Parakeet Cages: What is a Cuttllebone?
In almost every parakeet cage at the pet store you will see a cuttlebone (commonly misspelled “cuddle bone”). It’s a little white thing that sort of looks like a mini surf board hanging on the inside of a cage wall. The people at the pet store will all tell you that you must have one for your bird to chew on to keep his beak and nails trim and they will tell you that it’s also needed for your birds health. Why? What on earth is a cuttlebone and what does it do for your bird?
What is a Cuttlebone?
Contrary to popular belief, cuttlebones are not for your bird to cuddle with. A cuttle bone is actually a bone from a cuttlefish (well its more of an internal shell than a bone because cuttlefish are invertebrates and don’t have real bones).
Cuttlefish are squid-like animals that fill their porous chalky “cuttlebone” with gasses to help control their buoyancy in the water. Cuttlefish are considered a delicious meal in many cultures throughout the world but the cuttlebone is not usually eaten. Instead its sold to the pet trade and other industries where it can be either ground up to be put in medicine and toothpaste, or it can be kept whole and placed in a bird cage.
The cuttlebone as a toy
The cuttlebone is also fun for birds to claw at and chew on and helps them keeps their beaks and nails trim. If your bird likes his cuttlebone you will have to replace it every few months with a new one for him to tear to shreds!
Cuttlebone as a nutritional supplement
The cuttlebone is almost pure calcium and also contains large amounts of iodine. Both of these substances are needed for bird health but are rarely found in bird seed that’s purchased at the pet store.
Cuttlebones also contain high amounts of salt which some experts claim can lead to egg-binding in female birds. In spite of this risk, most veterinarians recommend the cuttlebone as an excellent calcium supplement that will help insure that your parakeet has healthy bones, feathers, and eggs.
Wild parakeets never eat cuttlebones of course, but they get calcium and iodine eating grit, dirt, mud, and even bits of shell in the soil where they live. Adding a cuttle bone or some other sort of mineral stone to your birds cage will help him feel more at home.