|Unique Avian Solutions
for Breeding, Genetics,
and Companion Parrots
|Copyright © Linda S. Rubin | CockatielsPlusParrots.com
Articles on this website are not meant to take the place of proper veterinary and other medical care.
If your bird appears ill or shows symptoms of illness, please contact your avian veterinarian as
quickly as possible. Birds are prey animals and hide their symptoms in order to survive; by the time owners
see symptoms, a bird may have become extremely ill. Owners are advised to seek medical attention immediately.
To find an avian veterinarian in your area, contact the
Association of Avian Veterinarians at www.aav.org.
|EGGLAYING BEHAVIORS & PROBLEMS
Part 4: STIMULATING TRIGGERS & BIRTH CONTROL METHODS
©2003 Linda S. Rubin
CF Genetics Consultant & Panel Judge
©2000 All Photos and Articles “All Rights Reserved” by Author.
Written permission from author required for reprints.
First published in the February 2001 issue of BIRD TIMES magazine
|Uncontrollable egg-laying in cockatiels can be frustrating for companion bird owners, and often life threatening for cockatiel
hens. The over-production of eggs, or an irregular pattern of laying eggs, can rob a hen of the necessary calcium needed to
form her eggs that can have devastating circumstances.
Examples of abnormal egg-laying include laying an egg daily or every few days rather than every other day; laying a round of
eggs on the heels of an earlier clutch; or continuously laying eggs nonstop for weeks. If allowed to continue, eventually
calcium will be drawn from the hen’s own bones leaving them vulnerable to fractures, serious osteoporosis, and the
dangers of soft-shelled eggs, egg-binding, and egg peritonitis, all of which can be fatal.
Once eggs are laid, do not remove them! Always allow the hen to incubate should she choose to, otherwise she will merely
lay another round to immediately replace the clutch she lost. This effort will only tax her resources and rob her calcium
Cockatiels are stimulated to reproduce when six necessary conditions are present in their environment: ideal temperature,
proper humidity, increased photo-light period, appropriate seeding grasses (or soft foods) for feeding young, a suitable
nesting site, and an acceptable suitable mate (bird, human, or otherwise). To stop the production of eggs, first try to reverse
some or all of the above conditions.
Ideal temperatures for cockatiels vary. Although primarily a desert bird living in arid regions of the interior of Australia, the
domesticated cockatiel can adapt to most any temperature comfortable for humans. Breeders who house their collections
outdoors usually breed only during the warmer months, avoiding the colder chill of winter that can cause egg-binding. Even if
birds are weathered outdoors, a heat source and some shelter is normally provided. Breeders who house their cockatiels
indoors usually keep them at room temperature within the 68-72 degrees comfort zone. Many breeders keep their flocks at
slightly cooler, rather than warmer temperatures, to keep them hardy. It is not recommended to vary from the normal
comfort zone however, when deterring your cockatiel to stop laying eggs, as she will no doubt need all the warmth and
nurturing you can provide for her at this stressful time.
Humidity is not as an important factor. Humidity primarily effects the ability of the embryo to turn in its shell, and often times
cockatiels who over-produce eggs are kept as companion birds and therefore their eggs do not contain fertile embryos.
Constant baths may be somewhat stimulating, so eliminate spray baths until egg-laying events are over.
The photolight period is one element that can be manipulated when cockatiels are kept indoors. Cockatiels normally require
at least 10 hours of darkness each night and hens may be stimulated to lay eggs when they are exposed to an increase in
the amount of daylight hours they receive. In the wild, increased daylight means more time for parent cockatiels to search
for food for their hungry chicks, which adds to the clutches’ chance for survival. To reverse such a hormonal trigger, a
decrease in the amount of daylight hours and a corresponding increase in the hours of darkness may be enough to stop
over-stimulated birds from future laying. However, don’t overdo the exercise and make certain your bird has enough light to
eat, and to remain healthy and psychologically happy.
In the wild, cockatiels will search out seeding grasses to feed their chicks. Eliminating or cutting back on the amount of daily
soft foods you provide, for example, soaked, sprouted seeds, egg food, or any table foods in combination with the reduction
of other stimulating elements such as the photolight period, might help deter egg-laying. It is crucial that you still provide
optimum nutrition at this stressful time and make certain birds are actually eating.
Some hens will very nearly starve to death rather than leave their eggs to feed. Under normal circumstances, the male will
share in the incubation duties, so to aid your hen, place favorite foods within easy reach. Surround the hen with a layer of
seeds or pellets, whatever is her normal diet, so she may eat while incubating her clutch. This is not the time to start
converting a bird to a pelleted diet! Millet spray placed within easy reach is almost never refused and will add calories to the
diet. In the event your hen is very thin from not eating, do not deprive her of any “soft foods,” table foods, or favorites such as
corn, whole-wheat bread, or other easy to eat choices she desires.
To disrupt the chosen nest site, wait until the hen has abandoned her clutch of eggs - usually after the 18-22 day incubation
period (depending upon when the hen first starts to incubate full time) - then move her to another location. A further
disorientation could include returning her to a flight cage, changing her cage, transferring her to another room, or other
disruption to her routine “home.”
The most difficult condition would be to remove a bonded mate (if one is present), which may or may not work. If the hen is
attached to a male, the birds may continue to worry and call out to one another. This may be more stressful than helpful. It
may be easier to manipulate the other factors mentioned above.
Finally, in more serious cases, veterinary treatment should be sought from a board certified diplomate in avian medicine. A
trained avian veterinarian may recommend hormonal therapy, or in severe cases, surgical removal of the oviduct
(hysterectomy). An exciting event on the horizon is the development of a vaccine pZP, porcine zona pellucida, from swine,
that has been found to be a safe, effective immunocontraceptive in several animal studies including horses and elephants.
Studies are underway to see if the vaccine, which affects the yolk sac membrane, will prevent ovulation in birds. In essence,
the vaccine could be an effective birth control option that prevents birds from laying eggs. Future studies will reveal
additional information on the vaccine, its efficacy, and whether repeated vaccinations will have any long-term effects. For
information on a board certified avian diplomate in your area, contact the Association of Avian Veterinarians at www.aav.org.