While it is perfectly natural for female parrots to lay eggs, it can pose challenges for the bird’s owner. In the wild, parrots will not lay eggs without the presence of a mate. This is not always the case with captive birds, and conditions may exist that trigger an egg-laying response in your pet bird. Problems can develop if you are not careful with the way you handle this situation.
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Breeding Birds and Their Eggs
If you are breeding birds then you will breeding boxes where the birds will incubate the eggs until they hatch, and then rear their young. As this is behavior that you should expect, we will not concentrate on eggs produced by healthy birds that are being bred in this article. For more details on breeding pet birds, see our guide here.
Why Do Birds Lay Eggs With No Mate?
When your pet bird lays an egg with no mate around, they are responding to a biological drive that has evolved over millions of years. In their natural environment, there are consequences to reproducing as it makes it more difficult for the adult bird to survive. There must be enough resources available for both the babies and parents. These concerns do not exist when the bird is in captivity, but it will still respond biologically to environmental signals indicating that it is a good time to breed.
According to animalhouseofchicago.com, there are a number of environmental factors that pet owners can control which can induce unwanted egg laying. One of the most important triggers is the photoperiod. This is the amount of time daily that the bird is exposed to light. In nature longer periods of light coincide with spring, warmer weather, and a greater abundance of resources to be used in rearing the chicks. This is a sign that it is a good time to breed.
In captivity, the amount of light a bird is exposed to is not tied to the seasons. As we turn lights on inside, birds can be exposed to longer periods of light and an egg-laying cycle can be stimulated at any time of year. Birds that live in tropical climates where day length is more constant have hormone triggers that allow for constant egg laying. Seasonal droughts making resources scarce reduce the drive for reproduction in these species.
Other environmental factors can contribute to a bird starting an egg-laying cycle. They must be comfortable with their surroundings and stress-free. A diet very rich in soft, warm, and fatty foods can contribute to starting an egg-laying cycle. Vocalizations from other birds or gentle petting from their favorite human can be the impetus for a bird to lay eggs with no mate. Whatever the driving force behind the egg laying activity, it is not something you want your bird to be engaged in for any length of time.
Problems Associated with Excessive Egg Laying
Birds that begin laying eggs with no mate can suffer from excessive egg laying. With the natural cycle of laying eggs, incubation, and rearing the chicks being incomplete, your bird may begin to experience detrimental health effects. The bird can become obsessed with producing eggs since they are not hatching, which turns off the hormonal trigger to produce more eggs.
According to avianandexoticvets.com, these are the most common negative effects that are caused by excessive egg laying.
- Egg binding – This can occur from various diet deficiencies and is a potentially deadly condition that can arise from excessive egg laying. If you suspect your bird is suffering from this condition, an immediate trip to the vet is recommended. Symptoms of egg binding include sitting on the bottom of the cage, panting and open-mouth breathing, blood around the vent area, and straining in a failed attempt to produce eggs.
- Egg yolk peritonitis – Inflammation that causes the bird’s abdomen to fill with fluid making them lethargic and causing labored breathing and a reduced appetite.
- Hyperlipidemia – This is a thickening of the blood that can be caused by excessive egg laying. Hormone therapy is often required in order to cure the bird.
- Behavioral issues – Hormonal changes can cause changes in your bird’s personality. Previously docile and friendly birds will become protective of their nest and eggs. They may become overly aggressive and start hissing, biting, and screaming. Below is a video of a parrot aggressively defending her nest and eggs.
How Can I Control Problem Egg Laying?
Since there are potentially fatal side-effects to a bird that takes up excessive egg laying, the pet bird owner needs to do what they can to curb this behavior. According to thebirdschool.com, these are some steps you can take to try to stop your bird from laying unwanted eggs.
- Remove access to potential nesting areas – This includes places your bird might go when out of its cage. A caution though, if your bird is already laying eggs, removing access to these areas can lead to egg binding.
- Shorten the hours of daylight available – You should reduce the time that your bird is exposed to light, and ensure that it is getting at least 12 hours of darkness per day.
- Keep your bird busy – Birds that are kept active are less likely to become interested in engaging in breeding type behavior.
- Food reduction – Can reduce the bird’s propensity to lay eggs. Having a limitless supply of food may encourage your bird to lay eggs, so try letting it run out occasionally.
- Simulate a rainy season – Do this by giving your bird multiple showers daily. This may help simulate the hormone reduction that occurs after the breeding season in the wild.
- Hormonal therapy – This might be used as a last resort as it carries other side effects but may save the life of a compulsive egg layer.
Below is a video demonstrating some other strategies to use when faced with a single bird that is laying eggs.
Hopefully, you have a better understanding of why your bird may lay eggs without a mate, and the problems that can arise from excessive egg laying. It can be a challenging problem to overcome for both the bird and owner and must be addressed to protect the health of your pet bird.