My Hen Won’t Stop Laying Eggs!

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Q: I purchased a proven pair” of Eclectus. The problem is the hen lays eggs like crazy. I picked her up at the airport at 9 PM, and there was an egg in the bottom of the cage the very next morning.

My first concern is for the health of this bird and the possible calcium and vitamin depletion. Secondly, we haven’t had any chicks yet. I have my birds in rooms according to continents, and there is a visual barrier between them. After six bad clutches, I thought she wasn’t incubating properly, so I purchased an incubator. I didn’t have any luck. She laid three more eggs, which I pulled. All were clear. When I opened them, I did notice that the first had a small disk approximately ‘A, inch in diameter but no veins or blood. The second had just a white dot. The third seemed to have nothing on the yolk. Is there anything that should be tested on our problem pair?

A: Unfortunately, there is very little that can be done in this circumstance. Hens that get caught up in the egg-laying pattern that this hen exhibits seldom, if ever, straighten out. These females cycle and recycle completely independent of any interaction with the male, hence the infertility. On rare occasions, females like this will continue to lay even if the male is removed from the flight. I have known of several pet cockatiels that were given hysterectomies in order to “cure” them of this problem.

This abnormal behavior seems to appear only in hand-raised females. Removing them from the breeding flight and confining them to a parrot cage will usually stop the laying. They then can be reintroduced to the male and the necessary breeding conditions just prior to the time of the year that the male should be coming into season. If this results in getting her back “in line,” there is a good chance that she will not have to be regulated a second time. In the small number of cases that this is successful, the hen will begin to cycle normally year after year. In the majority of cases when females are laying abnormally large quantities of infertile eggs, they, not the males, are at fault for the infertility.

The best hope that you have of getting any babies is by pulling each and every egg the day it is laid. If you’re lucky, the male might fertilize one or two, despite the female’s ability to do without him. If you do not pull the eggs, the odds dictate that the hen will be spending most of her time sitting on eggs that have not been fertilized. It is possible that one of the eggs you described was fertile. Infertile eggs will have a solid white dot on the yolk. Fertile eggs will have a white “doughnut” (dot with a hole in the middle) instead of the solid white dot, or they will have a “halo” around the dot.

In my experience, there is no need to worry about calcium and vitamin depletion due to overlaying as long as the bird is on a proper diet and has no metabolic or mineral-absorption problems. What is not known is to what extent overlaying affects the longevity of a hen’s breeding life. Of course, there is no need to worry about shortening the productive time of a bird’s life if the bird has proven to be nonproductive.