I receive many heartbreaking emails from people who have lost their birds
because of egg binding. Hopefully, the information below will prevent this
from happening to your bird. The risk of egg binding can be minimized with
proper nutrition and conscientious breeding. Oh, you think you have a male
bird? Unless your bird had a DNA blood test you may have a female and not
even know it. (Note: In 2006, I started adding the names of birds who
have died while trying to bring new life into this world to the bottom of
this page. This page is dedicated to them. If your bird died from egg
binding and you would like her name added, please email me.
A cockatiel should be able to lay a clutch of 2-8 eggs, laying one
egg every other day.(48 hours) Egg binding is the inability
of a female bird to pass or expel an egg from her body.
According to the Pennsylvania State University, Veterinary Science Extension, this condition
is most commonly seen with smaller birds such as cockatiels,
parakeets, canaries, lovebirds and finches.
Even single female birds who have never had any contact
with a male bird can still lay eggs and die
from egg binding. The most common causes of egg
binding are a very young female bird (under 18 months of age) laying her first egg,
lack of calcium in the diet, an all seed diet which lacks vitamins and
minerals necessary for the production of normal eggs and healthy muscles,
by allowing birds to breed all year long and chronic egg
laying in single females.
Lack of calcium and other nutrients, cause an egg with a soft shell that is larger than
or abnormally shaped to be produced. The soft shell causes the egg to get
trapped inside of the female's body because the muscles in the ovary and cloaca
can not get a good grip on it to
push it out. Lack of calcium and other minerals also causes weaker muscles that
are unable to contract properly to expel the egg.
Chronic egg laying, which is usually correctable, depletes a bird's body of calcium, leading to low blood
calcium levels and the formation of soft shelled eggs.
According to the Pennsylvania State University, Veterinary Science Extension, other causes of egg binding include
other nutritional deficiencies, lack of exercise,
being overweight and over-breeding (more than 2 clutches a year). All of these
conditions are preventable. Reproductive tract infection, dysfunction and genetics
can also cause egg binding.
Egg formation takes approximately 24-25 hours and females will pass 1 egg
approximately every 48 hours.. There are physical changes in female birds that signal the approach of an egg laying cycle. If you are already
in the habit of weighing your bird each day, there may be a significant gain in weight. The female's lower vent area
will also appear slightly larger and feel firmer to the touch. Droppings will be extremely large and loose.
The symptoms of egg binding include the bird sitting on the bottom of the cage floor,
rocking back and forth, sitting on her tail feathers
with her legs spread apart, tail wagging or bobbing, abdominal distention, straining as if trying to lay an egg,
labored breathing, lack of droppings, and ruffled feathers. The bird's legs may be affected if the egg is
pressing on the nerves that control the leg muscles and the bird will not be able to perch. Her limbs
may appear bluish white. This indicates a vascular problem. She may even be making
soft, crying sounds. Some birds will require ex-rays or ultrasound for a diagnosis of egg binding
because the egg is not externally visible
In most cases, the condition can be successfully treated by an avian veterinarian, if caught
early enough. If not, the condition is fatal. According to Pennsylvania State University VSE,
"Straining for longer than 1 hour in a small bird or longer than 3 hours in a larger bird indicates
a need for immediate medical intervention." The bird becomes weak, exhausted and goes into shock.
The result is life threatening because shock causes the blood to stop
circulating. According to a Dr. Michael Sutton DVM and Dr.Nick Woo Sam
DVM ,small birds such as finches, can die within 45 minutes of being egg bound.
They concur that untreated egg binding is a fatal disease.
Egg binding requires medical treatment by a veterinarian. Home
remedies usually don't work. Procedures are complicated, sometimes requiring
anesthesia because of the pain involved. Your veterinarian has a number of
non-surgical ways to help your bird. These include administering drug therapy,
such as calcium and hormones with a catheter placed inside the
bone marrow of the femur, which is a bone in the leg. This helps the muscles contract so the bird can pass the egg.
You veterinarian also has special instruments to help remove the entire egg, collapse the egg, or move the delicate tissue
which may be stuck to the egg and preventing it from being expelled. If these measures fail, the bird may
require surgery to remove the egg.
It's important to check your bird's health every single day, looking
for signs of illness. Then you must follow through with immediate
professional medical care from an avian veterinarian.
If you haven't been doing this and notice that your bird is
in extreme danger of dying from egg binding and part of the egg is visible,
there are a few things that you can do to try and
stabilize her until you get her to a vet. First,DO NOT attempt to puncture,
break or pull the egg out of the
your bird. You may kill her in a matter of seconds. A broken egg shell will cause even more
problems, such as abdominal peritonitis, an acute inflammation or
infection of the abdominal cavity. Yolk from a broken egg that enters into the bloodstream
can cause egg yolk emboli, blocking the artery to the heart or brain and
causing immediate death. Pulling
out an egg can also cause tearing of the ovary or reproductive tract and
hemorrhaging. All of these conditions are fatal.
can try to help her pass the egg until an avian vet is
available. Give her
energy supplements by putting Gatorade or adding Karo Syrup or a little sugar
in her water dish. You may try to reduce the stress on her heart and other organs by helping her muscles to relax.
Pick her up gently so you do not damage the egg. Gently rub some mineral oil, cooking oil
or KY jelly around the egg and
on the bird's cloaca to lubricate the area. Another method is to add some
cooking oil to a spray bottle filled with very warm water. Shake the bottle
vigorously and mist some of the warm water and oil mixture over the vent area.
Next, put her in an incubator, hospital cage, a small box, aquarium or
small cage if available. Put a warm wet towel on the bottom of the cage
and place a heating pad under the cage, being careful not overheat your bird. The
85-90° Fahrenheit and the humidity
level about 80%. Another option is to take
her into a warm steamy bathroom where a very hot water shower has been running.
The warmth and humidity may help her muscles relax enough to expel the egg.
If she doesn't pass the egg within 20 minutes, get her to a veterinarian
immediately. Remember small birds require immediate medical attention after
1 hour of straining, larger birds after 3 hours. Please, now that you know
the facts, if you love your bird, take her to a vet at the first sign of any
Note Females laying eggs are losing
calcium. Provide extra calcium in her diet from cuttlebone, fresh dark green vegetables such as
kale, spinach, parsley, beet greens, turnip greens, endive, chard, mustard
greens, watercress, broccoli leaves and stalks.
Sources of Information--Pennsylvania State University of Veterinary Extension,
Dr. Michael Sutton DVM and Dr.Nick Woo, Egg Binding by Dr.Dawn Ruben,
the Long Beach Animal Hospital,Gary Gallerstein, DVM and books on breeding as sited on bibliography page.