Not so much a skeleton, the cuttlebone is an internal shell of the cuttlefish. The cuttlefish's shell is tossed aside when the fish is consumed in a meal. That's good news for budgies; like most captive birds, they need cuttlebone to supplement their diet and grind their teeth.
Essential for Health
Cuttlebone is mostly made up of calcium carbonate, so obviously it is an ideal source for budgies' calcium, along with some other minerals, including magnesium, potassium, zinc and iron. Cuttlebone is necessary for all budgies, but especially for females -- and particularly for egg-laying budgies.
For the Beak
The notion that birds use cuttlebone to sharpen their beaks isn't quite accurate. Budgies, like all hook-bills, are nibblers and gnawers who enjoy chewing on any item. They especially enjoy chewing away at hard objects, like cuttlebones, which serve as grinding stones, not sharpeners. Cuttlebone wears down budgies' little beaks, keeping them from growing too long.
Budgies like to chew, but there's always a chance one of yours won't take to cuttlebone. Or maybe the converse is true, and he is such a chewer that he works a cuttlebone twice his size into a pile of powder in less than a day. Either could be a reason for you to look for alternatives to cuttlebone. Natural mineral blocks such as limestone rock, ground oyster shell or even crushed egg shell -- washed, of course -- are effective substitutes for cuttlebone that will supply calcium and minerals for your budgies. If you opt for a mineral block, make sure it isn't man-made. BirdChannel.com's Dick Schroeder says man-made blocks are made from plaster of paris and could contain artificial colors and anything else the manufacturer added in.
Placement in the Cage
Cuttlebones usually come with a wire so you can attach them to your budgies' cage. You'll find, however, that unless you attach it somewhere convenient for them, they might not make the effort to go to it for a grinding session. Affix your budgies' cuttlebone inside the cage next to a perch so they have easy access to it. Next to the food dish is another option. Move it around until you find a place where they'll access it.
Elle Di Jensen has been a writer and editor since 1990. She began working in the fitness industry in 1987, and her experience includes editing and publishing a workout manual. She has an extended family of pets, including special needs animals. Jensen attended Idaho and Boise State Universities. Her work has appeared in various print and online publications.