttlebones are an excellent source of calcium as they can be assimilated without much problem and are readily available for a much lower price than vegetables like kale.

Minerals

In addition to calcium, cuttlebones, which are made from aragonite, also contain essential trace minerals (source).

Magnesium: This mineral is vital to provide energy and keep your budgies’ muscles strong so they can play for hours without fatigue.

Zinc: Your budgie’s immune system can’t be strong without zinc. It’s necessary to protect them from various infectious agents, such as viruses and bacteria.

Potassium: Not many budgerigar owners know this, but the potassium in cuttlebones works as an electrolyte to keep budgies’ hearts strong, which is critical when they play and exercise vigorously.

Iron: Budgies can’t do all they want to do without enough iron. This nutrient allows oxygen to be carried by the blood to all the tissues in the body.

Phosphorus: Repairing the DNA of budgies is something phosphorus can help with. This element is needed to maintain healthy bodies and reduce bone loss.

Beak Trimming

Beak overgrowth is a serious health problem in budgies. So we have to make sure those beaks stay trimmed and in good shape for as long as possible. Otherwise, they may have trouble consuming food and getting nutrients.

Cuttlebones offer the appropriate texture and consistency for the job. They work as grinding stones that are hard enough to provide a challenge yet reasonably soft for budgies to keep going at them.

Fertility

Believe it or not, cuttlebones, as a powerful source of calcium, zinc, magnesium, potassium, iron, and other essential minerals, can improve the fertility of female budgies.

As they prepare to give life to new baby budgies, they require vast amounts of nutrients, especially calcium, to avoid getting depleted and experiencing malnutrition.

Fun

Budgies get bored quite quickly and love to take a bite of almost everything they see. For that reason, you have to keep them entertained while preventing them from eating stuff that can harm them.

Cuttlebones are ideal for both purposes. While budgies spend hours trying to tear them apart, they get valuable nutrition that makes them more resilient.

How do you Prepare a Budgie's Cuttlebone?

How you prepare a budgie’s cuttlebone depends on how you obtain it. Basically, you either find it on the beach or get it from a store.

For those lucky enough to live nearby a beach, rejoice as you may have an unlimited source of free cuttlebones! The only thing you need to do is to pick them up from the shore and clean them before offering them to your pet.

cuttlebone over the sand

Since we don’t know what unseen critters might be hiding inside our pet’s future toy, we must sanitize it.

⦁ First, wash it under distilled water to remove excess salt, as budgies might not like it. Then, let it dry in the sun, as UV rays are great at eliminating pathogens (research).

⦁ Once dried, place it in an oven, and let it bake for 2 hours at 250 °F or 121 °C to remove any potential threats that might have survived the sun bath. Alternatively, you may boil the cuttlebone in water for 20 minutes and dry it in the sun if you don’t feel comfortable using the baking process.

⦁ Once done, store it in an airtight container to prevent moisture from creeping in. Otherwise, bacteria or mold might appear and ruin all our precious work.

If you buy it from a store, you have to ensure the package indicates it has been washed and desalinated before purchasing it.

Where do you put a Cuttlebone in a Cage?

Placing the cuttlebone in your budgie’s cage can be a daunting task. Its oval shape, combined with its fairly large size, can make it tricky to position, so you have to maneuver a bit to find the perfect spot.

cuttlebone inside a cage

You can lazily leave it at the bottom of the cage for your pets to nibble on when they feel like it. Still, your budgies’ droppings will likely cover it in no time, so it’s far from ideal.

Hanging at the top is also an alternative, but there is a chance your budgies will ignore it if they are too picky and is out of their way.

Leaning the cuttlebone against any side of the cage seems to provide the best results in getting your pet’s attention. Remember to keep its soft side inside the cage, as that is the one you want your budgies to gnaw on. The brittle side tends to be hard for them, so make sure that one faces outwards.

In the following video, you will see why cuttlebones are so great for budgies:

How do you Attach a Cuttlebone to a Cage?

Now, whether you grabbed it from the beach or bought one from the store, you will probably struggle to keep the cuttlebone in place.

cuttlebone with metal clamps in the cage

The metal clamps they include rarely work well, so you must use a holder or a zip tie to prevent it from falling off.

Holders are convenient as they can easily be attached to any part of the cage without problems. The only thing you have to do is place it in the designated spot, and voila!

Zip ties require more finesse. You can secure the cuttlebone with a zip tie, but you have to be careful to tighten it from the center. If you do it from any corner, it will go down by just looking at it.

Drilling a hole in it and running a zip tie through it is a viable alternative if you get tired of battling it.

How do I Feed Cuttlebone to my Budgies?

You want your budgies to partake on the cuttlebone whenever they can. To make it easier, you can stick it near the food container, in front of a perch, or any other area they can’t possibly ignore.

Sometimes your budgies may find that new cuttlebone interesting and will nibble on it asap. If that’s the case, you don’t have to do anything except let your pets have a blast.

However, they might also get afraid and avoid it at all costs. In such a case, you may scrape a bit of it, grind into dust, and sprinkle it over their food. That way, they will acquire the nutrients they need without putting up a fight.

Is it Possible for my Budgie to Have too Much Cuttlebone?

Budgies can have too much cuttlebone, as an excessive amount of anything can be harmful to anyone.

Budgies that partake in cuttlebone far too often are at risk of experiencing kidney problems due to calcium overdose. So if you see that you need to get a new one often, you might have to limit their access to it to two or three days weekly.

How Often Should I Change my pet's Cuttlebone?

Since they don’t expire, cuttlebones can last for weeks or even months, depending on how much your pets go after them. It’s essential, though, to keep them away from your budgie’s droppings, as they might quickly get contaminated and become a breeding ground for bacteria.

Also, cuttlebones should remain far from any water source as they can soften and lose their toughness, making them less useful.

Why is my Budgie not Using Cuttlebone?

Your budgies could be avoiding cuttlebone for many reasons. For example, they may not like it. Furthermore, it could also seem threatening, and your budgies might fear it. Additionally, it may be too far from your pets, and they may not notice it’s there.

Which is Better, Cuttlebone or Mineral Block?

Both cuttlebones and mineral blocks are great assets to keep your pet in good health. Cuttlebone is a good source of calcium and minerals such as zinc, magnesium, iron, potassium, etc.

a cuttlebone and a mineral block

It’s also natural, without chemicals that could harm your winged companions. Sadly, some budgies aren’t fond of its fish-like flavor and tend to avoid it.

Mineral blocks are created to supplement your budgies’ needs by supplying many vitamins that could be absent from cuttlebone. Often, they can be equally or more nutritious than the bones themselves.

They also have a better flavor than cuttlefish bones (at least that’s what it seems since they nibble on them more), as manufacturers do their best to make them irresistible to budgies.

On the flip side, you must be more careful with mineral blocks as they might include dyes or dangerous preservatives that would negate the extra nutrition.

As a general rule, have a cuttlebone and mineral block always available. Then, depending on your pets’ necessities and behavior, you can remove one or the other if your pets start overindulging.

A cuttlebone is something that every budgerigar should have in its cage. It’s essential to prevent malnutrition and ailments from a calcium deficiency.

Moreover, it will help them maintain their beaks at a proper length so that they can eat and play at leisure. So keep an eye on it, and your feathered buddy will reward you with happiness.

He is the leading creator of featheredbuddies.com, a website dedicated to helping bird owners. For many years, Isra P has cared for budgies and other birds to ensure their happiness and well-being. His passion and enthusiasm for them have led him to a quest to find out why birds act the way they do and how to enrich their lives.