The Eggbound Bird – What Happens Now?

Egglaying

Pearly’s been laying eggs.  She usually lays 3 eggs, 1 every other day, but she’s only laid 2 eggs and it’s been 3 days since the last one.  She seems uncomfortable and is straining as though something is stuck.

Is this an Emergency? 

Until you know more, it’s possible that Pearly could die quickly from this problem.  It’s important to bring her to the vet and get an evaluation.  What happens after your vet confirms that there is an egg stuck inside depends on several different factors…

Eggbound Macaw

This egg isn’t coming out the way it should.

What kind of bird is Pearly? 

Smaller birds have fewer reserves than bigger birds.  An eggbound canary will go downhill much much faster than an eggbound macaw.  Technically, any kind of bird could have problems with eggs – delayed passage, dystocia (eggbinding), diseases of the reproductive tract…however, eggbinding is much more common in smaller birds such as Budgies and Cockatiels than in Amazons and Macaws.

How sick is Pearly?

Is she straining? Was she straining and now has stopped?  Is she eating, sleepy-eyed, unable to stand up or just plain looking like heck?  The more sick that Pearly is, the more quickly she’ll need intervention.

What’s been going on in Pearly’s past?

Is this her first egg?  Her third this year?  Or has she already laid 20 eggs and may be flat out of calcium?  If there isn’t enough calcium in the diet, Pearly will have started to take it out of her bones in order to make a hard shell for that egg.  Eventually she just won’t have any more.

Birds that are on a nutritious diet such as pellets will have more resources than those on seed based diets – they have more of the basic building blocks available. But Eggbinding isn’t always about nutrition.  Infection, damage, wear and tear as well as environmental factors may play a big roll.

Now what?

The first step is to assess how ill Pearly is.  If she is stable and not in pain, we can move a little more slowly through our treatment options in the hopes that conservative treatments are all that she needs.

If stable, we’ll want to support Pearly’s own system and see if she can get the egg out herself.  Fluids, heat, pain medications and calcium can all be helpful to a bird that may be too tired, or too painful, to push.  If that’s not enough, hormones can be applied to relax her cervix enough to let the egg through.

Abnormal cockatiel eggs

The leftmost egg is a little too round while the egg on the right has an abnormal shell – it deflated while being removed under anesthesia.

Small birds, like budgies and cockatiels, might need to have that egg manipulated out under anesthesia.  This only works in the small birds and only if the egg is not stuck to the reproductive tract or outside of it completely.

Our final option is to remove the egg surgically – cut it out!  We’ll want to stabilize Pearly as much as possible before going to surgery so that she’ll have the best chance of surviving.  Unless Pearly is a valuable breeding bird, that problematic reproductive tract should come out along with the egg.

Abnormal egg

This abnormal egg was removed by surgery – it wasn’t in the reproductive tract!

Now that the egg it out…

After it’s all over, changes should be made to Pearly’s diet or lifestyle to reduce her chances of laying eggs again.  If that isn’t done, you can expect another egg to get stuck – eventually.  Check out this handout on egglaying in birds – what can predispose a bird to doing it and changes that can be made.

A new concern is that too much food, even if nutritionally appropriate, can be a stimulant to be hormonal or lay eggs.  Try not to offer heaping piles of food or too many options.  Budgies only need about 2 teaspoons of food per day (1 of pellets and 1 of other foods including some seed) so don’t offer them a whole cup.

But my bird has never layed an egg…

While any bird could have egglaying problems, not every bird will.  So it is always a good idea to try to prevent stimulating your bird.  A pellet based diet, lack of stimuli (such as nest boxes) and a grate on the bottom of the cage are the 3 most important ways to decrease your bird’s chance of have egg related problems.

Informational handouts on food and egglaying can be found at our website in the Pet Care Information section.

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