by Shelly Lane
Chronic egg laying isn’t a major issue with most parrot species, but it can happen and is something every parrot owner should at least be aware of. By making a few small adjustments in the environment, owners can greatly reduce the chance of this issue ever occurring.
A question that seems to come up a lot on forums and in my emails is how a single parrot can lay eggs. I think many bird owners are surprised to learn that their sweet little Kiwi or Snuggles can lay eggs without having mated with a male parrot, but this is indeed the case.
This is more common in some species of parrots than others. For example, cockatiels seem particularly prone to chronic egg laying. It is less common with Quaker Parrots, but every year I am contacted by several Quaker owners who report that their 5 or 10 year old bird just laid an egg for the first time.
These bird owners are concerned, and rightly so. For one thing, egg laying can sometimes leads to calcium deficiency and egg binding, where the bird is unable to pass the egg because the shell is too soft. Both can be very dangerous situations for the hen and can lead to death in some cases. This is why breeders give their birds supplemental calcium while they are producing eggs.
The other thing that happens during egg laying is that hens will often experience an undesirable personality change as instinct kicks in, and they become overly protective of their eggs. Fortunately, the “old” personality comes back when the egg laying cycle is over.
To understand how to help prevent chronic egg laying in parrots, it helps to understand what gets the process started in the first place. There are conditions that help bring a hen into “breeding condition” so that she begins producing eggs. These include the length of day, rainfall, and the availability of certain foods. Breeders often work very hard to get these conditions just right to help their birds begin producing eggs. When a bird goes into breeding condition, hormones are released that start the cycle of producing and laying eggs.
So when breeders want their birds to start laying, they gradually increase the number of hours that the birds have light, increase the availability of fresh foods and increase the amount of rainfall (or baths). I’ve found that if a pet owner does just the opposite, it usually stops the egg laying cycle or prevents it from starting altogether.
For owners who want to be proactive and decrease the chances of their parrots ever laying eggs, I recommend no more than 10-12 hours of light each day. In most cases, this will be sufficient to prevent egg production.
To disrupt egg laying that has already started, I would suggest immediately cutting back to no more than 8-10 hours of light. In addition, I would temporarily stop giving baths and cut back on fresh foods. I would also immediately begin adding a calcium supplement to the bird’s diet. Once the egg laying has stopped, regular bathing and fresh foods can resume, and you can slowly increase the amount of light to 10-12 hours a day.
Every once in a while, a hen will continue to lay egg after egg even when the above steps are taken. If this happens with your bird, you should discuss the situation with a good avian vet. It’s possible that the vet will suggest a hormone shot to get the egg laying stopped.
One question that always comes up is whether to leave the eggs in the cage or not. Everyone has their own opinion on this, but I would probably take them out and follow the advice given above to try to stop the egg laying cycle. Some feel that removing the eggs upsets the bird, but I have never noticed that to be the case when I’ve removed eggs in the past. However, you should listen to both sides and do what you feel makes the most sense for your parrot, just like anything else.