Chronic Egg Laying
Index of Bird Diseases ... Symptoms & Potential Causes ... Bird Species & Diseases They are Most Susceptible to ... Bird Health Care ... Glossary of Avian Medical Terms ... Medications Used in Avian & Exotic Medicine and Pharmaceutical Terms ... How to administer oral medications to a bird
The process of producing and laying an egg is stimulated by many factors:
- length of day
- availability of food
- mate behavior
- competition for nesting sites
These are some of factors that can stimulate hens to lay an egg. It is not necessary that an egg be fertilized before it can be laid. In fact, a mate does not even need to be present for a female to lay eggs.
Chronic egg laying will deplete calcium, thus causing myriad health problems. One of which is the condition known as hypocalcaemia - With calcium at a low level, the uterine muscles are unable to contract and push the egg out resulting in egg binding. Hypocalcaemia can also cause seizure-like activity and brittle bones, which can be easily fractured. Therefore, it is of utmost importance to prevent excessive egg laying.
Breeder often theorize that you have two females, if you find eight or more eggs in a nest. But in the past, I had a pair of lovebirds with TEN eggs in their nesting box, and they were indeed a compatible pair, as proven by the chicks that hatched.
This situation definitely leaves the breeder with a problem - to stop them from 'overdoing it' in the future in order to ensure their continued good health
The first step in treating chronic egg laying is to put your bird on a complete diet. A bird that is on a balanced diet is in little danger of the health problems associated with chronic egg laying.
Things you can do to discourage / stop your bird from laying eggs:
- Do not remove eggs which she has already laid. Sometimes the easiest way to turn off the egg-laying cycle is to allow your bird to sit on her eggs. Additionally, you risk the hen depleting herself of life-essential minerals as she will continue to lay eggs. If your bird lays a few eggs and then sits on them, leave the eggs in the cage for 21 days or until she loses interest. If, however, she does not stop at 3 - 4 eggs and continues laying. If the eggs could be fertilized and you don't want to raise young or you are concerned about possible smells from the eggs, you could replace the eggs with fake eggs. Local hobby and crafts stores carry wooden eggs, for example, in different sizes. Get the size that matches the natural eggs most closely and usually hens readily accept them. Alternatively, dummy eggs are available over this website: http://theeggshop.com. Shaking eggs (and then placing them back with the hen) before they are incubated will stop the fetus from developing -- which is another option if you have a true pair but don't want to raise the young. The only danger is that if it's not done at the right stage and with sufficient strength, the fetus may develop after all, but very likely will hatch crippled.
- Remove possible nesting sites and nest-making material: Remove paper and other items that can be used as nesting material. Keep your bird away from dark, enclosed spaces. Most parrots are cavity nesters, which means that instead of building a nest out in the open they look for dark, enclosed spaces in which to lay their eggs. In order to stop your bird from laying eggs it is essential that she is kept away from such areas. Nest boxes should be promptly removed. Birds can be ingenious when looking for a nesting site (under a couch, behind the microwave, even in the dryer!), so it is important that she is under close supervision when out of the cage.
- Mimik "Shorter Days": Don't use bright lighting in the bird's living area. Increase the hours of darkness (add an hour or two to sleep time). Put your bird to bed early, maybe as early as 5 or 6:00 p.m. A long day length is one of the most important environmental cues triggering egg laying in birds. By allowing your bird to stay up late, you are mimicking the long days of spring/summer, making your bird think it is time to breed. An early bedtime will help to turn off her breeding hormones. Note that she will need complete darkness and quiet for this to be effective (covering the cage while the radio or TV is on is not adequate!).
- Limit Food Access: In the wild birds will typically start breeding when food is plenty -- usually in spring. Outside that season, birds spend a good part of the day looking for food - which isn't ideal when hungry chicks are expecting a constant supply of food. Therefore, birds start a family when food is available to feed them. One thing you may want to try is to provide food only for about 12 hours a day (remove it after breakfast and place the food bowl back in in the late afternoon). This stopped some chronic egg layers. I would also weigh the hen (if possible) to make sure she isn't losing weight. Birds mostly eat mornings and evenings anyhow. If food is available all day, this may send them the message that there is enough food to feed a family ... cutting down on food availability should stop most of them.
If cutting availability of food down isn't working, owners have successfully stopped hens' egg-laying activities by implementing the so-called "austerity diet" -- which is a low-protein diet consisting of a limited variety of seeds and water - and nothing else. A breeding diet is high in protein needed to raise a family. The Austere Diet is fed for one month to reduce body fat, cease hormone flow, and rest the reproductive organs of adult birds; or it may be fed for 2 weeks to induce the molt of adult birds. This being said, there are some valid concerns about such a one-sided diet, and personally, I wouldn't implement it unless a bird's health was seriously at risk by chronic egg-laying that cannot be stopped by other means (as outlined on this page).
One bird owner stopped one at-risk bird (who had previously suffered from egg-binding) by offering nothing but millets for several weeks. Even hormone shots weren't able to stop her activities. In this particular case, this limited diet was able to stop her from laying eggs. As soon as other food was introduced, she would get back into breeding mode which prompted the owner to go back to the restricted diet. Although after a month the breeding cycle was over and she was her normal (non-hormonal) self even when back on her balanced regular diet.
- One vet recommended turning day into night to interrupt the breeding cycle and stop a hen's egg laying activities. He suggests totally darkening the room the bird is in during the day, and then giving the bird eight hours of good, full spectrum light for 8 hours at night. Playtime and social interactions with the owner has to happen during the night. This is said to be quite effective.
- Discourage breeding behavior in your bird. Some birds will display breeding behaviors with their favorite person, such as vent-rubbing, tail lifting, or regurgitating food. Discourage these behaviors by putting your bird back in her cage for a "time out" whenever she displays them. Provide ample opportunity for vigorous exercise. Provide new toys and exercise equipment for distraction. Don't pet your bird on her back or under her tail, as this can be sexually stimulating.
- Rearrange the cage interior and change the cage location. Your bird is more likely to lay eggs in a cage that hasn't changed in a while. Putting your bird in a different cage and/or changing the cage location can help discourage laying. Changing the arrangement or types of toys, dishes, and perches in the cage can also be very helpful.
- Give your bird optimal nutrition:
- Producing and laying eggs robs your bird of the vitamins, proteins, and calcium she needs to stay healthy. It is especially crucial during the breeding season that she is on a complete and balanced diet, including fresh fruits, sprouts, beans, rice and veggies.
- Reduce fatty foods that are high in Vitamin E, such as nuts and eggs. Breeders actually use Vitamin E supplements to bring birds into breeding condition. With a chronic egg-layer, you really want to avoid that.
- It is important to reduce warm, soft mushy and starchy food items that make good weaning foods, as the availability of these foods will encourage breeding in the female. Also one has to remember that regurgitated food is warm and mushy, which is exactly what pairs feed each other to solicit mating.
- Provide full spectrum light:
- Full spectrum sunlight is necessary for your bird's calcium metabolism, and can be provided by unfiltered sunlight or by a full spectrum fluorescent bulb at least 2 hours a day.
- If necessary, separate from "mate": I don't like the idea of separating bonded pairs; however, if the health of the hen is at risk, you may not have another choice but to keep your bird away from other birds to which she is bonded. Having a mate is a strong stimulus for your bird to lay. This mate may be a member of the opposite sex, another female bird, or even a bird of a different species. Separating your bird from the other birds in your household will help turn off her hormones. Please note that some single birds will display mating behaviors with objects in their environment, such as food cups, toys, perches, or mirrors. Mating behaviors include regurgitating food, vent rubbing, and tail lifting. If your bird engages in these behaviors with an inanimate object, that object should be permanently removed from her environment.
- Ask your veterinarian about hormone injections. In certain cases of excessive egg-laying, your veterinarian may recommend hormone injections in addition to the above environmental and dietary changes. Hormone injections are relatively safe and can help reduce egg-laying in some birds. The effectiveness of hormone injections varies from bird to bird and cannot be accurately predicted beforehand.
Lupron: leuprorelin acetate has an inhibitory effect on the pituitary that should reduce the hormones FSH and LH. This drug has been used in birds for chronic egg laying, hormonal aggression and feather picking. Again, this is not a perfect drug and certainly not for all situations.
NEED A VET?
USA: Find Your Local Avian Veterinarian
Information contained on this website is provided as general reference only. For application to specific circumstances, professional advice should be sought.
High Quality Species Photos, Videos and/or Articles Contributions are welcome! Click here to upload articles and images.
Please Note: The images on this page are the sole property of the photographers (unless marked as Public Domain). Please contact the photographers directly with respect to any copyright or licensing questions. Thank you.
The Avianweb strives to maintain accurate and up-to-date information; however, mistakes do happen. If you would like to correct or update any of the information, please send us an e-mail. THANK YOU!