I have a two-year-old female cockatiel that has been very mean the last few days, which is very uncharacteristic of her. This morning I found an egg in her food bowl! I didn't even know she was expecting. Help!
All female birds have the ability to lay unfertile eggs if the situation is right. Many pet birds are on an inadequate diet consisting of seeds only, so it is important for them to be fed a good diet in order to meet the added requirements during egg laying. It is especially important to offer a laying bird the correct quality and quantity of calcium. When their nutritional needs are met with a good selection of table foods or high quality pelleted food, the environment is the next factor. A high stress environment would not be conducive to laying, like lots of noise and confusion or other pets bothering the cage. If the bird is well-fed and comfortable with its surroundings, periods of light and dark are a final critical factor. This is why we often get these calls in the spring, as the days grow longer. Birds need a cycle with at least 12 hours of natural light as a signal to lay eggs. They typically will get irritable and protective while in this mode. Though the eggs are infertile and will not hatch, it is best to leave them in the cage. The smaller birds will generally lay two to six eggs in a "clutch", but if the owners keep removing them, the will just keep producing, as they need to have pressure on their "egg patch" to signal to the body that it is time to quite. When there appears to be no more eggs being produced after a period of five to seven days, the owner may remove the eggs and the bird should go back to being her normal sweet self. A bird may continue to lay throughout the spring and summer season, although if an owner can discern a pattern, they could change the light cycle by moving or covering the cage to keep the length of light exposure shorter. Another health concern to watch for is for the bird to become "egg bound", where eggs actually get stuck inside. The bird will appear fluffed up and uncomfortable, and examination of its underside will reveal swelling under the tail area. It is essential to see your veterinarian to have him or her treat your bird for this condition, since this can quickly become an emergency situation. Enjoy your pet bird. They can be every bit as wonderful and interactive as a dog or cat, and properly taken care of, they'll provide years of companionship and happiness.