Which came first, the chicken or the egg? The classic causality dilemma has puzzled some of history’s greatest thinkers, from Aristotle to Stephen Hawking, but we know the answer: It was Chicken, our (nearly) seven-year-old female green-cheeked conure.
Every year in early spring, Chicken, like many other female birds, begins to lay eggs. The eggs aren’t fertile, and even though she shares a cage with a male maroon-bellied conure named Kiwi, they’ve never successfully mated. She averages about four eggs per spring. She lays them, sits on them for a bit, realizes they aren’t fertile, and then forgets about them. At that point, we take them out of the cage, since taking them out sooner could cause her to start laying more eggs.
This year things were different. Something caused her to start laying eggs in early January, which in northern Wisconsin is far from spring. Not a lot had changed in terms of environment or diet or interaction for her, but we suspect the addition of a UV light to the bird room might have jump started the behavior.
It began about three weeks ago when she started laying eggs, at a normal pace of one egg every other day. Female birds can lose a significant amount of calcium when they are laying eggs so we immediately began supplementing her water with liquid calcium concentrate. After two weeks and six eggs, we began to worry. Although anywhere between two and six eggs is a normal clutch, she had never laid this many.
After another week and two more eggs, she began to appear weak and sickly. She laid the eighth egg on Thursday but none over the following weekend. We became incredibly concerned because Sunday night it looked like she still had an egg inside her, and she was breathing hard, had diarrhea, and a fluffed appearance – troubling signs that she might be egg bound.
Egg binding occurs when the egg does not pass through the reproductive system at a normal rate, and because of the complications involved, can be a life-threatening problem for birds. We immediately made a vet appointment on Monday morning and thanks to some flexible scheduling with work, I was able to drive her two hours south to the nearest avian vet. The vet performed a physical exam and then did an x-ray. The x-ray revealed what we had suspected and feared – that there was indeed an egg still inside her that she was having trouble passing. It was at this point that the vet leveled with me very clearly: Chicken’s life could be in danger.
UPDATE: Chicken and the Egg, Part 2
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