My cockatiel laid an egg. What should I do?

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Q: I have a 2-year-old cockatiel female and a 1-year-old male. This morning I noticed the female was puffed up and shivering, and now she has laid an egg. The egg is lying at the bottom of the cage. Do I put a small box in the cage and put the egg in it?

A: The best thing to do with the egg would be to put it in one of the nest boxes made for cockatiels. Larger pet stores sell them. If you can't find one, go ahead and use a box. The egg may or may not be fertile. Even if it hatches, a first clutch often doesn't survive because the parents lack the skills they need or because young parents don't produce viable chicks. For some pairs, it may take several clutches before they manage to raise babies. There can be failure of the hen to set, breaking or eating of the eggs, and killing of chicks. None of these things are unusual. I'm not trying to discourage you; I just want you to know that if these things happen, it isn't because of anything you did wrong. And, your birds may well do just fine with a first clutch.

The female usually starts laying eggs 7 to 10 days after mating. An egg is usually laid every other day until the clutch is complete. A normal clutch is 2 to 8 eggs. The female doesn't begin setting until the clutch is complete. Since she had trouble with the first egg, be sure to keep a close eye on her throughout this process. The eggs often don't all hatch at once. The male usually helps take care of the babies.

Cockatiel hens should not lay more than two clutches in a year. Producing eggs is very hard on the female's body. Doing it continuously can result in egg binding and other life-threatening conditions. Do be sure to provide both a cuttlebone and mineral block to ensure an adequate supply of calcium for her. This site has excellent information on breeding.

-- Answer from Anna N., bird expert and biologist on JustAnswer.

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