For our pet birds we often provide all of the factors that in the wild would signal to them that it is time to reproduce – an abundant food supply, long daylight hours, someone or something to mate with, and a safe nesting site.
1. TOO MANY CALORIES
Diets that are high in fat (for example seed diets) or access to a full dish of even healthy foods such as parrot pellets at all times tells your bird that there will be plenty of food available to raise her chicks.
2. LONG DAYS
Having access to daylight or artificial light for more than 12 hours a day simulates the onset of spring and the breeding season.
3. A MATE (IN HER MIND)
Many birds will develop an inappropriate pair bond with their owner or with a toy or mirror in their cage. The more we cuddle with our birds, the more confused they become!
4. A PLACE TO LAY EGGS
Any dark, cozy spot can be considered a safe home where she can raise her family. This can be a nest box, a cardboard box, a cupboard, or even a bookshelf!
There are several risks associated with laying eggs, including egg-binding, egg peritonitis, osteoporosis, and hyperlipidemia.
When a female bird is putting more calcium into the egg shells than she is taking in (in her diet), then weak muscles and weak bones are the result. She may not have enough strength to pass an egg and become egg-bound, or become so weak that she falls and breaks a bone.
Egg peritonitis occurs when the egg yolk is released from the ovary and goes into the abdomen instead of the oviduct. The reaction causes fluid build-up and a swollen belly, making it difficult to breathe.
When creating an egg, high levels of fat (hyperlipidemia) and protein circulate in the blood and can cause a stroke.
1. DECREASE DAYLIGHT HOURS
Make sure that your bird’s cage is covered for at least 12 hours a night. Consider a separate sleeping cage in another room if she is in a busy part of the house.
2. CHANGE HER ENVIRONMENT
Make her think that it is not a safe time to raise a family by changing the location of her cage, removing mirrors, and by moving her perches and toys around.
3. DECREASE THE ABUNDANCE OF FOOD
Improve her diet from a seed-based, high fat diet to a pellet-based diet. (NOTE – THIS MUST BE DONE GRADUALLY! CONSULT YOUR AVIAN VETERINARIAN FOR ADVICE) Make sure that she has a source of calcium and is able to absorb it. Have her forage for food by having small amounts in multiple locations. It is okay to run out of food for a few hours. (Note – the smaller the bird, the shorter the time. For example, a budgie should not be without food for more than 2 hours, but a cockatoo can go 4-5 hours.)
4. DON’T ALLOW ACCESS TO POTENTIAL NEST SITES
Remove any boxes and fuzzy toys or “happy huts” and don’t allow her to roam and find nest sites in your home.
5. AVOID CUDDLING
Do not scratch or rub her below her neck and don’t allow her to preen you (hair, eyelashes, etc.). Don’t allow her to climb inside your clothing or share your food. You can change the way you interact by spending time trick training instead of snuggling.
6. HORMONE TREATMENT
Injections or hormone implants are available and can be used successfully in some cases when dietary, behavioral, and environmental changes are not enough.
If your pet bird is laying eggs, contact your avian veterinarian to review her risk factors and develop a management plan.