Ask Lafeber

Question:

June 24, 2022

I’m clueless


My daughter gave me her female green cheek conure who is at least 5 years old. The bird rarely got out of the cage because of pet dogs. She’s never had a mate and I let her have pretty much free flight around the house, spending a lot of time in my shoulder or cuddling at my neck. I was petting the bird ( must have triggered hormones ) she’s laid 3 eggs and I provided tissues now she won’t leave the cage. She has seed and water and fruit and I’ve only seen her eat once in a while. What should I do ? I’m old and she’s great company.


Answer:

Hi Ed,

Yes, you are correct about triggering her hormones. Not just the petting, but by allowing her free roam and to cuddle on your neck. While it’s OK to let her sit on the eggs, you don’t want to give her anything as a nest, so it’s best to take out the tissues and anything else she is nesting on. She should not have a nest or box or any bedding. I know this sounds harsh, but you need to discourage egg laying. Some single females become chronic egg layers and end up needing hormone treatment by a Vet. Conures and other parrots only nest once a year in the wild, then the season changes signaling them to move on. In captivity, we maintain a perfect breeding environment, and then make it worse by petting the bird in the wrong places and giving them nests or bird huts. A lot of owners think a bird needs a bed, but they do not. In the wild, the nest is only used during nesting season. The rest of the year they sleep in the trees with their flock. The good news is there are changes you can make to discourage egg laying. And she will get back to her normal self once she is tired of these eggs – generally 3 weeks at the most.

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 she stops 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. This will be a big change for her, but she really needs to be with you, or on a play stand when she is out. She should never be out of your view because she could end up trying to scout nesting locations.

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 in her cage, 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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