Egg binding is a condition that leaves female parrots (hens) unable to expel eggs from their bodies.
As long as it’s discovered early, the parrot can make a full recovery. Unfortunately, it can be life-threatening and commonly kills wild hens with no access to veterinary treatment.
Egg-bound parrots develop abdominal swelling where the egg becomes stuck. They’ll strain to get it out of their bodies, sometimes causing prolapse.
They’ll develop rapid or labored breathing, fluffed-up feathers, and a loss of appetite from the discomfort the stuck egg causes. Some egg-bound parrots develop diarrhea, while others become constipated.
If your parrot starts sitting on its cage floor or struggles to perch, the egg’s applying too much pressure to the spine and nerves, making it difficult to stand up.
Knowing the signs of dystocia is vital to getting your parrot the veterinary treatment it needs. The longer that this condition goes undetected and unresolved, the greater the risk of death.
How Do I Know if My Parrot Is Egg-Bound?
Egg binding is an uncomfortable and sometimes fatal condition that affects female parrots. Other names include:
- Post-ovulatory stress
- Egg retention
- Impacted oviducts
Dystocia occurs when the egg passes through the reproductive system at an abnormal rate, leaving the parrot unable to expel it from its body.
VCA Hospitals explains how it’s treatable when detected early, but it can become life-threatening if too much time passes from when the parrot first begins to lay her eggs.
Egg binding is most common in smaller parrots, such as:
It surprises some owners to learn that female parrots can lay an egg, even without a male. Parrots ovulate like many female animals, but birds produce hard, large eggs that they need to physically push out of their bodies.
The most common signs of egg binding in parrots include:
Rapid or Labored Breathing
Hens with egg binding find it difficult to breathe and either breathe too rapidly or too slowly.
You may notice a “panting” respiratory rate, or your parrot may look like it’s barely breathing at all. Dystocia affects all birds differently, but any breathing changes are a cause for concern.
One of the most evident signs of egg binding is abdominal swelling.
Your parrot will develop a rounded stomach or swelling around her bottom where she’s attempted to lay an egg. Any type of swelling is abnormal and should be seen by an avian vet.
If your parrot fails to produce droppings, it could be due to egg binding.
Inflammation of the oviduct is the most likely cause because the egg constricts the intestines, preventing them from functioning properly.
While this may seem to contradict the symptom of constipation, some birds produce wet feces due to their cloaca relaxing during the egg-laying process.
The droppings may also be white. Whether your parrot develops constipation or diarrhea depends on its condition and where the egg resides in its system.
Most egg-bound hens visibly strain as they attempt to pass their eggs. Unfortunately, straining is usually futile, as the egg can’t go anywhere.
If you notice that your parrot continues to strain but doesn’t pass an egg, it’s likely gotten stuck. Many owners mistake this behavior for their parrot pushing to go to the toilet.
Parrots hide their illnesses so that predators don’t target them.
As a result, they fluff up their feathers to make themselves appear larger and more intimidating. It also hides injuries and ailments – in this case, an impacted egg.
Sitting On Cage Floor
A stuck egg puts pressure on the spine, making it difficult and often painful for parrots to perch.
In the most severe cases, egg binding causes paralysis, leaving parrots confined to the cage floor. This isn’t normal for parrots as they need to perch.
Lameness is likely to occur in the advanced stages of egg binding.
We’ve explained how an impacted egg puts pressure on the spine and affects the nerves, leaving affected parrots unable to move their legs. This is another reason you’ll find your bird sitting on its cage floor.
Loss of Appetite
Egg-bound parrots lose their appetites as they struggle to deal with the pain and discomfort of the condition.
However, appetite loss is a symptom of several illnesses, so look out for other clinical signs of egg binding to determine whether your parrot has the condition or not.
In severe cases, you may see a part of your parrot’s reproductive tract protruding out of its cloacal opening. It’ll look like a pink mass from where the parrot’s stained too hard or too often. Don’t touch it, as it’ll likely be sensitive.
A broken bone isn’t strictly an indication of egg binding, but calcium deficiencies are a leading cause of dystocia. Parrots with broken bones may not have enough calcium in their bodies.
What Causes Egg Binding in Parrots?
All hens are at risk of egg binding, regardless of their age. Young parrots laying eggs for the first time are just as vulnerable as older parrots in poor health. Nevertheless, there are many causes, such as:
Calcium deficiencies affect many parrots, particularly those on an all-seed diet. According to MSD Veterinary Manual, low calcium levels can lead to:
- Thin-shelled eggs
- Cessation of egg-laying
- Cloacal prolapse
A poor diet causes calcium deficiencies. Fruits and vegetables are rich sources of calcium. You can also give your parrot cuttlebones, oyster shells, and leafy greens to increase its calcium intake.
Breeding parrots need more calcium than most, so keep an eye on your hen’s diet during these vital stages.
Low Protein Diet
Because parrots predominantly eat plant-based foods and little meat, they lack protein from the diets, which causes malnutrition. Parrots lacking protein are more likely to get impacted eggs.
Eating the right amount of protein decreases the risk of obesity and weight-related diseases, which are other leading causes of egg binding in parrots.
Lack of Exercise
Parrots that aren’t provided with enough toys to play with or exercise can become egg-bound because their muscles don’t develop properly, making it difficult for the hen to expel her eggs.
Females will tire easily and won’t have the energy needed to lay their eggs. Cages that are too small are a problem as they don’t allow enough room for parrots to move freely.
Not only does obesity cause health and behavioral problems, but it makes it difficult for hens to lay their eggs. It’s not natural for parrots to be obese, as it puts too much pressure on their delicate organs.
Environmental stressors can impact the egg-laying process, making it difficult for hens to expel them.
The following factors can adversely affect your parrot’s mental well-being:
- Loud noises
- Too much noise
- Predatory pets
- High or low temperatures
- Location changes
- Aggressive cage mates
- Constant bedtime interruptions
Parrots need a consistent environment with a routine schedule.
Misshaped or malformed eggs become stuck in a parrot’s reproductive system, making it impossible for hens to expel them. This can be caused by a defective shell gland and infectious bronchitis.
Malformed eggs are also the result of stress, deficiencies, and poor exercise habits. Once the egg becomes stuck, it won’t come out without veterinary assistance.
How To Prevent Egg Binding in Parrots
While egg binding is a serious condition, you can take measures to minimize the risk of it forming. Take the following egg-binding prevention steps to protect your parrot:
Improve Your Parrot’s Diet
Parrots on a poor diet need to switch to a nutritionally complete diet consisting of 50-70% pellets. While parrots love seeds and nuts, they lack several essential nutrients. Pellets are formulated to contain all the vital vitamins and minerals.
Parrots need a balanced and varied diet consisting of:
Provide calcium, vitamin, mineral, and phosphorus supplements in the short term.
Wild parrots spend their days foraging for food and looking for shelter. They don’t have as many opportunities to move about in captivity.
Their cage should be large enough to allow for movement and have space for toys and puzzles for your parrot to play with when you’re not around. Allow your parrot out of its cage to fly once the room is parrot-proofed.
Discourage Egg Laying
You can discourage your parrot from egg-laying, which minimizes the risk of eggs becoming stuck in the reproductive system.
You can do this by:
- Removing nests and nesting materials
- Separating the female parrot from her male cage mates
- Being careful not to stimulate your parrot through touch
This is effective for preventing egg binding in parrots who can’t stop laying eggs.
Surgery and Treatment
A hysterectomy to remove the parrot’s oviducts and uterus is recommended when it’s not possible to extract the egg through the vent. However, this surgery is risky and is only carried out when no other options are available.
Chronic egg-laying parrots may be suitable for hormonal drug therapy. This is designed to stop parrots from laying eggs temporarily to allow their bodies to recover.