Ask Lafeber

Question:

August 17, 2021

Dove sitting fake egggs


Thanks for your site!

We have a kind of a strange question.

Background:

We got a white ring-necked dove about a year ago. We named her Emmeline. We did not elect to have the bird’s sex determined via DNA test when we got her (so she may be a he, not sure), as we planned on her living a life free from other doves. We never expected breeding behavior. We have seen no indication of eggs in the year she has been with us.

Fast forward to two weeks ago. Emmeline took the white cap off of a soda bottle to the nest, and started sitting it like an egg. We thought that meant she was pining for some eggs to sit, and bought a set of faux eggs from the web. We put the eggs in one of her resting areas, a relatively large woven bowl. Once she found them, she started sitting the eggs. She has been sitting them all day, and does not appear ready to stop.

Our thought is, how do we get her to believe her human partners are taking their turns egg-sitting, so she can get some time to eat, drink, and fly? She is normally relatively active, but not since she has been sitting the eggs. We have been taking her water and food, so that’s not really the concern. On the other hand, she is looking at her primary like “HEY! Its your turn now!”

Note that the resting area is NOT in her cage, and the woven bowl is really too large to go into the cage.

We could really use some advice from someone more familiar with the habits of birds sitting eggs.

Thanks for anything you can tell us!


Answer:

Hi Ben,

This is really not a strange question. I would actually recommend that you take the nest and eggs away from Emmeline. Birds do not need to sit on eggs. And they don’t need a nest unless they have a mate and it’s breeding season. Birds don’t sleep in a nest in the wild. The nest is only used once a year, during breeding season. The rest of the time, they sleep in trees or find some place to roost. It is best to never give a nest or anything resembling a nest to a non-breeding female bird. This can cause her to start laying eggs and some birds get stuck in an egg laying cycle and will literally keep laying eggs until it kills her. It takes a lot out of a female to form the eggs and then lay them. She loses calcium and protein and her muscles have to be strong for her to lay an egg. In the wild, breeding season is once a year, so she has the rest of the year to recover from egg laying and rebuild her health so she can nest again the next year. If this is a female, you risk starting this egg laying issue, and often you end up having to take the bird to the Vet for regular hormone treatments, which are not cheap. There are also risks if this is a male. Aside from the obvious that you have mentioned where he is not exercising, the nest and eggs can stir up his hormones. Without a female to mate with, he can end up with a cloacal prolapse, which is a serious condition that can never be fully cured. So to save you and the bird a lot of grief, just take away the nest and any other nests, and find ways to distract the bird until he gets this nesting notion out of his or her mind. This means also keeping things that she views as eggs away from her. I do not recommend a mate, because then you have the issue of breeding and offspring to deal with, and you also have to make a lot of changes to keep them from mating too often. In captivity, they do not get the environmental signals to stop mating, which is the same reason a hen will keep laying eggs year round in captivity. Once you remove the nesting triggers, the bird should go back to being her normal self and interact with you again.

Thank you for asking Lafeber,

 

Brenda

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