What is Excessive or Chronic Egg Laying?

Excessive or chronic egg laying can happen in any species of birds but it is most common in Amazon parrots, cockatiels, finches, macaws, lovebirds and budgerigars. 

If your bird is showing symptoms of excessive or chronic egg laying, he should be seen by an experienced avian veterinarian. Untreated excessive egg laying may lead to serious health conditions, such as calcium deficiency, osteoporosis, broken bones, egg binding and even death.

Excessive or chronic egg laying in birds occurs when a hen has a larger than usual clutch. A clutch is the term used for all the eggs produced by the bird.  Hens can lay eggs even with the absence of a male bird.

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Symptoms of Excessive or Chronic Egg Laying in Birds

Symptoms may include:

  • Laying a larger than normal clutch
  • Producing eggs that are thin shelled
  • Undersized or oversized eggs
  • Abnormal colored eggs
  • Loss of appetite
  • Labored breathing
  • Appears fluffed 
  • Less vocal
  • Cloacal prolapse
  • Changes in the stool appearance
  • Weight loss
  • Depression
  • Dehydration
  • Seizure-like activity
  • Feather loss
  • Skin irritation
  • Unsteady posture
  • Failure to perch

Causes of Excessive or Chronic Egg Laying in Birds

The causes of excessive or chronic egg laying in birds may be caused by:

  • Hormonal imbalance
  • Genetic
  • Poor diet (for example feeding the hen only seeds)
  • Increased daylight
  • Environment

Diagnosis of Excessive or Chronic Egg Laying in Birds

The avian veterinarian may want to go over the medical history of your bird. and will want to discuss the patient’s diet, housing and routines. Advise the veterinary team if your bird is currently on any medication, vitamins or supplements. If your bird has been seen by another veterinarian, it is recommended that you bring the previous medical records.

The veterinarian may suggest administering a gas anesthesia to the patient before starting the physical exam.  An anesthetic, such as sevoflurane or isoflurane can help the patient to be less stressed.

The exam may include an evaluation of the eyes, beak, oral cavity, and plumage. The veterinarian may want to run some diagnostic tests.  X-rays may be suggested to check for any egg obstruction and for determining the patient’s bone density.  The veterinarian may recommend blood work, such as a complete blood count and a biochemistry serum profile to rule out anemia and infection and to determine your bird’s organ functions, glucose, proteins, electrolytes and calcium levels. Blood is usually taken from the jugular on the right side of the neck. Blood can also be drawn from the inside of the ulna or the hock joint. 

Treatment of Excessive or Chronic Egg Laying in Birds

Treatment may be the combination of behavior modification and medical management. The veterinarian may suggest changing the location of the bird’s cage and decreasing the exposure to light to 8-10 hours a day. If the hen has a mate, it may be necessary to place the male in a separate cage. The separated birds should not be able to hear each other.  Nesting materials should be removed. Items that the bird may recognize as a “mate”, such as mirrors or small plastic birds should also be removed from the cage.  

The veterinarian may also recommend avoiding feeding the patient sugary, fatty and/or warm foods. Food items, such as grapes, corn, carrots, and apples have high sugar.  Sunflowers and peanuts are high in fat.  The veterinarian may recommend that a seed diet be switched to a pellet diet.  Medical treatments will depend on what nutritional deficiencies were found in the blood work result.  The veterinarian may suggest that vitamins and/or supplements be added to the patient’s diet. The bird may be given injections of hormone therapy. There are also natural hormone therapies such as Releaves. Releaves is an organic red raspberry supplement, which can help stop ovulations in birds.

Recovery of Excessive or Chronic Egg Laying in Birds

Once diagnosed and treated, the recovery of excessive or chronic egg laying in birds has a good prognosis.  Follow up visits will be necessary to monitor the bird’s progress. The veterinarian may want to have blood work retaken in order to verify that all deficiencies or abnormalities have been corrected.