cuttle fish in water close up

Do Birds Need That Mysterious Cuttlebone in Their Birdcage?

Last Updated on by Catherine Tobsing

Like hard-working catchers of the MLB, we get questions tossed to us day in and day out.

Questions are my favorite part of words.

  • The answers to questions enlighten us and make it better regardless of our endeavor.
  • What size cuttlebone should I put in my bird’s cage?
  • How effective is cuttlebone at reducing the length of my bird’s beak?

“What a long strange trip it’s been” lyrics that you may know as part of a Grateful Dead song and a tribute to Jerry Garcia but the title of the compilation comes from the lyrics of one of Robert Hunter’s most famous songs, the line from “Truckin“:

Lately, it occurs to me: What a long, strange trip it’s been. Robert Hunter was probably the Grateful Dead’s most prolific lyricist –

There’s never a right place to digress, is there?

Have you ever gone out for a drive on a motor scooter or a four-wheeled terrestrial vehicle and ended up in another state?

That’s the feeling I got while researching cuttlefish.

Cuttlefish is a subject that got complicated really fast because it’s far more fascinating than I ever thought.

As caged bird keepers we think of cuttlebone as this oblong piece of white brittle thing that belongs in every bird’s cage.

Turns out this mundane piece of brittle bone comes from a mollusk who is one of the most intelligent invertebrates we’ve come to find.

It’s part of the family known as Cephalopods like squids and octopuses (that is actually grammatically correct thank you).

Would an octopus be a ringer on the Bachelorette having 3 hearts to be broken?

cuttle fish in oceanyour cuttlebone started
out looking something like this

The first human to look at a cuttlefish and said: “that would make a great birdcage accessory” mimicking the first human who looked at a silkworm and said “that would make a great shirt,” got their inspiration from…….?

More elusive insights – sigh.

Anyone who has ever held a cuttlebone in their hand probably didn’t give it much thought behind “this must be some sort of fishbone.”

Before it went crispy white it was part of a cuttlefish’s skeletal anatomy.

Where nature gave birds hollow bones reducing the animal’s weight and enabling flight, nature-filled cuttlefish bones with gas.

Modern-day submarines mimic cuttlefish.

By releasing or filling the chambers in their own bones they are able to control their buoyancy.

True facts ~ the Cuttlefish ~ Video

From Wikipedia:

A cuttlefish possesses an internal structure called the cuttlebone, which is porous and is made of aragonite.

The pores provide it with buoyancy, which it regulates by changing the gas-to-liquid ratio in the chambered cuttlebone via the ventral siphuncle.

Each species of cuttlebone has a distinct shape, size, and pattern of ridges or texture.

The cuttlebone is unique to cuttlefish and is one of the features that distinguish them from their squid relatives. Jewelers and silversmiths traditionally use cuttlebones as molds for casting small objects but they are probably better known as the tough material given to parakeets and other caged birds as a source of dietary calcium.

End Wikipedia

Fun factoid: at the turn of the 20th-century cuttlebone was used as an ingredient in toothpaste.

Here’s the thing.

We stick a cuttlebone into our bird’s cage because “that’s the way it’s always been done.”

Some caged bird keepers do dig a little deeper and realize that cuttlebone is considered a calcium supplement given to small birds to provide them with additional calcium.

This product is produced from the skeleton of cuttlefish and is composed primarily of calcium carbonate.

Although cuttlebone has prevented a lot of birds from developing calcium deficiencies, this form of calcium supplementation is not the ideal way to provide calcium because calcium carbonate is difficult to absorb and big birds are often too destructive to use this form of calcium supplementation efficiently.

The only birds that really need cuttlebone are gestating females as the production of eggs depletes the calcium in the bird’s body.

Calcium supplements are highly recommended, more so than cuttlebones for larger gestating birds.

If you’re not familiar with cuttlebone, here are two budgies enjoying themselves.

Coconut the budgie, destroys a cuttlebone ~ video

What size cuttlebone should be used? Any size that you can get and can fit in the cage and the cuttlebone clip. Due to global warming, there is less squid and as such, sizes are going down and prices are going up. And don’t forget, the soft side should be facing the birds.

Large parrots like Macaws and Cockatoos are so destructive that a piece of cuttlebone is like Ulysses S Grant leading the Union Army to victory over the Confederacy in the American Civil War.

Instead, consider mineral blocks or calcium supplements in the food or water.

A cuttlebone should also not be considered a beak conditioner.

It is too fragile and though it might help slightly with smaller bird beaks you should seek out an actual beak conditioning product to achieve that goal.

BEAK CONDITIONERS/PEDICURE PERCHES

(he’s weaving again)

Does anyone remember Billy Pilgrim in the Kurt Vonnegut novel Slaughter House Five?

Billy got unstuck in time while watching an old war movie American planes full of holes and wounded men and corpses took off backward from an airfield in England.

Over France, a few German fighter planes flew at them backward, sucking bullets and shell fragments from some of the planes and crewmen.

They did the same for wrecked American bombers on the ground, and those planes flew up backward to join the formation. Read more about Kurt Vonnegt’s writing here.

Do I get unstuck in time?

I’m not saying.

But I think about that when I talk about the reversal of a timeline.

Starting with a cuttlebone in a cage being returned to us.

We then send it back to the distributor who sends it back to the processor who returns it to the fishing vessel where it ends up crawling around on the bottom of the deep blue sea.

Although the cuttlefish still dies at the end of my new movie, it’s because it happily ended up on our dinner plates.

It would be a great center of the plate to start part of a healthy nutritious meal.

Grilled cuttlebone – Would you ever have imagined something you feed your bird is far more nutritious for you, just in a different form?

I’m a type II diabetic and this would make an ideal diabetic-friendly dinner (has anyone ever eaten cooked cuttlefish?) with less than 10 carbohydrates in a 6 oz portion yet providing 55 g of protein. Who’d a thunk it?

So, in a nutshell, small birds like canaries, finches, budgies, some cockatiels, and lovebirds may enjoy a piece of cuttlebone.

So, if you need Cuttlebone, we have it back in stock here.

Written by Mitch Rezman
Approved by Catherine Tobsing

turtles love cuttlebone too! your zygodactyl footnote

Turtles fighting over cuttlebone ~ video

This Post Has 9 Comments

  1. I wish you had provided some information about the square mineral blocks that are available. I think those do help in keeping a bird healthy. Also do they provide small bits like tiny pieces of gravel that help with digestion?

  2. ENLIGHTENING and HYSTERICAL !!! LOVED IT !

  3. I enjoyed the video on the cuttlefish. I too wish you would steer everyone towards mineral blocks instead of cuttlebones. These incredibly intelligent mollusks live only a very short life and die after mating and laying eggs. This is true of octopuses as well. These wonderful creatures are horribly overfished and we have alternatives to cuttlebones. Thanks for your info BTW. C. Marsh

  4. Thanks for the smile, grateful dead, Jerry garcia, all blasts from the past. “Keep on Truckin” (remember the big-nosed clown figure with the big stride and big feet?) Peace & grace‍

  5. The cuttlebone available in local pet stores seems to be thicker and tougher with a coating? There is something different about it. My little birds like cuttlebone but they won’t touch this new variety. Anybody else notice that? So I switched to mineral blocks.

    1. Most cuttlebone has the coating Julink, simply offer the dull side

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