A rounded diet of seeds and fresh foods will satisfy most of your budgie's nutritional needs, but he will still need an extra nibble of calcium and other minerals.
Cuttlefish bone, or cuttlebone, should be included as part of your budgie cage’s permanent set up. Clipped to the side of the cage, this provides a rich source of calcium, and will give your birds lots of pleasure as they slowly nibble and grind it away. Budgies need access to the soft side of the cuttlebone - the less smooth, inner side - otherwise their beaks won’t be able to break through the tough stuff.
The ‘bone’ isn’t actually a bone at all. It comes from the cuttlefish, a close relative of the squid. These boneless animals - cephalopods, members of the mollusc family - have an internal shell-like body-part which acts as a buoyancy aid. It’s a light, aerated structure, and floats on water when the rest of the animal has perished. Any lighter, and the cuttlefish would be unable to leave the surface; any heavier and the animal would sink to the bottom.
Cuttlefish bone is made largely from aragonite, a form of calcium carbonate (CaCO3). Calcium is often added to budgie seed mixes, in the form of tiny shell fragments. They will not overindulge on it, though, so providing the extra supply in the shape of cuttlebone does no harm - it’s a safeguard against calcium deficiency, and gives the birds a lot of pleasure.
Place the cuttlefish somewhere accessible - by a perch is ideal. If the cuttlebone becomes soiled with droppings, simply give it a dry scrub with a wire brush and return it to the cage. If anything wet and inedible is spilled on it, though, throw it away - the cuttlefish bone is porous, and you will not be able to remove all traces of the liquid.
Note: some books and websites will tell you that budgies need the cuttlebone for keeping their beaks ground down to size. This is not true. A budgie’s beak will not grow abnormally long unless the bird has a disease in which beak malformation is one of the symptoms.
Budgie Mineral Block
Mineral blocks fulfil a similar function to cuttlefish bone, supplying extra essentials for your budgie’s physical well-being. Leave the block clipped to the side off the cage at all times, even if your bird isn’t showing much interest it. He will nibble it when he needs it, and you won’t have to worry about mineral deficiency.
All pet stores with a bird section will stock mineral blocks complete with clips to attach them to the cage. Check the ingredients before buying, though, and avoid any product that contains manmade substances (charcoal is fine) or artificial colouring or flavourings.
A mineral block supplements a budgie's diet
Some breeders prepare their own blocks, using a mixture of ground-up shell (oyster, etc), fine mineral grit, crushed eggshell (from chickens), charcoal, cuttlefish bone and a fine calcium powder (such as Plaster of Paris) for binding. The mixture, once water is added, will form a gloop somewhere between porridge and cement, and can be put into plastic cups or egg boxes to dry. The plastic cup will stick to the side of the mineral block and will need to be removed with a knife before serving to the budgies. The egg box will also stick, but you don’t need to be as fussy removing all traces of it before serving, as the birds will nibble off the remains, and it’s harmless.
It sounds easy, but always consult an expert before making your first batch, just to make sure you’ve got everything right and your sources of ingredients are trustworthy.
Budgie Food Clips
You can attach items such as mineral blocks and treats to the sides of your budgie cage using plastic key grips or similar non-toxic ties. You can also buy custom-made clips; although cuttlefish and mineral blocks are often sold with a clip already attached.