Egg binding in a cockatiel
Some female cockatiels can be very “hormonal” and lay eggs even when there is no male bird around. This happened recently to a cockatiel who came to Olathe Animal Hospital on emergency because she was trying to lay an egg but she became egg-bound. This means she was unable to pass the egg. This particular bird has been a regular egg-layer (a few every month, according to the owenrs), but this is the first time she ran into trouble.
The owner knew something was wrong when she observed her bird sitting at the bottom of the cage and the feathers were moving up and down with every breath, and she didn’t seem quite right.
When I examined her, I could feel a large swelling (the egg) in her abdomen. With the owner’s permission, I anesthetized the cockatiel with isoflurane gas and was able to gently massage the egg out of her. The egg was intact with a soft shell. Massaging the egg out in an awake bird can be very dangerous, as there is more muscle tone (resistance) and you can rupture the egg. By anesthetizing her, she relaxed completely and made this procedure relatively easy. I gave her an injection of dexamethasone Na-P to help with inflammation of her reproductive tract, and sent her home on antibiotics (compounded Baytril).
To help prevent excessive egg laying, I recommend or offer the following options:
- Make sure the bird receives 12 hours of total dark and quiet at bedtime. This may mean putting her in a small “bedtime” cage in a different room, away from the TV and family conversation.
- Limit handling and petting. Petting the bird on the back or under the wings stimulates her ovaries and puts her into mating mode. You can still have her out with you, but try to minimize petting and cuddling.
- Start hormone therapy with Lupron injections. The above measures alone may be enough to shut down a female bird’s need to reproduce. But some birds–and you know the ones I’m talking about–seem to always be ready to breed and lay eggs! These birds may benefit from Lupron injections, a hormone that can help quiet down over-active ovaries. Call Olathe Animal Hospital and speak to one of our avian veterinarians to learn more about this option and whether it’s right for your bird.