Ask Lafeber

Question:

July 19, 2022

Feeding eggs to parrots.


I saw on a post on the website by a person named BRENDA that she approved the feeding of eggs to parrots. Now, to my knowledge that is dangerous. Veterinarians now are NOT recommending eggs due to parrots dying from STROKES because they were routinely fed eggs. My present avian vet, Dr. Paul Welch, described the necropsy performed on a year old African grey. The bird died of a stroke. He said the arteries were so full of plaque they were “as stiff as sticks.” He asked the owner about the diet. She fed eggs weekly. He stated that was the problem. Parrots are not designed to eat eggs and do not eat eggs in the wild. This is just ONE case of a parrot that died from eating eggs….others have been reported. Perhaps this isn’t widely known, but I would think it is not a good idea for LaFeber to be promoting the feeding of eggs to parrots. We have a large facility and have worked with many parrots for almost 40 years now and always worked with top avian vets like Dr. Brian Speer and none have recommended feeding eggs to parrots.


Answer:

Hi Laurella,

We always welcome questions to clarify something that was posted in response to another user, but be careful about taking something out of context and/or adding your own wording, as this can completely change the advice that was originally given. When asked about offering eggs to a pet bird, I will share the health concerns and warn against feeding them regularly – this can hardly be considered approving of or promoting feeding eggs.

Dr. Susan Orosz says parrots are designed to eat high fat and protein because they were designed to fly. So when you take long bouts of strenuous exercise out of the program, then you get plaque. If fed a nutritionally balance diet as described below, and exercised daily – preferably with flight activities – offering eggs no more than twice a week, in small amounts, is not going to be a health concern.

The only time I actually recommend offering eggs to parrots is if they are a breeding pair. I recommend a nutritionally balanced diet such as pellets or our foraging diets, dark leafy greens, chopped veggies and some fruit. Once the pair is actively mating and have been given their nest box, they can be offered an egg food – either a commercial dry egg food, or cooked eggs with the shell washed, crushed and cooked with the eggs. This can be offered until the chicks have been weaned or removed from the cage. At that point, the nest box should be removed and egg food discontinued, and the pair should be rested for at least 6 months before being allowed to breed again. While they will breed year round, parrots in the wild only breed once a year and aren’t intended to breed continually. They only do this in captivity because of the conditions we provide and they do not get the environmental signals that end breeding season in the wild.

As for offering the eggs, there is a lot of debate about offering eggs and many other foods due to the risk of atherosclerosis. As for eggs, this is solely based on their cholesterol content. Yet studies have now shown that the cholesterol in eggs does not raise cholesterol levels in humans as it was once reported to.  To date there have not been any studies on the effect of parrots being fed eggs, so to say eggs cause atherosclerosis is pure speculation. There is one study that was done on chickens where they were offered powdered or raw eggs, and those fed raw eggs did have more plaques than those fed powdered, but again, the results are not conclusive and may or may not apply to a parrot’s very different digestive system. Dr. Stephanie Lamb, who is Board Certified in Avians and the incoming AAV president, talks about this study in one of her webinars on Cardiovascular disease, which can be viewed on our YouTube channel.

While atherosclerosis is being diagnosed more frequently due to advances in avian medicine, there is still no one cause, and eggs alone are unlikely to cause this disease unless they are a large percentage of a bird’s diet. In the case of a one year old African Grey dying from this disease, there were likely many contributing factors including genetics. It is known that Greys are more likely to develop this disease, but as to why, it could simply be that Greys are very popular so there are more seen by Vets. When any parrot dies in their first year from a progressive disease that is more commonly seen in an older bird, the main cause is likely a genetic issue, often caused by inbreeding or inferior genes in general. Feeding a young bird eggs one time a week is highly unlikely to cause such advanced atherosclerosis in an otherwise healthy bird, in just one year, without many other contributing factors.

There is no basis to say that parrots aren’t designed to eat eggs and do not eat eggs in the wild. Captive parrots are well known for eating their own eggs, and if kept and bred as a flock, for raiding each other’s nests and eating the eggs of rival pairs. Many bird species in the wild are known to eat their own eggs or eggs from other species. Since so many captive parrot species are known to eat their eggs, it is quite possible that wild parrots do the same thing.

While anecdotal evidence can eventually lead to a scientific study proving or disproving it, we have to be careful about how we present unsubstantiated information. For example, many Greys seem to have a greater need for calcium than other species, but again this may be due to there being so many as pets. So to say Greys need more calcium than other birds would be an irresponsible statement and could possibly be harmful if an owner gave a calcium supplement without consulting a Vet. Instead one should say Greys may have a greater need for calcium, so regular Vet checks are recommended to determine if they need a supplement.

I personally do not recommend feeding eggs to parrots in general and certainly not on a daily basis because the health concerns could be valid and there are plenty of other nutritious foods out there. But I do not think it is a serious health risk to offer them to breeding birds on a limited basis and for a limited time, and I do believe the benefit to the parents and chicks outweighs the possible risk. This practice has gone on for decades, and if the occasional feeding of eggs alone is likely to cause advanced atherosclerosis, many more birds would be dropping dead. The fact is, there is a lot to learn about the disease and no single cause is suspected, rather many contributing factors are being looked at. Studies are ongoing and the imaging research being done by Dr. Scott Echols will eventually be routine in diagnosing this disease at a much earlier stage, and may possibly lead to successful treatment. Studies done on parrots with this disease will eventually shed light on the causes and this will lead to better prevention.

Out of an abundance of caution, most Vets these days will advise their clients not to offer eggs, as well as many other foods. And again, this is the advice I give when it comes to a pet bird. But I’m not going to try to back it up by stating current speculation as facts – I explain the concerns and the current lack of scientific studies. Recommendations change as we learn more about parrots, and we will always be learning. But it is important to be transparent so that if something comes along to contradict previous advice, the owner will understand and appreciate that the original advice was given with a disclaimer that it was based on speculation and not proven science.

We do offer free weekly webinars presented by Board Certified Avian & Exotic Vets, as well as other respected experts in the field. All past webinars are available on our YouTube channel, so you might want to check some out as they offer many of the latest findings in Avian Medicine as well as other pet bird topics.

Thank you for asking Lafeber,

Brenda

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