**Guest post from Keith G.**
This was only supposed to be a two-part series when I first started it this past winter. Then again, the Packers were also supposed to win the Super Bowl, and I, the lottery (neither of which happened, believe it or not). Nostradamus I am not.
At the time, our female conure, Chicken, was experiencing an egg-laying craze that would leave her egg bound with a ninth egg until just moments before we left for the veterinary hospital in Madison. Little did we think just four months later we would be faced with a similar situation… just in time for Father’s Day.
Parrots, as I’ve come to learn as a “Bird Daddy” (my wife’s idea, not mine) can be very unpredictable. One day having the curtains open makes them mad, the next, not having them open makes them mad. You just can’t win sometimes. Case in point: Chicken and her eggs.
After the incident this winter we bought a Multi Vista Modular Bird Cage so that we could keep our male and female conures separated, but still close (the cage has other advantages, too). Surely it would curb her egg laying, right? Wrong. I guess that’s what we get for naming her after a domesticated fowl whose primary purpose on the farm is to LAY EGGS.
Laying eggs is a natural behavior for female birds, usually brought on by seasonal changes in photoperiod, temperature, and humidity (warmer, more humid months and longer days). Having a mate isn’t required – the females can lay eggs (albeit unfertilized) without any help. But problems occur when egg laying becomes excessive, in either number or frequency.
Having just laid a large clutch of nine eggs in winter, we were shocked when Chicken started laying eggs AGAIN just a few weeks ago. Despite already being separated from Kiwi in the new cage, we took extra measures to try to curb her behavior as soon as we noticed she was carrying an egg, fearful that she would again lay a large clutch and endanger herself so soon after her recent traumatic experience.
We moved her to a separate cage in a separate room, reduced the number of daylight hours she was uncovered to eight hours a day, and got her new perches in case she had bonded to the others. We also began supplementing with calcium. Her first two eggs came out like clockwork, two days apart. The third, however, got stuck. Here we go again.
Four egg-less days went by before we decided that we would again have to take measures to help her get the egg out. We had our avian vet’s office phone in a subscription for Metacam, an anti-inflammatory, which we had to dose orally, no small task for any bird.
Two more days went by and still no egg. Amazingly, Chicken was showing no ill signs and was still eating, drinking, and defecating normally, but we knew the longer the egg was in there the more risk it posed.
On the sixth day we made plans to visit an animal hospital nearby for x-rays, which we were then going to send to the veterinary hospital in Madison to review, since our regular avian vet was out of town. Pending the results of the x-ray, it was possible we would finally be making the trip to Madison after all. Another option that existed was having a local vet give Chicken a shot of oxytocin, which is sometimes used in birds to promote contractions and aid egg laying.
Thankfully, just hours before we headed up for the x-ray, Chicken laid the egg.
A week has since passed and Chicken, still in “isolation,” hasn’t developed another egg. If Chicken’s egg laying troubles continue in this way we may have to pursue hormone treatment, but that can prove costly financially (since shots are required about every three weeks and cost around $50 a piece or more) and is not always effective at curbing the behavior. Other more involved options include getting her an implant similar to an IUD that is effective for longer than just a few weeks, or getting her spayed. But with the mortality rate being so high for birds that undergo surgery, it is generally only recommended if absolutely necessary.
For now, our little bird family will continue on, with my wife and I doing everything possible to make life (and the occasional egg laying) as best as we can for our birds. If you’ve been through a similar situation and can offer any advice, Chicken would love to hear it!
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