First we need to understand what triggers egg laying. There are several factors that influence egg-laying birds:
- Day length
- Temperature of environment
- Nutritional status of the bird
- Strength of bond between owner and bird.
Day length and time of year go together for birds living outside or in the wild. Genetically they are programmed that when the days get longer (summer is approaching), it is time to get ready to breed and produce young. Summer time is an ideal time for producing young because when the temperature is warmer, the food supply is at the maximum. Birds living inside however, are in a regulated environment-constant temperature and day length can trick a pet bird into thinking that it is laying season all year around. All pet parrots require 12 hours of light and 12 hours of dark optimally. Their 12 hours sleep should be uninterrupted-that is they need to be away from the other members of the family in a warm, dark, quiet room. Many chronic egg layers live in busy, active homes where they actually get 10 or less hours of uninterrupted sleep. Increasing sleep time will help discourage chronic egg production.
As stated, most pet birds live in regulated environments. This is not a bad thing, but consistently warm temperatures can stimulate egg laying. Temperatures over 75 degrees are important for unwell parrots, but healthy hens should not be kept consistently at or above this all year around. You can vary the temperature throughout the year-warmer in the summer, a bit cooler in the winter (but not below 70).
The more healthy and content a hen is the most likely it is to lay eggs. This seems to hold true for most small species-cockatiels, lovebirds etc. Having an egg-laying hen is really a complement to you! Egg laying, however is physically stressful on the bird. Egg laying depletes the body of calcium, proteins and valuable minerals. Because of this, the diet fed to your bird is very important. A healthy diet (varying with the species) for an egg laying bird consists of a pelleted diet, calcium rich veggies, with only a small amount of seeds. Consult your avian veterinarian for the diet best suited for your bird. Birds NOT fed an appropriate diet may have an increased chance of egg binding, seizures, fractures in the legs /back and general poor overall condition.
Birds that are strongly bonded with their owner, or a mate bird, are more likely to lay eggs. We see this commonly in singly kept female cockatiels. This does not mean that you should run out and buy other birds. Instead, change the bird’s environment. Move her cage around the house. Rotate toys more frequently. Install a grate at the bottom of the cage. Don’t punish broody behavior but don’t encourage it either. Ignore it. Distract her with a new toy. Limit stroking to the head, being careful to avoid the back, rump, under the wings and stomach. Avoid feeding her on your shoulder with wet, moist foods. (This is okay, if you are hand feeding a baby bird, but remember that males regurgitate food to their mates-this is a breeding behavior.)
For birds that chronically lay, there are several treatments available:
a). Hormonal therapy- HCG, Testosterone, Lupron
Hormonal therapy is considered first. Weekly to monthly injections can stop the ovary from producing eggs. There are risks associated with surgery in birds: blood loss and complications from the anesthetic (or complications from the surgical procedure) are all concerns. See your avian veterinarian for more information on whether any of these are appropriate for your bird.
“Article by Susanne Hardy RAHT , Bsc. (AnSc.)”