Cuttlebones can be seen in any pet store. And it seems that it is a standard accessory in bird cages everywhere. But what is a squid bone, where does it come from, and why is it found in these bird cages?
The Cuttlebones are not a bone, but rather the inner shell of the squid, a small cephalopod that resembles an octopus.
In squid, the Cuttlebones are filled with gas and help control the buoyancy of the fish in the water. While people have been collecting Cuttlebones for years and using them for various purposes, the most recognized use of Cuttlebones is as a supplement and exercise toy for birds. You won’t find an octopus in the U.S., but they are quite common in the English Channel. Although they don’t look an octopus-like they have eight arms as well as two tentacles. Their diet consists mainly of crabs and shrimp, but they are also known to eat fish. Interestingly, they have what is called a “parrot beak”.
What is a Cuttlebones for birds?
Cuttlebones are usually placed in the enclosures of pet birds for exercise, beneficial nutrients, and coat care. If your bird enjoys picking at its Cuttlebones, it will help it polish its beak by removing the outer layers, and it even provides a source of calcium when ingested.
The shell of the cuttlefish
Cuttlebones are not bones, but rather the inner shells of cuttlefish, a member of the cephalopod family, a marine creature. The cuttlefish is a mollusk, related to octopuses, squid, and nautilus, and the cuttlefish is an inner shell with gas-filled chambers that allow the squid to float and move in the water.
The internal structures of the cuttlebones shell have long been used. Among the earliest uses were :
- Made into a fine powder, the powdered cuttlebones were used by jewelers as a polishing agent.
- Jewelers also used the whole cuttlebones as a shaping material to make molds for casting metal jewelry and other small decorative metal objects. Jewelers split the bones in half, rubbed the halves together until they were perfectly aligned, and then carved molds into the bone. Because it could withstand high temperatures, cuttlebones were the ideal material for making molds for cast metal.
- In the form of a fine powder, cuttlebones were an excellent polishing agent in toothpaste.
- Because it is rich in calcium, powdered cuttlebones can be used as a dietary supplement that also serves as an antacid.
Use for pets
Cuttlebones have several functions for domestic birds as well as other pets. Cuttlebones are offered to reptiles, hermit crabs, chinchillas, and turtles where they are a good source of supplemental dietary calcium. Cuttlebones are ideal for these animals because they float and do not contaminate the water as other supplements can. And the extra calcium contributes to higher egg density in animals that lay eggs. In terms of volume, cuttlebones contain about the same amount of calcium as eggshells. However, it is much more convenient to offer squid bones instead of eggshells, which must be cooked and disinfected before offering them to pets.
For birds, the value of cuttlebones has several aspects. If your bird ingests some, it will benefit from the calcium contained in the squid bone. In addition, playing and nibbling on cuttlebones polishes the bird’s beak and removes the scaly layers that accumulate over time. Finally, squid bones provide birds with an object to play with and practice on. Not all birds use cuttlebones, but for those that do like them, cuttlebones can be a healthy interactive object for the cage or play area. A cuttlebone adds another object and texture to the cage. Birds are healthier and happier when given choices, and even small choices are important.
Giving your bird
There are many ways to give a cuttlefish bowl to your bird. The cuttlefish bowl usually comes with a set of clips that allow you to attach it to the side of the cage. You can also attach the cuttlefish bowl to the bars of the cage with a plastic band. Some people find that their bird is more likely to play with the sepia shell if they simply slide it down the side of the cage through the bars. You can also simply place the cuttlefish bowl on the bottom of the cage, where pushing and throwing it creates a lot of activity while your bird polishes its beak and absorbs extra calcium.
If your bird doesn’t like to actively play with a sepia shell, you can simply break off pieces of it and sprinkle it on his food. Some families use mortar and pestle to crush the sepia shell. Whichever method works, it is acceptable if it provides the calcium your bird needs.