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Patricia
Patricia, Parrot Consultant
Category: Pet
Satisfied Customers: 1759
Experience:  Published author, free lance bird behaviorist, adviser to the parrots at Sarasota Jungle Gardens.
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my cockatiels have mated and have laid eggs on the ...

Customer Question

my cockatiels have mated and have laid eggs on the bottom of the cage what should i do, as i was told by the pet shop owner they would not breed without a nesting box. at the moment there are 3 eggs she has laid one every second night i dont know if i should leave the eggs where they are and let nature take its course or should i try and make a nest for her .
Submitted: 6 years ago.
Category: Pet
Expert:  Patricia replied 6 years ago.
Hello. I'm glad you are asking because you cannot believe much of anything you hear at a pet store. Unfortunately, they only want to sell animals and never have any employees that know doodly. Not only will your female lay eggs when she wants to, she would not need a nest box, nor does she need a male bird present to do so. He is only needed to have fertile eggs. I am going to assume you have one of each instead of two females and we must proceed as if these eggs are fertile, no matter what you decide. If you can see their tail feathers, you should see horizontal bars across the ones on the female. If you have a male also, his tail feathers should be solid color. If you want to check for that, it's no guarantee but it is a fairly accurate indicator of gender. For the moment, you are right to just leave the eggs alone because you have to decide, right now, whether you really want to risk having these eggs hatch and all that entails. It is no where near as simple as allowing them to proceed and hoping for the best. First off, it's not a good idea to allow pet store birds to reproduce, for many reasons. Secondly, "the best" rarely happens and it's even more rare for it to go smoothly when pet store birds as opposed to guaranteed, genetically sound breeder birds from a reputable breeder. You will have to learn, hands on, and well in advance how to had feed the chicks. You will have to do a lot of research to learn to recognize problems all along the way and be ready to step in at moments notice. Should the chicks require hand feeding, you or someone, is going to have to be available to do it, every two hours around the clock for however many chicks there are. That can translate into no sleep. You have to know how to do it so that you don't kill the chicks by aspirating them in your first try and you will have to know how to recognize and instantly deal with, sour crop, slow crop, and other problems. Another issue is the parent birds diet. If they have been on a diet that is more than about 30% seeds, with the rest being lots of fruits, veggies, leafy greens and the all important cuttle bone, they are not in good health themselves and trying to raise chicks will be very hard on them. Yet another issue is if they are pet birds. If they are and if you want them to remain pets, you cannot allow them to actually hatch eggs. But, very important, you cannot take the eggs away, regardless of your decision. The thing with birds is, they are breeders or they are pets, almost never both. You may have already seen some personality changes coming on if they have been tame, hand friendly birds up until now. If that's enough information for you to decide, then let me know which way you want to go, (to hatch or not to hatch) then I will talk you through what you need to do for either decision. If you have more questions about it before you decide, let me know as well but time is of the essence, especially depending on how long ago the last egg was laid. As soon as I hear from you, I'll get back to you with what you need to know. Thanks, Patricia
Customer: replied 6 years ago.
thanks for your quick response i really dont know what to do in one way i could do without the hassle of taking care of young birds as i am not a breeder and i dont know much about breeding only what i read ive asked around and talked to breeders but everyone has a different opinion i have had cockatiels for years but never had this problem so in that sense it would be better if they did not hatch. the first egg was laid thursday night and every second night since, so 3 at the moment and by the looks of the bird i would say she will lay again tomorrow night. and i definitely have a male and a female. the other silly thing is im from ireland and a very superstitios farming background and everyone i know said it is terrible luck to interfere with a bird or destroyig its eggs , i really hope you can help but obviously i want what is best for my birds and i dont want to put them in danger. also they have a very good diet seeds fresh fruit and veg mineral blocks and cuttle fish
Expert:  Patricia replied 6 years ago.

Okay, I totally appreciate your position and I respect you beliefs. I won't try to sway you on that but I will tell you, the best thing for you and for your birds will be to prevent hatching. That is not going to mean you will be destroying the eggs. Quite the contrary. You will be doing everything possible to prevent them being actually damaged. You are catching this early on and that's great. Even if they are fertile, they are no more and no less, at this moment, any different from the chicken eggs you buy at the store to eat yourself. It's also great that you seem to have them on a pretty good diet and I'm very relieved she has a cuttle bone available. No matter what, don't ever let her run out of it. It is a critical source of calcium for them both but it can literally be life or death for a female when she decides to lay. Without a huge reserve of calcium in her system, she will not be able to form firm shells for her eggs. Each egg puts a big draw on that calcium. If she should run low, her body will first rob in from her bones. That of course leaves her at great risk of a broken bone. Then when that runs out, the shells are too soft, she cannot pass them and will be egg bound. That is a life threatening emergency so you want to take all possible steps to avoid that. She needs a safe place to keep her eggs safe and undamaged but you do not want anything remotely similar to a nest box. That is too dark and private and is another stimulus for laying. I suggest one of the clear plastic, shoe box size storage boxes. Put it on the cage floor, line it with a thick layer of paper towels, leave the lid totally off and put her eggs in it. But, since we are assuming they are fertile, there is one step you take first. This is how you prevent them from ever hatching. Don't do them all at once. Take two, very gently bring them to just short of a boil, cool back down to the slightly warm temperature they keep them, put a tiny dot on the end of the egg with a felt tip or Sharpie pen and return them, putting them in the clear box. Then heat up the remaining egg and any that follow, the same way. What this does is prevent a chick from ever forming in the egg. Let her tend them for as long as she wants. Gestation is 19-21 days. She might sit them that long, longer, or less. There is no way to predict when she/they will give up on them. If you have seen her ignore them for at least 3 days, then it should be safe to dispose of them. If the eggs get damaged, you will have to pitch them because they will grow bacteria. This step of almost hard boiling them should also make them more sturdy. But, if they get damaged in spite of your best efforts, it's a good idea to have suitable fakes on hand. Here is a web site where you can get some. Click here: Fake Eggs, Artificial Eggs, Plastic Bird Eggs stop laying. You might be able to find some that will fool her at a craft store but I know these from this site are perfect replicas. You can also use the fakes to help slow her down. The next time she lays one egg, add two fakes to her "nest". Be sure she is getting as many vegetables, leafy greens, (not spinach and no ice berg lettuce) as possible. She can also have hard boiled or scrambled eggs, cooked brown rice, well done bean mixes, squares of toasted whole grain bread and many other people foods. For the future, there are ways to discourage laying. The pet store person was partly right in that adding a nest box, or allowing them access to anything dark and private can inspire laying but as you have seen, not having one will not change her mind if she is determined. Other steps you can take to discouraging future laying is doing things that upset their routine for a while. When that happens, often they will think this is not a good situation for raising a family and she may not lay. Moving the cage to different locations is good, if only across the room for a few days, then back. Rearranging things inside the cage is good. Another very important step is to restrict them to no more than 10 hours of "daylight". Do that by using a very dark cage cover. Cover earlier in the evening or uncover later in the mornings, whatever fits your schedule the best. It's the increasing daylight hours of spring and summer that is a prime trigger for laying. If you need more help with the diet just let me know. I hope these suggestions will help you out and will be options that will let you approach it with a clear conscience as well but I'll be here if you have any further questions about any of it. Best of luck with your decision and with what you decide to do. Patricia

Patricia, Parrot Consultant
Category: Pet
Satisfied Customers: 1759
Experience: Published author, free lance bird behaviorist, adviser to the parrots at Sarasota Jungle Gardens.
Patricia and 2 other Pet Specialists are ready to help you
Customer: replied 6 years ago.
thank you very much , you were very helpful .
Expert:  Patricia replied 6 years ago.

You are very welcome. If something else comes up, you can come back and reopen this question for more help. Best of luck. Patricia

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