Margaret A. Wissman, DVM
Posted: January 10, 2013, 3:15 p.m. PST
Incessant egg-laying without a mate is a common problem with single hens, mostly occurring in cockatiels, Eclectus and cockatoo species. Repeatedly laying clutches of unfertilized eggs can become a health problem for the hen, limiting her nutrients, such as calcium and protein.
Without being in contact with a mate, some female birds will lay a clutch of infertile eggs. Before laying the egg or eggs your hen may suddenly gain weight, signaling the production of an egg. Most egg-laying hens will pass voluminous, smelly droppings right before and during an egg-laying cycle. Because health issues regarding pet birds are better understood, companion birds are reaching sexual maturity and as a single bird, they may still exhibit breeding behaviors.
Any egg-laying hen needs to be provided with additional calcium. Cuttlebone, mineral blocks, cottage cheese, TumsTM and almonds are good sources of calcium. You can discuss particular supplements with your avian veterinarian.
An egg-laying hen also needs full-spectrum light or natural light for normal calcium metabolism. When a hen begins repeatedly laying unfertilized eggs, it is important to attempt environmental changes to hopefully stop the egg-laying. Most species breed when exposed to increasing amounts of daylight. Eight to ten hours of light each day is adequate and birds may begin to demonstrate breeding behaviors if their daylight hours exceed this amount of light.
By Gina Cioli/BowTie Studio/Courtesy Omar's Exotic Birds
Eclectus hens are inclined to laying eggs without a male bird.
When your hen lays a clutch and maternal instincts kick in, causing her to become protective, sitting on the eggs, do not remove them. Wait until the full incubation period for normal, fertilized eggs has passed, because the female will most likely know instinctively when the eggs should hatch and she will lose interest at this time. If your bird does not abandon the eggs after the proper amount of time, wait no more than 30 days to remove the eggs and alter her environment to discourage incessant egg-laying. You can also replace her eggs with ceramic eggs or other artificial materials in the shape of an egg, of the same color, as some eggs may become rotten, which can cause infection in the brooding hen. Move your bird’s cage as well as the toys and perches inside the cage.
Discontinue feeding soft foods to your egg-laying hen as it may cause your bird to perceive you as its mate, causing her to lay more eggs (a female’s mate will begin feeding the hen soft foods while she incubates the eggs and cares for the chick).
Weigh your bird weekly to monitor any weight gain or loss. A weight gain can help predict when the hen is about to lay an egg again. Most owners will begin to tell when a hen is becoming “broody,” as she will usually become territorial of the cage, she will drink more water and pass larger, less frequent droppings and she may develop a pendulous abdomen from the hormonal laxity of the pelvic floor muscles.
Disclaimer: BirdChannel.com’s Bird Health Index is intended for educational purposes only. It is not meant to replace the expertise and experience of a professional veterinarian. Do not use the information presented here to make decisions about your bird’s health if you suspect your pet is sick. If your pet is showing signs of illness or you notice changes in your bird’s behavior, take your pet to the nearest veterinarian or an emergency pet clinic as soon as possible.