Ask Lafeber

Question:

June 7, 2021

Cockateils


I have 3 week old cockateils and I noticed today mom laid an egg today what should I do?


Answer:

Hi Vickie,

The best thing to do is take the egg and discard it – as well as any others she may lay right now. This is important for a couple of reasons. She needs to focus on her chicks, and if she has new eggs, she will stop feeding the chicks and let them starve to death. You can try to hand feed them, but it’s hard to start them at that age because they are alert and will only want mom or dad to feed them. She & the male might also turn on the chicks and attack them, because they want to care for the eggs instead. And lastly, it is too soon for her to have to care for new eggs and chicks. It’s hard on her health to lay new eggs, and hard on her physically to sit on eggs again. She needs to finish weaning the chicks, and then take a 6 month break from nesting. In the wild, they only nest one time per year during breeding season. Then the weather changes and that signals the end of breeding until the next year. In captivity, since we keep things at the ideal temperature and light year round, they don’t stop unless you make some changes to stop them. It’s one of the most important responsibilities when breeding birds, to make sure they rest in between clutches. Some owners do not do this, or don’t realize they need to do this, and they end up finding the hen dead in the nest box from the strains of over breeding.

If the chicks have left the nest box, go ahead and remove the box or block the entry if it isn’t easy to take down. This will encourage the parents to care for the chicks and wean them. Otherwise, take it down as soon as the chicks leave it. Meanwhile, you need to discard any new eggs. Once the chicks are weaned, they need to be moved to another cage, because the parents will not tolerate them for very long after that. This is a wild instinct that helps prevent related birds from breeding. You should never allow related birds to breed.

Then there are changes you can make to discourage egg laying. Do not give them the nest box for at least 6 months. Limit their light to 8-10 hours by covering the cage early each evening. Rearrange the toys in their cage or buy toys if they don’t have any, and move the cage to a busy place in the room, or to the family room – the most active place in the house. You may have to move the cage every week to keep them from settling down and laying more eggs. Do not give her anything she can shred like paper or cardboard, and no bedding on the cage tray unless the cage has the metal floor grate. If she tries to sit in a food dish, take the dish away, and replace it with smaller cups. In some cases, you have to remove the male during this time. But again, for her health, she needs this rest from laying eggs. Cockatiels can get stuck in an egg laying cycle and become chronic egg layers – they will literally keep laying eggs until they die. So if she does not stop laying eggs, even without the nest and with you making these changes, you would have to take her to an avian vet for a hormone implant or shots. This is temporary, and will not prevent her from breeding again in the future.

Thank you for asking Lafeber,

Brenda

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