Ah, spring…sunshine, showers, flowers, and egg laying in pet birds.
Not all female pets will lay eggs. My Goffin is 18 and has yet to lay a single egg. Others, often cockatiels, will habitually lay every year. So what do you do?
Remove anything that could be interpreted as a nest site– Happy Huts, boxes, enclosed toys/dishes, tents, etc. Also, do not pet your bird on the back or under the tail, as it simulates a male mounting. Head scratches are fine.
Provide lots of calcium and protein. Excess laying will deplete a hen’s calcium reserves, which can lead to soft shelled eggs (more likely to fracture internally) and brittle bones. Offer cuttlebone and/or mineral block, and cooked scrambled eggs with the shell. If this has been going on a long time, you may need to see a veterinarian for a quicker form of supplementation.
STOP REMOVING EGGS. Birds can count and usually have a specific clutch size that they are trying to reach. Removing eggs means that they never finish their clutch so they just keep laying more. Removing broken eggs is fine.
Once her clutch is complete she may try to incubate the eggs. Incubation lasts three to four weeks for most species. Eventually she should realize that her eggs are duds and abandon them. At this point they can be safely removed. Some hens will lay again, others will not. If she does lay again you can try leaving the eggs in longer. At the very least, leaving eggs in will space out the time in between clutches.
Pad the clutch. Don’t toss out the infertile eggs-save them for next year. If she lays again, add an extra egg in every few days. She should stop laying faster this way. You don’t need to buy fake eggs. Infertile eggs from the previous year work fine.
Decrease daylight hours (note–this does not work on all species). Most species are springtime breeders. Even birds that can lay year-round usually become more hormonal during the spring. You can try to shorten their breeding season by fudging their daylight hours. Covering the cage early at night may help.
Rearrange the cage, or move to a different cage. Disrupting the home environment can sometimes break the cycle.
If all else fails, you have two options: see a vet or give her a box.
If your pet has had issues with calcium depletion or egg binding, definitely see a vet about hormone shots.
If your bird is just determined to lay every year regardless of what you do, give her a nestbox in the spring. The idea is to get her used to laying in the box and only the box. That way when you remove the box, it signals the end of the breeding season for her.
For more information: Discouraging Breeding Behavior in Pet Birds
©2016 by Karen Trinkaus May not be reprinted or used in any way without the author’s permission. Image submitted by reader.