A blue and grey bird leans against a box of feed.

Will My Bird Lay Eggs?

We all know that birds lay eggs. We just don’t always realize that our pet birds may do the same thing. It can be a shock to find an egg lying in your bird’s cage. You might be afraid to touch it or move it. You may also be confused, especially if you only have females or a single animal. What should you do now, and how can you know if your avian friend will do it again? Today, we’ll be helping you through this process by teaching you more about birds and their oviparous ways.

Only Females Lay Eggs

When you get a bird, whether it’s from a breeder or a pet shop, you’re usually given an idea of the bird’s gender. If you were told that the animal is a male, you might be extremely surprised when it lays an egg. Egg laying is as accurate as a DNA test to prove the sex of your bird. If you found a smooth orb in the cage, you either have a female bird or a problem with alien invaders.

Almost every female bird will lay an egg in her lifetime whether or not there’s a male present. If you’re certain that your pet doesn’t have a mate, you’ll know that the egg isn’t fertilized. Fertilized eggs will not hatch. If you have more than one bird, you must consider the possibility that the eggs have been fertilized. This is possible even if you thought your birds were female because the breeders or pet shop employees could have been wrong about their sex.

Most Pet Birds Lay Eggs

Many birds, including cockatiels and parrots, are known for laying eggs in captivity. This behavior is an adaptation of the animals’ wild instincts. When the birds are in their natural habitats, their breeding hormones surge in the spring and summer. The longer daylight hours and warmer weather signal that it’s time for mating and nesting.

Furthermore, the abundance of food that is available during these seasons makes them ideal times for laying eggs.

When birds are kept as pets, many signals can stimulate reproductive hormones. Long hours of exposure to artificial lighting, the warm indoor environment and plenty of access to food and water can mimic the breeding season. Have you ever seen your pet bird bond with its reflection in the mirror? She might think that she has found a mate and begin generating breeding hormones. Even just petting your bird on the stomach, on the back or under the wings can encourage it to lay eggs.

Signs That Your Bird Will Lay Eggs

When a female gets ready to lay eggs, she will gain weight. You may notice that she’s heavier when you pick her up. Her abdomen will enlarge and feel firm. She will drink more water to replace the moisture that it takes to create an egg. Odds are good that she’ll also do more chewing, shredding items for her nest. If you try to reach into her cage, she may act protective, vocalizing and backing into a corner. Many types of birds will spend time on the floor of the cage instead of hanging out on the perches. Right before the egg is released, your pet may have larger, smellier droppings.

Can You Spot a Problem?

The egg laying process is part of a female bird’s reproductive cycle. She will almost always produce at least one egg during a cycle. If the egg is not fertilized, it is cast out. You can see the similarities with the human reproductive progression.

Some glitches can happen in a cycling bird, and it’s important to be aware of them. Egg binding occurs when a bird can’t lay an egg that she produced. She will sit on the floor of her cage for hours or days, straining to push the egg out. If she is panting, contracting her belly and breathing heavily, she may be trying to deal with a bound egg. Other signs of egg binding are an absence of droppings followed by the elimination of one huge dropping. Your bird will need help from a medical professional if she has a bound egg; this is a very serious condition.

Egg peritonitis happens when fluid from the yolk leaks into the bird’s body. This can cause the body to swell and the preen gland to stick out. Whereas you can feel a hard sphere near the vent if the egg is bound, you can feel a softer overall swelling when your animal is dealing with egg peritonitis. An X-ray can provide an accurate diagnosis for this issue.

Chronic egg laying can also be a problem. Every species has a specific number of cycles throughout the year. If your bird goes through more cycles than it’s supposed to, it could have a medical condition. A veterinarian will explain what you can do to prevent this behavior. According to For the Birds, you can take some steps to discourage your pet from laying eggs, too. Your bird might also need extra nutrition and hormone therapy.

What to Do With Bird Eggs

Females will nest on eggs whether or not they’re fertilized. If you remove an egg from the cage too early, she will replace it with another one. Leave the eggs in the cage for at least three weeks, giving your pet time to finish the nesting cycle. She will be stressed out and protective of her eggs during this time. Taking them out of the cage could make this worse. If you do have to remove an egg, replace it with a marble or similarly sized ball. Most birds will eventually abandon unfertilized eggs when they realize that they won’t hatch. After three weeks, you can also remove one egg from the cage every other day.

If you suspect that the eggs might be fertile, you can usually confirm their state by the fifth day. At this time, you may notice a dark spot inside the egg and blood vessels forming inside. The egg may take on a pinkish tone. You can see this better if you hold up a candle or a flashlight to the egg in a dark room. If you weren’t planning on breeding your birds, you could remove the eggs, replacing them with an adequate substitute.

Protecting Your Bird

Most experts don’t recommend that you keep fertilized eggs unless you’re an experienced breeder. Some people will incubate chicken eggs, but artificial incubation of bird eggs is a complicated process. Plus, caring for bird babies can be difficult if you don’t know what you’re doing. The best thing you can do is talk to a veterinarian about the best way to support your bird’s natural reproductive cycles, provide optimal nutrition and learn how to take the best care for your bird during the process.