Ask Lafeber

Question:

June 20, 2022

Hormonal conures


I have 2 greencheek females. Left them dark for 14hrs. Worked good last year…now it is not. I have replacement eggs to put I place. This makes me crazy


Answer:

Hi Stephanie,

There are many, many triggers for hormones and egg laying in parrots. In the wild, breeding season is very clear to them, and it only happens once a year, at about the same time every year. Their hormones are triggered when the conditions are ideal for the successful raising of offspring. The days get longer, the weather is warmer and food is abundant around their nesting grounds. They are also able to find a safe place to nest with plenty of foliage around them to help camouflage the nest. And finally they have a compatible mate and each pair distances themselves from the flock. After the chicks are weaned, the season changes again, days start getting shorter and the flock gets back together and moves on to another territory based on where they can find food. Mating and nesting is no longer on their minds until the next year when the cycle starts over.

In captivity, we tend to provide an ideal environment year round. And for some parrot species, this can cause them to be hormonal more than once a year. Many become more hormonal in the winter because owners tend to have the heat on and keep the house warmer than the rest of the year. But many of the smaller species can get into a continuous egg laying cycle that for some, can only be stopped with hormone treatments.

Limiting their light is just one thing that can help discourage egg laying. But typically this alone is not an effective deterrent. There is a list of changes that should be followed, and every change on the list should be made for the best results. Fake eggs are typically only effective for species that are programmed to lay a specific number of eggs. Generally this doesn’t apply to parrot species, although for some individuals, sitting on fake eggs does help them satisfy that need. With no male present, you can actually let them sit on their own eggs. But when doing this, you still should not provide a nest or anything for them to use as a nest. The eggs should remain on the cage floor or metal floor grate, as this is not as comfortable and the bird typically gives up more quickly than if she has a nice, comfy nest. By providing a nest, it only encourages the hormonal cycle to continue.

Hormones are such an issue with pet birds, that we have presented several webinars on the topic which I encourage all owners to view. Below is the list of changes that is recommended as well as the link to the playlist of hormone themed webinars.

You need to do all of these things to discourage egg laying. Keep in mind that to lay eggs, she needs longer daylight, warmer weather, abundant food, and a quiet, private environment. Your goal is to reverse these conditions.

Limit her light to 8-10 hours by covering the cage early each evening

Do not give her anything to use as a nest – no bird huts or tents, no box, bowl, etc. If she decides to sit in a food bowl, remove it and replace with smaller cups.

Do not give her anything to shred such as paper or cardboard.

Rearrange the toys in the cage frequently.

Move the cage to a different place in the room. Move the cage about once a week, or whenever she shows signs of nesting – settling on the cage floor for example. This disrupts her idea of having a stable place to lay eggs and raise chicks.

If you feed a lot of fresh foods, stop offering any for a couple of weeks, and then only offer them in small amounts about 2 or 3 times a week. You can resume normal feeding later when the birds aren’t being hormonal.

If she is let out of the cage, do not let her get in any dark cozy places and don’t give her free roam.

When you handle her, limit any petting to her head and neck – do not pet her on the body. Only a bonded mate is allowed to groom the body. We can’t be a mate, so touching the body is off limits.

If there is no metal floor grate, then do not use any bedding or paper in the cage tray – leave it bare and clean it daily.

The webinars in this playlist offer additional ideas for distracting a bird from hormonal behavior and laying eggs:

Pet Bird & Hormonal Issues Webinar Series:

Thank you for asking Lafeber,

Brenda

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