By Margaret A. Wissman, DVM
Posted: December 13, 2012, 10:30 p.m. PST
Budgies are determinate egg-layers, meaning that a hen will lay a predetermined number of eggs per cycle, usually four, six or (rarely) eight. This is in contrast to cockatiels, which are indeterminate layers. A cockatiel hen will continue to lay eggs to replace those lost from her clutch. So, if an owner takes the eggs away from a hen as she lays them, she may lay so many eggs that she becomes depleted of her nutrients, which can be life-threatening. However, the budgie will usually cease laying once her clutch is complete, even if the eggs are taken away from her. This is why so many more cockatiels end up with egg-related problems compared to budgies.
A female budgie typically has a pink to tan cere, while the male has a blue cere.
Occasionally, a parakeet may have difficulties in laying an egg. Termed egg-binding — or if it is more advanced — dystocia, it may have many causes, including insufficient calcium in the diet resulting in a soft-shelled egg, a weak or infected oviduct, malnutrition, a damaged or small pelvis, a malformed egg, tumors, poor muscle tone and body condition of the budgie. Supplying the parakeet with heat and humidity may help her pass the egg, however, dystocia can rapidly become an emergency, requiring immediate veterinary care.
Applying mineral oil or water-soluble jelly to the vent will likely be ineffective, unless the egg is clearly visible just inside the vent. If you notice that your budgie has a bulge near the vent, keep her in a warm, humid environment until you can contact your avian veterinarian.
Many egg-bound parakeets are dehydrated, so the first treatment an avian vet will perform on your budgie is usually the administration of fluids. Radiographs (X-rays) may help in confirming egg-binding or dystocia. An injection of calcium may help the hen by allowing the oviduct to contract more strongly. An injection of vitamin D helps calcium absorption.
If fluids, the vitamin injection and the injectable calcium, in addition to heat and humidity, don’t facilitate passage of the egg, a prostaglandin gel may be applied inside the vent, as long as the egg can physically pass. The prostaglandin gel works along the natural pathways and is a much better drug to use in place of oxytocin, which is the drug that was previously commonly used to cause contractions of the oviduct (and is used in mammals). In some cases, an avian vet may elect to implode one of your budgie’s egg (especially a large or misshapen one) by aspirating out the contents with a needle and syringe. Usually, the hen will then pass the aspirated egg shell within 36 hours. Occasionally, a hernia may be associated with egg-binding.
Excerpt from the Popular Birds Series magabook Parakeets with permission from its publisher, BowTie magazines, a division of BowTie Inc. Purchase Parakeets here.