Egg binding can kill a bird, but you can take steps to prevent it.
Egg binding in pet birds is a condition that occurs when a female is unable to pass an egg normally. This condition can be deadly. With proper care, you can avoid the tragedy of losing a bird to egg-binding.
I’m sad to say that I have lost both a parakeet and a cockatiel to egg binding. The first time it was an unfortunate side-effect of my birds breeding, the second time it was a total shock that occurred with a single female bird. Both losses were difficult to bear, and I would not wish such events on anyone. The following information to prevent egg binding in pet birds is based on my own personal research and the advice of my avian vet.
First and foremost, you should never allow your birds to breed unless you are a professional breeder, or have the assistance of one. Egg binding in pet birds often happens in first-time breedings and can be avoided with professional guidance. Many people think it’s great for their birds to “fall in love” and start mating, but I have seen first-hand what it can lead to.
If you want to have more than one bird, it is best to have birds of the same gender to avoid mating. Having multiple females is usually better than having multiple males as there is less chance of aggression between the birds. If you insist on having a pair of opposite gender birds, it’s a good idea to keep them in a high-traffic area of the home where they will have little privacy and you can watch for mating behavior.
Unfortunately, even single females can suffer from egg binding. My female cockatiel became egg bound without a mate. I was unaware that they could produce eggs on their own. If you have a bird, I highly recommend finding out if the species is capable of producing eggs without a mate. If you have a breed where this is possible, you will need to take steps to prevent them from going into breeding mode.
Egg binding in pet birds can happen to single females if they become stimulated and have the necessary conditions. To prevent your female bird from going into a breeding state and producing eggs, simulate the conditions of the non-breeding season. Birds tend to mate when the weather is warm and days are long. Try to keep your bird’s area cool but not cold, and limit them to no more than 10 hours of light per day by covering the cage or turning off the light. Also do not allow them to have a surplus of food.
Another important thing to keep in mind is never to pet your bird on the tail or on the lower back near the tail. This can cause birds, both male and female, to become sexually stimulated. In females, this can encourage breeding behavior. My veterinarian said that avoiding such petting, limiting the amount of light and food and watching their behavior would all aid in preventing issues with future birds.
If a female bird is ready to mate or produce eggs they will often “make out” with toys or perches, become overly affectionate to their owners, eat more, make strange noises, and spend time tearing things up to make a nest, or sit on the bottom of the cage as if nesting. If you see these signs, reduce the amount of light and food, and avoid too much petting. If you think your bird might already be pregnant or carrying eggs, take the bird to a vet immediately.
Egg binding in pet birds is something to be taken very seriously. Losing a bird to egg binding is incredibly heart-breaking. If you have a female bird, I highly recommend keeping these tips in mind, and talking to your avian vet for more information. The better educated you are, the less likely it is that you will have to suffer the loss of one of your feathered friends.