So, you’ve just noticed some eggs on the floor of your cockatiel’s cage. But, how did that happen when there is no male partner around?
What action do you need to take in this case?
What to do if your cockatiel lays eggs? Replace any eggs with fake eggs. Once laying ceases, leave them in the nest for 21 days before removing them. Increase calcium intake and ensure the bird receives a proper diet. To discourage laying, remove all nesting material, provide 12 hours of darkness each day, and limit rich foods.
Granted, it can surprising, even disconcerting, to find eggs in your cockatiel’s cage, especially if you thought you had a male!
Rest assured, laying eggs is perfectly normal behavior, and after reading through the following, you’ll know exactly what to do and how to discourage the behavior in the future.
In a recent chat with Anna, an avian expert from South Carolina, I asked her advice on the matter. Her response:
Laying eggs is absolutely to be expected with a female cockatiel, and you should be prepared in advance with knowledge and fake eggs.
The worst thing to do is to remove the eggs right away. Just replace them, and patiently wait until the cycle completes itself.
Steps To Take When Your Cockatiel Lays an Egg
1. Make Diet Improvements
Since laying eggs has significant impacts on a cockatiel’s body, it’s important to ensure that her nutrition is at its best.
Calcium is among the most needed nutrients for her. Feeding cuttlebone will provide plenty of calcium. Vitamins, minerals, and adequate freshwater are also necessary.
2. Don’t Remove the Eggs Right Away
Your cockatiel can tell when she has completed laying her clutch of eggs.
Taking the eggs away too soon will make her keep laying until she feels it’s enough. This may lead to calcium deficiency, among other health complications.
Replace the eggs with fake eggs or, alternatively, sterilize them by boiling or freezing before returning them to the nest.
Wait for 11-21 days before removing the eggs one by one.
3. Scrutinize the Eggs
An examination of the eggs will help you evaluate your bird’s overall health. For example, eggs with soft, thin shells may indicate a nutritional deficiency.
4. Keep an Eye on Your Cockatiel
Look out for symptoms that may indicate medical issues as a result of over-laying.
Cockatiel Egg Laying Basics
Normally, female cockatiels will lay eggs three weeks after mating.
While breeding happens up to twice a year during summer and springtime in the wild, domesticated birds, on the other hand, can lay eggs more than twice a year.
This is due to the environmental conditions provided at home.
A female bird will continue to lay eggs until a clutch is completed. Each clutch consists of between 4-6 eggs.
The eggs are laid every 48 hours, although it’s not uncommon for them to lay daily till all the eggs in a clutch are laid.
A cockatiel does not require a mate to lay eggs. As long as the bird is sexually mature, the process will occur naturally.
However, the eggs will not hatch unless the female had been exposed to a male bird before they were laid.
Once the bird lays the egg, do not remove it as this can make your bird lay more eggs to replace the lost ones leading to chronic egg laying.
This can result in various health conditions for the cockatiel.
Ensure that any broken eggs are removed and the floor is wiped with a bird-safe disinfectant to prevent the likelihood of infections.
Egg Laying Triggers
Laying eggs is a natural occurrence as long as the bird is sexually mature.
While reproductive behavior among the wild birds is dictated by food availability and seasonal fluctuations, it’s different for their domesticated counterparts.
Various factors trigger egg production in domesticated female cockatiels, including the following:
- Long Hours of Artificial Lighting: Birds are more inclined to reproduce when they believe it’s springtime. The extended “daytime” caused by artificial lights in both the morning and evening hours confuses birds and activates reproductive behavior
- Constant Food Availability: Birds’ bodies become ready to breed when a fatty, protein-rich diet is available. Feeding domesticated birds rich foods daily will prime them for reproduction.
- Access to Nesting Sites: Playing in a cardboard box, dark corners, kitchen cabinets, heaps of clothes/bed linen, or similar spots can trigger nesting instincts as these sites are dark, private, and cozy.
- Warm Environmental Conditions: Keeping birds indoors allows them to experience warmth throughout the year. This environment is perfect for breeding.
- Inappropriate Bonding: This can occur with humans or other inanimate things like mirrors or toys. When birds detect the presence of a mate, their bodies believe it’s time to reproduce.
- Excessive Petting: Scratching the bird under the wings, under the chin, on the stomach, and on the back stimulates breeding hormones. This is because this behavior closely resembles that of the wild parrots and their mates.
- Availability of Nesting Materials: If your pet bird has access to papers, straw, wood, and other natural fibers inside their cage, they can shred them to make a nest, which will trigger reproductive behavior.
Can a Cockatiel Lay Eggs Without Mating?
A cockatiel doesn’t necessarily need a mate to lay eggs. Quite interesting, huh?
However, when you consider that backyard chickens routinely lay eggs without the presence of a rooster, this isn’t quite as shocking. In fact, this behavior is common to all birds.
How Many Eggs Will a Cockatiel Normally Lay?
Cockatiels lay between four and six eggs per clutch on average but can lay up to eight eggs.
The eggs are laid on alternate days, but you will occasionally find some birds laying eggs every other day till the clutch is completed.
Cockatiel Incubation Time
Cockatiels incubate their eggs for 20 days on average. However, this can increase or decrease by a few days, which is nothing to worry about.
Both the male and female cockatiels are involved in incubation.
Normal Egg Laying vs. Chronic Egg Laying
Normally, cockatiels in the wild produce up to two clutches of eggs per year. Laying more than two clutches is considered abnormal.
Domesticated cockatiels have a predisposition of laying more than two clutches per year due to various factors.
This is referred to as chronic egg laying and should be discouraged as it can cause adverse health conditions to the birds.
How To Know If Cockatiel Eggs Are Fertile
There are several ways you can use to determine the fertility of eggs. These include:
- Candling: This involves illuminating an egg’s contents without cracking it open by shining a bright light behind it. The shape, color, and opacity of the contents will help show if the egg is fertilized or not.
- Check if the eggs float: Floating eggs are usually infertile as the volume inside is insufficient to enable them to sink.
- Crack the egg open: This method is suitable if you don’t intend on breeding chicks. A fertile egg has a white, opaque blastoderm similar to a white bullseye or a circle.
Why Replace the Eggs?
Not replacing the eggs with fake ones may make the bird continue laying more eggs in an attempt to replace the lost ones.
It is therefore critical to restoring some form of egg to the nest to avoid this.
When all the clutch eggs have been laid and replaced with faux or sterilized ones, leave them with cockatiel for about 21 days, whether or not they are nesting.
This should ideally give the bird enough time to realize that the eggs won’t hatch. Unfortunately, the birds usually abandon the eggs after some time passes.
However, this advice is not applicable if you’re trying to breed your bird, which is highly discouraged by veterinarians unless you are an experienced pet owner.
Cockatiel Egg Laying Signs
How would you know your cockatiel is about to lay eggs? The following are some of the telltale signs to look out for:
- Increased water intake: It takes a lot of water to fill developing eggs. As such, your cockatiel will increase her water intake during the process of egg production.
- More weight: Cockatiels bearing eggs are heavier and weigh more than usual. As such, it’s a good idea to weigh your bird regularly to keep track of weight fluctuations and anticipate imminent egg laying.
- Unusual body posture: Due to the egg positioning, your cockatiel may adapt unusual posture like standing or even lying outstretched on a perch or the cage floor or lifting their tail feathers in the air.
- Increased chewing activity: As they get ready to lay eggs, cockatiels tend to shred more papers, straws, toys, perches, wood, etc., to prepare a nest.
- Larger droppings: The bird’s droppings become massive, loose, and with more odor compared to what they would be under normal circumstances. This is because she will hoard her droppings and excrete less often but with greater results.
- Swollen vent: The lower abdomen near the vent of a female parrot getting ready to lay eggs appears bigger and feels firmer. The bird’s vent swells 12-24 hours before laying and takes on the shape of a spherical egg.
- More protective: Before and during the egg-laying process, female cockatiels become more protective of their nests, or you may find them backing up in a corner and singing softly.
How To Discourage Cockatiel Egg Laying
To prevent egg laying, you need to make changes in the routine and environment for your cockatiel. These are some of the ways you can use:
1. Reduce Your Cockatiel’s Exposure to Direct Sunlight
Cover the bird’s cage for at least 12 hours each night to change its light/dark schedule.
Keeping them calm and dark during these hours will give the impression that it’s neither springtime nor a good time for reproduction.
2. Prevent Inappropriate Bonding
Stop petting your cockatiel in areas that stimulate reproductive hormones. Also, avoid scratching your pet on the back, under the wings, and under the tail to avoid stimulation.
3. Discourage Nesting Behavior
To deter the bird from laying eggs in closets, cupboards, or behind/under furniture, you may need to keep her confined in her cage for a while.
4. Discourage Mating Behavior
You may need to remove anything the cockatiel perceives as a mate, including, mirrors, toys, particularly favored perches, or even another bird.
Do this gradually to avoid causing her stress.
5. Change Your Cockatiel’s Diet
Cockatiel’s reproduction behavior increases when they have access to a plentiful supply of fats and high-protein diets.
As such, you should limit your cockatiel’s intake by feeding low-fat foods like vegetables and fruits. You don’t have to eliminate the fats and proteins, but rather reduce them.
6. Induce Molting
Motting is the process of shedding old and growing new feathers by birds. For a female cockatiel, this process happens after she has weaned her chicks.
Altering your bird’s environment by moving her cage or making changes to it often will induce molting. This will cause her body to understand that laying more eggs is unsuitable.
7. Replace Her Eggs With Mock Eggs
If eggs have already been laid, placing fake eggs in your bird’s nest will trick her into thinking she’s done with laying her eggs.
The fake eggs could be marbles of the same size, Scotch mints, or dummy eggs made specifically for cockatiels (find them here).
When Do Cockatiels Lay Eggs in the Wild?
Egg laying and breeding in wild cockatiels are seasonal activities that happen during summer and springtime.
This is as a result of the changes in the surroundings during this period which stimulates breeding hormones.
This causes the birds to engage in breeding activities such as mating, laying eggs, and nesting.
Will a Male Cockatiel Sit on Eggs?
A male cockatiel does sit on eggs. Both the male and female cockatiels take turns in the incubation task.
The male bird usually incubates during the day when the female is eating or resting outside the nest. It’s also not uncommon to see both birds sitting on the eggs at the same time.
Cockatiels are quite interesting and adorable to have as pets. Even though eggs are laid, it doesn’t mean that there will soon be babies around.
Without mating, the eggs remain unfertilized, hence sterile. Only fertilized eggs can hatch into chicks.
Well, there you have it all. Everything you need to know about cockatiels and their egg-laying behavior.
So next time you come across an egg on the floor of your bird’s cage, you know exactly what to do.