Help! My bird is laying too many eggs! What can I do?

Pictures of chronic egg laying birds

Does your bird..

  1. Lay eggs every few weeks/months, outside of the normal breeding season?
  2. Lay eggs at irregular intervals?
  3. Lay eggs with thin shells, have abnormal colouring, are undersized, oversized or misshapen?
  4. Show signs of illness while laying eggs? (loss of appetite, laboured breathing, change in stools, fluffed appearance, lethargy, unsteady posture, sleeping a lot on the nest rather than being watchful, or spending a lot of time at the bottom of the cage)

If your bird does any of the above, she is very likely to be a chronic egg layer.

Chronic egg laying occurs when a female bird lays more than the normal number of eggs for its species or lays repeated clutches of eggs. Chronic egg laying can happen even without a mate.

Did you know that female birds do not need a mate, a nest area or even a special breeding diet to produce eggs? Although those factors can encourage a female bird to lay eggs, chronic egg laying tends to be triggered by hormone imbalance.

What stimulates egg laying?

In the wild, many parrot species are opportunistic breeders and will lay eggs when environmental conditions are ideal for the survival of their offspring, such as:

  1. Access to large amounts of readily available food and water (especially high-fat and sweet foods such as seed and fruit)
  2. Long hours of daylight exposure
  3. Available secure nesting areas
  4. Access to a mate

For many chronic egg laying pet birds, these ideal breeding environments are provided all-year round which results in a constant drive to lay eggs. The table below shows the possible equivalent for pet birds: 

Access to large amounts of readily available food and water A diet high in protein, fat and sugar such as being on a full or majority seed diet

Food is constantly plentiful and available, especially if food is replenished throughout the day
Long hours of daylight exposure Staying up late into the night mimics the long days of spring/summer (one of the most important environmental cues triggering egg laying in birds)
Available secure nesting areas Anywhere in the house or cage where the bird has established territory 
Access to a mate Being sexually stimulated by other birds, owner or even inanimate objects

Parront has allowed an unnatural bond to develop between themselves and the bird

 Chronic egg laying is often exacerbated by eggs being removed as they are laid as many parrot species are indeterminate layers and will simply lay another egg to replace the missing one.

Why is chronic egg laying bad for your female bird?

Although egg laying is a natural function of female birds, chronic egg laying is detrimental to their health. This is mainly caused by depletion of their calcium reserves to produce egg shells, as egg shells are made of 95% calcium carbonate.

There are many life-threatening conditions that can arise from calcium deficiency, such as:

  1. Egg-binding (egg is lodged in the oviduct)
  2. Retained eggs (collapsed egg retained in oviduct)
  3. Salpingitis (inflammation of the oviduct)
  4. Metritis (inflammation of the uterus or shell gland)
  5. Yolk-related peritonitis
  6. Pathological fractures

Female birds with a history of chronic egg laying are also very likely to have existing nutritional deficiencies.

What can you do?

The steps below help to discourage your female bird from laying so many eggs and reduce the risks of health problems caused by chronic egg laying.

Important:

  • If your bird is not currently laying eggs, discourage her from laying eggs
  • If your bird is currently laying eggs, make it safe for her to lay eggs which reduces the risk of life threatening health problems caused by chronic egg laying

Nutritional modification:

Ensure that she is on a complete and balanced diet low in protein, fat and sugar: This is especially important because producing and laying eggs depletes your bird of the vitamins, proteins, and calcium she needs to stay healthy. A nutritionally balanced diet consists of well-formulated pellets, fruits and vegetables, sprouts, beans, grains and rice.

Avoid feeding high protein and high fat food items such as egg food, seeds, nuts, sunflower seeds as they encourage egg laying. Seeds and nuts should be given very sparingly and only as treats. If your bird is currently on a full seed diet, consider replacing her diet.

Do not feed egg food to chronic egg laying birds

Avoid feeding food items that are high in sugar such as corn, mangoes, grapes, and apples.

Instead, feed low-sugar fruits and vegetables such as:

  1. Berries - strawberry, blueberry, raspberry, blackberry
  2. Melons - watermelon, honeydew, cantaloupe
  3. Cruciferous vegetables - cauliflower, kale, bok choy and Brussels sprouts
  4. Leafy green vegetables - watercress, arugula, red leaf lettuce, spinach, beet greens, collard greens and swiss chard
  5. Cucumber, zucchini
  6. Non-starchy vegetables - radish, beetroot, cucumber, zucchini, green beans, carrots and bell pepper

Avoid providing warm, soft mushy and starchy food items: Baby parrot formula, mashed potatoes or pumpkin should not be fed to chronic egg laying birds as these foods will encourage breeding.

Encourage foraging behavior and allow food to ‘run out’ towards the end of the day: Although it is essential that your bird is getting enough food everyday, food should not appear to be plentiful all the time and should take effort to find. Encourage your bird to forage for food by hiding food in foraging toys and different parts of the cage.

Ensure that she has a good vitamin supplement and plenty of bio-available calcium: Calcium will not stimulate egg laying but it will make it much safer.

We highly recommend our Chronic Egg Laying rescue packs to help chronic egg laying birds get the nutrition and calcium they need. Our rescue packs contain a multivitamin with 13 different vitamins, 9 trace minerals and amino acids and a highly concentrated calcium supplement with added vitamin D3 that has proven to be very effective as an emergency product for egg-bound birds.

If your bird refuses to eat a variety of fresh foods (fruits, vegetables and grains), supplements are especially important to provide your chronic egg laying bird the nutrients and calcium it requires.

Chronic egg laying rescue pack for birds eating only dry seeds and pellets

Chronic egg laying rescue pack for birds eating fresh fruits and vegetables

Egg laying rescue pack (for birds eating fresh fruits and vegetables)

Provide her organic, loose leaf raspberry leaf tea: Raspberry leaves help stimulate the muscular contractions in the female reproductive track and help pass eggs with less complication. Raspberry leaf tea has been used successfully with egg bound hens and many zoological institutions use it with many different species that may have complications during labour or egg laying.  

Environmental modification:

Decrease the number of hours of daylight exposure: To re-establish normal diurnal rhythms, reduce daylight hours artificially to 8 hours or less until the egg laying behaviour has stopped, amd then bring your bird up to normal rhythms.

Do not use bright lighting in the bird's living area. Encourage your bird to sleep as early as 5 or 6pm by providing her a dark and quiet sleeping environment. Our made to measure blackout cage covers are highly effective in providing the complete darkness to help birds sleep well throughout the night. Note that she will need complete darkness and quiet for this to be effective (covering the cage while TV is on is not adequate!).

Parrot Funhouse made to measure cage covers

Note: This method may have little effect in parrot species such as budgies as day-length has little effect on breeding behaviour

Remove possible nesting sites and nest-making material: Remove paper and other items that can be used as nesting material and remove nest boxes. Keep your bird away from dark, enclosed spaces. Most parrots are cavity nesters, which means that they look for dark, enclosed spaces in which to lay their eggs. In order to discourage your bird from laying eggs, keep her away from such areas. Birds can be ingenious when looking for a nesting site, so it is important that she is under close supervision when out of the cage.

Note: If your bird is already in the midst of laying eggs, provide a non-enclosed bowl or container for her to sit in to lay the eggs comfortably without straining

Rearrange toys and perches and change the cage location: Birds are more likely to lay eggs in a familiar environment. You can discourage her from laying by changing the cage location, changing positions and types of toys, dishes and perches in her cage often. This induces a certain amount of environmental stress and reduces territoriality.

If your bird chooses an unconventional nest site (e.g. on the floor of the cage), rearranging the area may effectively remove its attractiveness as a nest site.

Permanently remove any object that she displays mating behaviors to: This usually happens with single birds that do not have a mate. If you see your bird engaging in mating behaviors (such as regurgitating food, vent rubbing and tail lifting) with inanimate objects in their environment, such as food cups, toys, perches, or mirrors, remove it from her environment.

Provide her unfiltered sunlight: Natural, unfiltered sunlight helps your bird properly metabolise calcium (sunlight through windows don't count!) Bring your bird outside supervised at least 1-2 hours per week, ensuring that she has access to shade and cool water and that the cage is predator- and escape-proof. 

Lovebirds getting natural sunlight vitamin D

Social modification:

Do not pet or groom her anywhere other the head: Avoid accidentally sexually stimulating your bird by petting, cuddling, caressing, frequent carrying on the shoulder or inside of clothing, and sharing food directly from the mouth.

Female lovebird showing mating stance

Do not remove eggs that has already been laid: Removing eggs that are already laid will induce birds to lay even more eggs. If the eggs could be fertile, boil and cool the eggs soon after being laid. Return the boiled eggs to your female birds to sit on her eggs until her egg-laying cycle turns off. An even better method is to use dummy eggs.

Use dummy eggs: Dummy eggs help to trick your female bird into thinking that she has completed laying all her eggs. If the dummy eggs are used correctly and are accepted by your bird, this method will help stop your female bird from laying more eggs and can even help stop egg-laying before she has laid an egg. Find out how and why dummy eggs work here

How to use dummy eggs GIF

We have solid dummy eggs suitable for lovebirds, cockatiels and other similar sized birds. (size approximately 2.5x2cm). A set of 6 dummy eggs is also included in our Egg laying rescue pack for birds eating dry seeds or pellets and for birds eating fresh fruits and vegetables.

Dummy fake eggs lovebird and cockatiel

Summary

If your bird is not currently laying eggs:

  1. Discourage her from laying eggs using the practical steps above
  2. Do not provide with a place where she can start feeling like laying eggs (that includes nest boxes, coconuts, tents, hammocks, bowls)
  3. If she attempts to make nests from her toy materials, do not provide her with shreddable toys, newspapers etc to shred. Instead, provide her with other types of toys that she can interact with in a more healthy way (e.g. foraging toys, foot toys, climbing toys etc)
  4. Provide her with Calcivet calcium supplement 2-3 times a week
  5. Provide her with Daily Essentials multi-vitamin and/or preferably a healthy, varied and nutritious diet that includes: A reputable parrot pellet brand (not artificially coloured and flavoured), fruits, vegetables, grains, flowers, herbs and spices, sprouts, nuts (occasionally) and seeds (sparingly)

If your bird is currently laying eggs or is just about to lay an egg:

  1. Use dummy eggs to trick her that she has finished laying her clutch of eggs
  2. Provide an open bowl for a makeshift nest to make it comfortable for her to lay eggs in (no covered coconuts, tents, hammocks or nest boxes)
  3. Provide her with Calcivet calcium supplement 5 times a week
  4. Provide her with Daily Essentials multi-vitamin and/or preferably a healthy, varied and nutritious diet that includes: A reputable parrot pellet brand (not artificially coloured and flavoured), fruits, vegetables, grains, flowers, herbs and spices, sprouts, nuts (occasionally) and seeds (sparingly)

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