|Photo via Brian Legate|
I'd like to tell you what exactly egg binding is, the symptoms to watch for, treatments, and how to prevent your female bird from laying eggs. I do realize that chickens are meant to lay eggs, so the prevention portion of this article is not meant for them. Chickens can also become egg bound, however.
What is Egg Binding?
Egg binding occurs when a female bird is unable to pass an egg that has formed inside of her body. (This also happens to egg laying reptiles.) It can cause infection and even death if not properly treated. Egg binding is usually due to a calcium deficiency in the bird's diet. Overweight birds are also more likely to become egg bound.
There are some breeds of birds that are more prone to egg binding than others. Parakeets, cockatiels, lovebirds, and other larger parrots commonly become egg bound. In case you weren't aware, a female bird can lay eggs even if she has no mate.
|Lovebirds. Photo via BekiPe|
What to Look for if You Think Your Bird is Egg Bound
There are many signs and symptoms that can help you identify if your bird is egg bound. Egg binding is a serious condition and medical emergency. If you have a female bird, be sure you know what to watch for.
Of course, there are the typical "sick bird" symptoms. These symptoms are very vague, and don't necessarily mean your bird is egg bound. However, they could indicate that your bird is sick in some way and you should probably take them to the veterinarian as soon as you can. Typical "sick bird" symptoms include:
- Sitting on the bottom of the cage.
- A "fluffed" up appearance of the bird's feathers.
- Rapid or labored breathing.
- Decreased appetite and activity.
There are more specific signs that an egg bound bird may display as well. These signs include the following:
- Appearance of swollen abdomen or rear end.
- Constipation or failure to produce adequate stools.
- Straining without producing any eggs.
- Twitching of the tail feathers.
- Difficulty sitting on a perch.
- Leg paralysis.
How is Egg Binding in Birds Treated?
Egg binding in birds should always be treated by a veterinarian. You should never try to remove an egg that is stuck on your own.
A veterinarian may first try to remove the egg using methods that are not very invasive. They may apply generous amounts of lubricant around the cloaca (the bird's rear end), give the bird subcutaneous fluids, a calcium injection, and/or an oxytocin injection.
If the above methods do not help the bird lay her egg, a more invasive approach may be needed. Under anesthesia, a veterinarian can try removing the egg by hand. This may be done by massaging the abdomen. It may be necessary to break the egg inside of the bird's body, although it's less than ideal due to risk of infection.
How to Prevent Your Bird From Laying Eggs
Now do you see why it's important to try and prevent female birds from laying eggs? Many bird owners are surprised at the things they supply their birds with that are actually supporting egg laying and reproductive behaviors. Here's a few things you can do to prevent your bird from laying eggs.
- Do not provide a nesting box. A nesting box may seem like a nice little place your bird can hide, but if you already have a prolific egg layer then you're only supporting her ability to lay more eggs. Don't provide her with a place that she can nest.
- Don't give her access to paper. Some birds like to make nests using paper towels or newspaper that they find at the bottom of their cage. Make sure your bird isn't able to access anything that she could potentially build a nest with.
- Discourage sexual behaviors that your bird displays. I hate to say it, but birds are horny animals. They may display sexual behaviors towards other birds, humans, or even objects that they are bonded with. The other bird may be male, female, and not even of the same species. Separation from the other bird or removal of the object may be necessary if the egg laying problem is that bad. If your bird displays sexual behavior towards you, do not encourage it and return them to their cage for a time out.
- Feed your bird a healthy diet. As I mentioned above, egg binding is usually due to calcium deficiency in a bird's diet and bird's that are overweight are more likely to become egg bound. Both of these problems can be solved by feeding your bird the correct diet. An all seed or seed mix diet is not an appropriate diet for birds. The number one reason birds become sick is because they eat a poor diet, and seed mixes are the culprit. A pelleted diet as the main source of food is highly recommended.
- Lupron injections. Sometimes, female birds who cannot be discouraged from laying eggs will need to be given an injection of a hormonal drug called lupron. This is given usually on a once a month basis.
So there you have it - egg binding in birds is a very good reason why you don't want your bird to lay eggs! If you are having a hard time discouraging your bird from laying eggs, talk with your veterinarian for more suggestions. If you believe your bird is sick or may be egg bound, please seek immediate medical attention.