Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Pet Egg Laying Parrotlet

I have a female who is laying eggs altho there is no male in the cage with her. She looks sick and is breathing heavily. I've
taken the eggs out-she lays one at a time and when the egg is gone she comes to life again. What's going on and what can I do for her?

I thank you in advance for any info you can provide!!


Dear Susan:

Thank you for your email. While it is uncommon for single parrotlet hens to lay eggs, it does happen and it is almost always due to management problems.

First, pet parrotlets should not be exposed to more than 12 hours a day of daylight. This is what puts their breeding hormones into action and causes them to lay eggs. Think of chickens that lay eggs for the breakfast table. They are induced to lay eggs, without a male, just because their eyes are receiving more than 12 hours a day of daylight. I always recommend that pet parrotlets not be exposed to more than 12 hours a day of daylight – 10 is better. Cover the bird at 8 PM and uncover it at 8 AM. It does not matter if the bird is sleeping during that time, only that the amount of light exposure is less than 12.

Second, make sure this hen is getting lots of calcium. She is depleting her body of calcium when she lays an egg so make sure she has lot of cuttlebone (it is not used to ‘sharpen or reduce the beak but it is a rich source of calcium) plus foods that have lots of calcium like broccoli and leafy greens (not lettuce). You can also give her some cooked egg with the shell or even provide some powdered calcium a few times a week on her fresh foods.

Finally, DO NOT REMOVE THE EGGS. Sorry to type in caps but I can’t tell you how important that is. Nature has designed them to replace eggs that are lost and every time you take the egg away, her instinct drives her to lay another one to replace it. The best thing you can do is just leave her alone and let her brood the eggs. Don’t interrupt her cycle. She will sit on the eggs until her instinct instructs her not to any more. Mother Nature is truly amazing in what she has designed these birds to do for the last millennia and they do not need our help or our interference. In fact, removing the eggs, especially as she lays them will cause her tremendous stress as their must be a predator in the area and she can’t find a new nesting place plus the physical stress of laying more and more eggs, can eventually kill her. This can happen from her blood calcium levels falling to dangerous lows or by laying the eggs themselves and causing either a condition called ‘egg binding’ where she can no longer eliminate the egg from her body or, worse, a prolapsed uterus which is almost always fatal.

As for her behavior, she probably is going to be more moody, territorial, aggressive and nippy. I would not handle her unless she wants to be and please don’t discipline or try and correct her actions. She is doing what Nature designed her to do and it won’t do any good to try and mold her behavior into what you want. Just be patient, leave her alone and eventually she will get her hormonal cycle back into sync and she’ll abandon the eggs and hopefully, if you have changed the environment accordingly, stop laying.

Best of luck and I hope this helps!

Sincerely yours,

Sandee L. Molenda, C.A.S.
Secretary, International Parrotlet Society

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