Excessive egg production is a common problem in cockatiels, parakeets, lovebirds, and canaries. Remember that in the wild, such birds simply find a mate and raise a family. And these wild versions of our pets rarely produce more than one or two sets of eggs per year. But if eggs are laid by a pet bird when no mate or nest is nearby, their failure to hatch may stimulate the bird to lay more. The egg shells require a large amount of calcium, and after 5 or 6 have been laid the bird will sometimes be unable to eat enough calcium to continue. Vitamin D3 deficiencies will add to the problem as D3 is required to make the calcium available.

This very unnatural situation gives rise to many problems. Egg-binding, prolapsed oviduct, egg peritonitis, and obturator paralysis are all life-threatening consequences. Female birds that lay many eggs may need to be treated with prescription drugs (oral and injectable). All laying hens need several sources of calcium (see below) and proper level of vitamin D3.

Good sources of calcium include broccoli, alfalfa sprouts, fresh alfalfa, cheese, yoghurt, and commercial bird pellets. CALCIUM CARBONATE should also be offered and sources include cuttlebone, mineral blocks, oyster shell, bone meal, and many combination vitamin/mineral supplements (read the label carefully). CALCIUM GLUCONATE is an excellent calcium source and is found in tablet form or in some newer combination supplements (ie Prime). CALCIUM GLUTIONATE is an oral calcium syrup that is used for treating these conditions, and can be very helpful.

Calcium and vitamin D3 supplements alone are not the answer to the problem. Nature's answer is always the best. Female birds that are able to hatch out a nest full of healthy chicks RARELY HAVE PROBLEMS. If you have not already tried to breed your hen, you might like to give her a chance. It is not difficult and the birds do most of the work. A nest box can be purchased by contacting some of the large bird stores in your area. You may need a new cage if you are not willing to cut a few bars on your present cage to attach the nest box to the outside. And finding a male bird may require some telephone work as well, but the rewards will be great if you are successful in breeding them.

Certain drugs and surgical procedures are occasionally recommended if a bird cannot be bred, but some risk may be involved.

Louise Bauck BSc, DVM, MVSc.

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