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Question:

July 9, 2021

Two bonded female lovebirds fighting and injuring eachother


Hello Lafeber,

I have been taking care of 2 female bonded lovebirds (Mango and Pants) during the past year and a half. They are approximately 3 years old, and they have been inseparable until very recently.

During the past year and a half, they have been going through cycles of laying eggs, brooding over them, then abandoning them and trying to find new places to nest. All that ever seems to be on their minds is to find a place to hide, and anytime they’re out of the cage and not brooding over their eggs, they are in a ‘let’s find a new place to nest’ mode.

The last time they abandoned their eggs, I removed the box they were nesting in from their cage, and from then they have started to attack each other. First it started off with nipping at each other’s feet until both their feet were bleeding. Then it got to biting each other’s faces – around the eye area and have drawn blood. Currently they are in separate cages and for now, we are not letting them out at the same time until they have fully healed from their injuries. They have become extremely territorial, and it’s very confusing because they still want to be around each other and want to see each other, and are constantly chattering together, yet when they are out in the open and start exploring, they begin to fight again aggressively.

Could you give me some advice on what to do going forwards? Is it unrealistic to think that it may be possible for them to bond again and be able to live in the same cage again? They seem distressed not being in the same cage. It’s very confusing. They also continuously switch roles – one becomes the Alpha, then the next day that same bird seems to be more submissive.

They eat mainly a pelleted diet, and they get plenty of time outside of the cage to fly around (approximately 8-10 hours a day).

Thank you so much! Any feedback/advice would be helpful.


Answer:

Hi Nomi,

They may never be able to share a cage together. Female lovebirds are extremely territorial – much more than the males. The females will attack a rival bird viciously and can kill another lovebird in a matter of minutes. You’re very lucky that one didn’t manage to kill the other. Because they did attack each other so severely, it’s really not safe to cage them together again. They can be getting along one minute and the next, one is dead from an attack. Birds will spar, but the rule is, if feathers are being pulled or blood is drawn, separate them immediately, and consider them no longer compatible to share a cage. I understand it is confusing since they call to each other, and they can probably interact out of the cage, under close supervision. But I would never leave them together, unattended, no matter how well they seem to be getting along.

As for the egg laying, unfortunately you were never advised that egg laying should be discouraged with birds that do not have a mate or are not breeders. Laying eggs is very hard on the bird’s health. Forming the egg takes a lot of protein and calcium, and if they do not have supplements, the body draws this from bones or other areas of the body. Eventually the hen will end up so deficient, she will die from laying too many eggs. In the wild, most bird species only nest once a year. So you can imagine how bad it is for a bird that is only intended to lay eggs once a year, to lay eggs over and over. At most, a captive breeding pair of lovebirds should be allowed two clutches per year, as long as they have a 6 month rest in between.

So now you are thinking, you didn’t let them lay eggs, they just did. However, there are changes you can make in their environment that can discourage or stop egg laying. Giving them a box is not a good idea at all, but it’s a common mistake many owners make. While it can help to let them sit on eggs once they are laid, you should not do anything to make it comfortable for them. In the wild, there are seasonal changes that signal the end of breeding season, but in captivity, we tend to provide ideal breeding conditions all year. So you need to make all of these changes, to stop the egg laying.

Limit their light to 8-10 hours by covering the cages early each evening

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

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

Rearrange the toys in the cages or give them some toys.

Move the cages to a busy family room, and move them to a different place in the room about once a week, or whenever they show signs of nesting.

When the birds are let out of the cage, do not let them get in any dark cozy places. Allowing them to fly free all day is encouraging the breeding behavior. You may have to limit this activity to a few times a week, rather than daily. Birds with free roam like this are much more likely to lay eggs.

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.

If the hens continue to lay eggs anyway, then you may have to take them to an Avian Vet for a hormone implant or shot. The implant has been working very well in many species, so it’s worth trying since it lasts longer, and with the shots, they need several shots over a period of time.

I can’t stress enough that these birds are at risk of fractures due to low calcium, and eventually death if they keep laying eggs over and over. However, unless prescribed by a Vet, I would not give any calcium or protein supplements because this can trigger more egg laying. It’s possible that they will get along better if their hormones settle down – especially if you got hormone implants for both. But again, because the fighting was so serious, I would not trust these birds in the same cage together. Adding males is not a good idea, if you were wondering. Since these females had already bonded like a pair, they may not accept males and might attack and kill a male. Sadly, lovebirds do not live up to their name. LOL Good luck with these two – the changes should help them.

Thank you for asking Lafeber,

Brenda

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