Chronic Egg-laying is when your bird lays eggs more often than they should. Excessive egg laying can also accompany certain disease processes. Chronic egg laying is due to an inappropriately high reproductive drive. There are several factors that can increase your bird’s reproductive drive:
- Genetics—some birds are innately predisposed to laying too many eggs. ISA brown chickens are a common example of this.
- Day length—The reproductive cycle of birds is tuned in to the seasons! Longer daylight hours = eggs.
- Sexual stimulation due to inappropriate human touching or availability of a mate.
- Contact such as petting and scratching below the neck may be construed as mating behaviour, which will stimulate the reproductive drive
- Obesity—Birds with more fat reserves are more likely to try to use them up in egg production
- Nesting sites—if nests or nesting boxes are provided, that will increase their reproductive drive
- Neoplasia—some tumours that originate from the reproductive tract may also secrete reproductive hormones
What are some symptoms besides egg laying?
The signs of chronic egg laying can vary according to the cause. The most common accompanying signs you will see is lethargy or reduced activity around the cage. Birds may also become more aggressive and territorial, and may favour one family member and be aggressive to all others. Some birds may become egg-bound, which occurs when they are not able to pass an egg due to inappropriate nutrition, large size of the egg, or poor muscular tone. If so, they may become inappetant, fluffed up, and may strain intermittently or continuously. If you suspect your bird is suffering from egg-binding, this is a condition that must be dealt with as soon as possible.
What kind of birds are most prone?
Any species of bird can suffer from chronic egg-laying; however it seems that Cockatiels, Lorikeets, Eclectus and Chickens are most prone.
What testing can we do?
There is no specific test for chronic egg-laying, and the diagnosis is based on history, physical exam and sometimes organ function testing. Your vet may recommend bloodwork to ensure that your bird is otherwise well, and also x-rays to evaluate the reproductive tract and bone density. From there we may recommend more specific treatments.
What kind of treatments are available?
Treatment will be determined by the cause. If the cause is an over stimulated reproductive drive the vet will discuss husbandry and medical treatments with you. The most common and most frequently used medical treatment is hormone based. Hormonal injections or implants can be used. This works by switching off the hormones which drives the reproductive cycles. Surgical sterilization may also be warranted. We will discuss whether this option is appropriate for your bird during the consultation.
What can I do at home?
There are lots of husbandry factors that we can address that will improve your bird’s condition at home. These include adjusting the diet—an all-seed diet is low in calcium and protein which are the main constituents of eggs. Your attending vet will discuss a diet appropriate for your bird species, light exposure – Most commonly we recommend following the natural daylight lengths, removing nest boxes and nesting material and confining contact to the neck and head only.