Ask Lafeber


September 14, 2021

Green cheek conure breeding

Hello, I purchased a male green cheek and a female pineapple proven breeding pair of conures in the beginning of June. We put a breeding box on them a few weeks ago and they laid their first egg and ate it. We did some research and learned that they may eat it if it’s infertile. So when she laid her second egg and ate it we decided to pull any future eggs from the nestbox and incubate them to make sure that they were in fact infertile. We candled them for 3 days and nothing seemed to be growing inside. We let her lay the 4th and she ate it so from then on we pulled any additional eggs to make sure again they were in fact infertile and I was concerned about her getting into an “egg eating” habit! So we have eggs 5 and 6 in the incubator and from what we can see so far they are infertile.
They eat a very healthy diet. I use RoudyBush, Nupreen, Higgins and a mix from our local exotic bird store in our area with added calcium sprinkled on from crushed egg shells. We also add fresh apples w/o seeds (their favorite) and broccoli, lettuce etc. and of course millet. We have a full spectrum light on a timer for 5 hours a day with a normal light on for 12 hours a day.
I will say the male was completely obsessed with a twist tie that was on his perch and I cut them off a few days ago in case that may have been distracting him.
Just wanted any advice from anyone else who went through a similar situation and am concerned I have to get rid of these two beautiful birds because of a terrible habit of eating their eggs. Thanks in advance for any help and wisdom. I appreciate your time!


Hi Kelly,

Unfortunately, the person who sold you this pair probably knew about the egg eating habit. Bird breeders do not sell a good breeding pair, unless they are getting out of the business. And in that case, the pairs are usually sold to other breeders. A proven pair is too valuable for future revenue. Breeders sell off problem pairs – egg eaters, infertile pairs, older pairs that no longer produce. Yes, the pair was proven – proven to lay eggs. This happens all the time. I’m not saying all breeders do this. Most are reputable. But some will withhold information unless you ask the right questions, and some will lie.

If you want to breed conures, you should start by buying individual birds and pairing them up once they are old enough. Never buy a pair that is already together – there will be something wrong with it. My guess is this pair may have been started out at too young of an age. Reputable breeders will wait until a pair is truly old enough – for green cheek conures, that is ideally 3 years or more. They will start trying to breed as young as a year, but young birds are more likely to develop bad breeding habits that ruin them for ever being good for breeding, and young hens are at a higher risk of becoming egg bound. It’s unknown exactly why some pairs eat their eggs. Often it may begin because the hen isn’t getting the nutrition she needs. Then she develops a taste for the eggs. It’s not a habit you are likely to be able to break. It is not likely to be related to fertility because an egg eater will eat fertile egg, too. The birds most likely do not know the eggs are fertile, and certainly not the first day. It takes at least 48 hours for the egg to begin any development.

As for incubating, I do not recommend it – not for a common bird like green cheeks. It is difficult to incubate parrot eggs – the temperature and humidity have to be just right, and the eggs have to be turned around the clock. Incubated chicks often do not develop properly and can have internal defects that are not visible, but the bird ends up dying within the first few months. And it’s very hard to keep a chick alive when you hand feed from day 1. There are immunities they get from the parents when being fed, and a day 1 chick tends to grow slowly and be weak overall. Even with rare species that are incubated, foster pairs are often used to begin feeding the chicks when they first hatch.

I’m sorry you are having this experience, and I don’t know what to tell you about the pair other than I doubt they will ever be good breeders, and if you sell them, please inform the buyer. Maybe you can find someone with an aviary that just wants to let them be conures. You can try one thing, just in case these birds are simply too young, and possibly had already laid too many eggs this year. A pair should be limited to two clutches per year, with a 6 month rest in between. Take the nest box away, and rest the pair. No nest box, nest, nothing they can use as a nest. Let them go at least 6 months, but a year may be better, with no egg laying at all. Separate them if you have to. Then when you put them back together and give them a nest box, give them an egg food daily – this would be cooked eggs with the shell washed, crushed and cooked with the eggs. The hen needs this extra calcium and protein because she uses it to form her own eggs. Once she starts to lay again, possibly by being well rested and well-nourished with an egg food, she will not feel the need to eat the eggs. Of course if she still does, you have your answer. But some overbred hens are so worn out and depleted nutritionally, they start eating their own eggs just to survive. You got the pair in June, the breeder was less than forthcoming – what if this poor hen had laid several clutches already this year? In the wild she lays once a year, so you can imagine what her health would be like if she had been doing this egg laying/egg eating for a while.

Thank you for asking Lafeber,


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