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How To Tell If A Parrot Is Egg Bound (Dystocia)

Last Updated on January 28, 2024 by Carrie Stephens

Egg binding leaves a female parrot (hen) unable to expel eggs from her body. The hen will develop abdominal swelling where the egg is stuck, straining to push it out of her body.

Egg-bound parrots develop rapid or labored breathing, fluffed-up feathers, lameness, constipation, diarrhea, prolapse, and appetite loss.

A parrot can recover if dystocia is resolved early, but many owners make the mistake of thinking the problem will go away. Left unresolved, egg binding is life-threatening.

Signs of Egg Binding in Parrots

Egg binding has the following medical names:

  • Dystocia.
  • Post-ovulatory stress.
  • Egg retention.
  • Impacted oviducts.

Dystocia occurs when the egg passes through the cloaca at an abnormally slow rate, leaving the parrot unable to expel it from the body via the vent.

Egg binding is most common in small parrots, such as:

  • Budgerigars.
  • Lovebirds.
  • Cockatiels.

It surprises owners when female parrots lay an egg without a male. Parrots ovulate like many female animals, but birds produce eggs that must be pushed out of their bodies.

The most common signs of egg binding in parrots include:

what causes egg binding in parrots?

Rapid or Labored Breathing

Hens with egg binding breathe too quickly or slowly.

You may hear a panting respiratory rate, or the parrot may appear to be barely breathing. Dystocia affects all birds differently, but breathing changes are always cause for concern.

Abdominal Swelling

A parrot will have a rounded stomach or swelling around the bottom after attempting to lay the egg.


If a parrot doesn’t poop, it could be due to egg binding. Inflammation of the oviduct is the likely cause because the egg constricts the intestines, preventing them from functioning.


While this may seem to contradict the symptom of constipation, some parrots produce wet feces due to their cloaca relaxing during the egg-laying process. The droppings may also be white.

Whether a parrot develops constipation or diarrhea depends on its condition and where the egg resides.


In severe cases, part of the parrot’s reproductive tract will protrude from its cloacal opening. Prolapse will look like a pink mass from where the parrot has strained too hard.


Most egg-bound hens visibly strain as they attempt to pass their eggs. Unfortunately, straining is usually futile because the egg can’t go anywhere.

If you notice that a parrot continues to strain but doesn’t pass an egg, it’s likely gotten stuck. Many people mistake this behavior for their parrot pushing to excrete waste.

Fluffed-Up Feathers

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.

Sitting On The Cage Floor

A stuck egg exerts pressure on the spine, making it difficult and painful for parrots to perch. In severe cases, egg binding causes paralysis, leaving parrots confined to the cage floor.


Lameness is likely to occur during the advanced stages of egg binding.

An impacted egg exerts pressure on the spine and affects the nerves, leaving affected parrots unable to move their legs. This is often why you’ll find a parrot sitting on the cage floor.

Loss of Appetite

Egg-bound parrots lose their appetites as they struggle to deal with their discomfort. However, inappetence is a symptom of many illnesses, so look for other clinical signs of egg binding.

Causes of 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 Deficiency

Calcium deficiencies (hypocalcemia) affect many parrots, especially during the breeding season.

According to MSD Veterinary Manual, low calcium levels can have the following consequences:

  • Thin-shelled eggs.
  • Malformed eggs.
  • Cessation of egg-laying.
  • Cloacal prolapse.

An unbalanced diet can cause a calcium deficiency. However, you can also give parrots cuttlefish bones, oyster shells, and leafy greens for an increased calcium intake.

Low Protein Diet

Parrots primarily eat plant-based foods and little meat, meaning they may lack dietary protein. Birds that don’t get enough protein are more likely to have impacted eggs.

Getting the right amount of protein decreases the risk of obesity and weight-related diseases, which are other leading causes of dystocia.

Lack of Exercise

Parrots not provided with enough toys to play with or exercise can become egg-bound because their muscles don’t develop properly, making it difficult to expel eggs.

Females tire easily and won’t have the energy to lay their eggs. Too-small cages are a problem because they don’t allow enough room for parrots to move freely and exercise.


Not only does obesity cause health problems, but it makes it difficult for parrots to lay eggs.

Environmental Stress

Environmental stressors can impact the egg-laying process, making it difficult for parrots to expel them. The following factors can affect a 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 and schedule.

Malformed Eggs

Misshapen or malformed eggs become stuck in the reproductive system, making expelling them impossible for hens. This can be due to a defective shell gland and infectious bronchitis.

Malformed eggs are also the result of stress, deficiencies, and poor exercise habits.

How To Prevent Egg Binding in Parrots

While egg binding is severe, you can take steps to minimize the risk.

Take the following egg-binding prevention steps to protect a parrot:

Improved Diet

Parrots on a poor diet must switch to a nutritionally complete diet of 50-70% pellets. While parrots love seeds and nuts, they lack several essential nutrients. Parrots need a balanced diet.

signs of egg binding in parrots

More Exercise

Wild parrots spend their days playing and foraging for food and water, but they lack as many opportunities to explore their environment in captivity.

Their cage should be large enough to allow for movement and have space for toys and puzzles for the parrot to play with when you’re not around.

Allow the parrot out of its cage to fly and walk around once the room is bird-proofed.

Discourage Egg Laying

You can discourage egg-laying by doing the following:

  • Removing nests and nesting materials.
  • Separating the female from male cage mates.
  • Not stimulating the parrot through petting and touch.
  • Reducing natural light.
  • Fewer fatty and high-calorie foods.

This can prevent egg binding in parrots who can’t stop laying eggs.

Surgery and Treatment

A hysterectomy to remove the oviducts and uterus may be necessary when extracting the egg through the vent is impossible. This is only carried out when no other options are available.

Chronic egg-laying parrots may be suitable for hormonal drug therapy, which is designed to temporarily stop parrots from laying eggs to allow their bodies to recover.