The Importance of Calcium for Birds

Calcium for Birds

The Importance of Calcium for Birds

Just like people, birds require a range of vitamins and minerals to maintain their health. Calcium is one of the most important – it maintains a healthy skeletal structure, allows the muscular and nervous systems to function properly, normal heart rhythm, cognitive activity, and is vital so blood can clot in wounds.
Nesting mothers, and our egg-laying poultry, all need sufficient calcium for good hard eggshells.

A calcium-deficient adult bird may utilise the calcium from its bones, leading to brittle bone syndrome. You may notice your bird starts to feather-pluck or exhibit other nervous behaviours.

Hypocalcaemia is the term used for abnormally low calcium levels. Wild birds usually maintain levels through the food they choose, but pets or aviary birds will rely directly on you to provide their calcium source in their diet. Luckily, it is essential to maintain this balance through proper feeding.

While all contained birds are at risk for this condition, it is important to note the African Grey parrot is exceptionally susceptible, probably because of their low synthesis or absorption of calcium from food. This breed has greater bone density, which is evident from the weight of the chicks and the significant pumping action that can be felt when hand-feeding the birds. The greater bone density calls for additional nutrient requirement, which if not met, is bound to create a deficiency.

Calcium occurs naturally in dark green leafy vegetables, so this is a great addition to the menu. An active bird that eats greens and other high calcium foods is at a lower risk of problems associated with injuries or other issues, so our suggestion is to pour on the healthy greens and you’ll lower that risk.  But know what greens are best for feeding. Not all green veges are created equal. Spinach, in particular, contains oxalic acid which binds with the calcium thus reducing its absorption.

There are many great calcium supplements which you can make available to your birds – leave it in the cage for the bird to self-monitor. They know what their body requires.
The good news is that your bird will not overdose on the calcium.

Cuttlefish has long been a favourite addition to an aviary or cage. It has about the same amount of calcium as eggshell by volume, however eggshells are not a good offering for your bird – it can encourage them to peck their own eggs. Opt instead for cuttlefish or a shell grit which can serve to polish a bird’s beak and helps remove outer scaly layers. 

Our favourite is the Canunda Shell grit. It is pure shell only, deriving from a freshwater marine conical snail. We love this product so much we now directly import it.
Canunda Shell is an organic, fossilised substance, and all species of birds benefit from Canunda Shell due to its high 95% soluble calcium component and very low salt levels.

You can offer the Canunda just as a shell, or some people add it to seed mix, or alternatively grind it into soft food.

While you are enriching your bird’s diet with calcium, ensure your pet is also getting plenty of exercise. Just as with humans, physical activity and movement leads to strong, healthy bones. An active bird that plays, flaps, climbs and flies, (be it in a safe protected area or simply by hanging on to your hand with her feet), is a healthy bird.  So, a balanced diet high in good quality calcium, combined with lots of fun activity, should see your bird staying happy, healthy and wise.

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