My bird laid an egg! Am I going to have babies?
Female birds lay eggs and they don't need a male around for that to happen. This frequently leaves pet bird owners shocked. Many ring the clinic in a panic, particularly if they don't want babies.
So for those of you who aren't acquainted with bird reproduction, here's a few quick facts:
- An egg can only be fertile if the female bird has been exposed to a male bird.
- Single female birds can and often will lay infertile eggs, without needing a male bird.
- An egg can not be fertilised after it has been laid.
- Not all eggs are fertile (even if you have both a male and female bird).
- Boys don't lay eggs. So if your male bird laid an egg - congratulations it's actually a girl!!!
- Normally, birds don't lay more than one egg a day. More may be coming in the next few days or there is likely a problem if you get a several eggs same day.
- Depending on the species of bird, an egg can take between 20-30 days to hatch if incubated correctly.
Do I need to remove the egg?
The answer to this is going to depend if you want babies or not.
If the egg is fertile (remember you need both a male and female for this to be the case), then the egg may hatch if you let your bird sit on it.
No matter what, removing an egg can be risky for your female bird's health. Your bird may lay more eggs to replace the egg(s) you take. Overlaying eggs, takes a toll on a female's body. The formation of every egg draws calcium from the female bird's body. This can result in a life-threatening calcium deficiency.
If the egg could be fertile and you don't want babies...
In this case, you're not going to want to allow your bird to sit on the egg.
Your safest option is to remove the egg and book a vet consultation. A hormone implant will stop your female bird from laying more/overlaying eggs.
Many people report that replacing an egg with a fake egg (ideally of the same size/colour/weight), will stop their birds from trying to replace an egg. Plastic eggs can be sourced online, or you can even visit a craft store. Buy some polymer clay (you can bake this in your home oven) and make a fake yourself.
Remember if this fails and your bird keeps laying... seek veterinary assistance.
If the egg is infertile, do I remove it?
There is no harm in leaving an infertile egg with your bird. This should stop her laying more to replace it.
You can safely remove it, if she has ignored it for a few days.
Some females will choose to sit on an egg for a while. She will eventually realise it isn't viable and will abandon it.
Leave her be. Females can be nasty when nesty and she may bite to defend her potential offspring.
Does my bird need a nest?
Providing a nest, is going to increase your bird's hormonal activity. If you want your bird to have babies - then yes, an appropriate nest is needed. If you are not intentionally trying to breed your bird, then a nest is a bad idea.
Provide calcium! Your bird needs it.
An egg-laying bird needs more calcium than normal. It's very easy to add some calcium rich foods to the diet.
Cook up some scrambled eggs and include the shell! Your bird will love it.
Cook up some legumes for your birds. Legumes are an excellent source of calcium, particularly legumes such as navy beans.
Don't overdo the leafy greens. Greens such as kale and spinach are great for your bird's normal diet but contain oxalic acids which can inhibit the absorption of calcium. So if your bird is laying, reduce these.
Consider a calcium supplement. These can usually be added to your bird's water or food. Calcibird is an excellent choice and is available as an over the counter product both in-clinic and on our online store.
Add a cuttlebone treat to your bird's cage. Cuttlebones are a soluable source of calcium that your bird will love to eat.
I think my bird is eggbound?
An eggbound bird needs to see an avian vet. The sooner, the better. Eggbinding is life-threatening. Do not rely on home remedies. A vet has access to medications and solutions that you can not get over the counter. Early intervention can prevent the need for more drastic (surgical) options.
The internet is flooded with well-meaning advice that can actually be dangerous. An epsom salt bath for example, is NOT recommended. Bathing your bird can put your bird at increased risk by dropping your bird's temperature.
If you can not immediately attend a clinic, keep your bird warm (in a 20-25C environment ideally). Provide a source of calcium, food and water. She also needs a quiet, safe space (away from pets and children) to lay. Increasing the humidity may also be beneficial
Nothing replaces seeing a vet.
Can I prevent egg laying?
Egg laying behaviour is triggered by the following:
- Presence of a mate (or perceived mate).
- Availability of a nesting space and material.
- Increased daylight hours (give your bird at least 12 hrs sleep).
- Warm or mushy foods, especially high fat/sugar diets.
- Inappropriate touching. Avoid cuddling your bird when they're hormonal and yes this includes head scratches!
Controlling the above will help prevent egg-laying.
Medically - you can see an avian vet for a hormone implant. This is not a contraceptive but effectively triggers a menopausal type response in a female bird, or reduce hormonal behaviour in a male. The effect can last on average 3-6mths.
So you decided to let your bird have babies?
A lot can go wrong with babies, so breeding is not something we recommend for someone inexperienced in raising birds.
If you do decide to go ahead, make sure you have a plan for what you are going to do with the babies when they grow up. Remember that avian rescues are at capacity, so it is not reasonable to assume you can dump the birds at a rescue.
Not all birds are good parents. Things do go wrong. Be prepared for vet bills. If things go wrong with the parents, you may wind up having to raise the babies. This may require the purchase or hire of equipment such as an incubator. If you don't know how to handraise, you may need to pay someone to do it and the cost for this can easily be in the thousands.
Be sure you are ok with this before you start down this road.
If you are in trouble with raising babies we have an experienced breeder who offers breeding behavioural consultations. If you are worried you have sick babies - you can contact the clinic or book a vet consultation.