It often comes as a surprise to the owner of a female bird that their pet can lay eggs without the presence of a male. Such eggs are, of course, infertile and will not hatch even if incubated. This can occur in any breed, but is more common in cockatiels, lovebirds, budgies, canaries and finches. Egg laying can start anytime from 5 months to over 10 years of age.
Egg laying is a natural, seasonal process in wild birds, breeding birds and some pets. However, it can also become an obsession that drains the bird of vital nutrients, ruins her pet quality, and predisposes her to life-threatening health problems such as egg binding and yolk peritonitis.
A bird in the peak of health on an ideal diet my be able to sustain egg production of up to 10-20 eggs per year without serious harm. Beyond that number, egg laying will have serious consequences sooner or later, no matter how the bird looks. For a bird that eats a seed based diet or has an underlying health problem any egg laying at all is dangerous.
An avian veterinarian should examine every egg laying bird. The doctor can screen and treat for any underlying disease, establish a sound nutritional program, and offer prevention advice. Excessive egg laying is a time bomb situation.
Certain environmental factors predispose the pet bird to lay eggs. Correction of these, when possible, will often reduce or eliminate the egg laying.
Factors that encourage egg laying
• High-fat seed diet
• Access to a nest box or nest material
• Access to dark enclosed spaces
• Allowing free flight
• Petting the bird's lower abdomen
• Removing the egg immediately will stimulate her to lay another within a few days
Ways to discourage egg laying
• Convert to a low fat formulated diet (pellets)
• Place wire grate in the cage bottom to avoid access to newspaper, bedding or other potential nesting material
• Remove nest box if present
• Remove items or toys that stimulate sexual interest
• Restrict access to dark enclosed spaces
• Clip wings to reduce number of potential nest sites and discourage instinctive behavior
• Limit petting to the head, neck and upper body area
• Move or remodel the cage when she starts to act "nesty" — this may provide just enough stress to distract her. If she has already laid one or more eggs, allow her to lay a full clutch of 3-5 eggs and sit on them for 3 weeks or until she abandons them. This usually reduces the total number laid in a give time period.
Medical prevention of egg laying
Environmental manipulation is sometimes impractical, unsuccessful or just not enough. The bird may then require medical treatment to control egg laying There are several safe, effective hormonal treatments available, which your avian veterinarian can tailor to your bird's needs.
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