If you’re thinking of getting a female bird, you need to read about egg binding! You may just reconsider.
Egg binding is a condition whereby the egg is unable pass through the reproductive tract in a timely manner. It is critical to recognize the symptoms of egg binding as soon as possible as it can be a matter or life or death. The condition is known to be more common in small birds such as budgies or parrotlet’s however it is also common in reptiles. In this article we will be covering all aspects of egg binding including:
i. CAUSES ii. SYMPTOMS iii. DIAGNOSIS iv. TREATMENT v. PREVENTION
There are many causes of egg binding that can be hard to determine unless you examine your birds surroundings and physical wellbeing. First and foremost, the main cause of egg binding is nutrition. Feeding your bird an unbalanced diet that is deficient in calcium, vitamin D, vitamin E and selenium will put your bird at risk of egg malformation. Consequently, the egg shell will either be absent or soft preventing a smooth laying process. Furthermore, poor nutrition can also affect your birds ability to contract muscles of the reproductive system enabling egg expulsion. Other causes of egg binding include genetic factors, stress triggers near the laying environment, inappropriate nest box dimensions, old age or obesity.
Important Note: Egg binding only affects female birds. If you’re a first time bird owner, you may be surprised to know that female birds can lay eggs without the presence of a male partner. However, the egg will be infertile.
The symptoms of egg binding are often mistaken for a stressed, weak or ill bird. Therefore to obtain a proper diagnosis, you should seek immediate medical attention from a veterinarian.
- Breathing abnormality (labored breathing indicated by tail bobbing)
- Unable to perch (egg interference with posture/nerves)
- Absence of droppings
- Egg bulging out of vent
- Overall body weakness (quiet, minimal movement, straining)
- Constantly fluffed up feathers
- Sitting at the bottom of the cage
- Swelling (particularly the abdomen/cloaca region)
- Loss of appetite
First of all you must be certain your bird is female. If a male is experiencing the symptoms above, then the cause of illness if something other than egg binding. To determine the gender, you could order a simple DNA test using blood or feathers. Under life threatening circumstances, the quickest way to diagnose egg binding is with an X-ray or sonogram.
Treatment of egg binding is dependent on factors such as egg location, time since onset of condition and overall bird health. If your bird has been diagnosed with egg binding during its initial stages then recovery is achievable with appropriate vitamins, fluids and warmth. However those birds with severe symptoms are initially treated for shock by calming the bird down.
Depending on the egg location, the vet will perform the following:
- Close proximity to cloaca (vent) – massage the cloaca until egg is expelled
- Away from cloaca – inject needle causing egg shell to collapse
- Within abdominal region – (extreme cases) surgery under anesthesia
Earlier on we discussed the causes of egg binding, therefore prevention is directly linked minimizing those risks. Firstly, ensure your bird is on a nutritionally sufficient diet, preferably pellets that are rich in vitamins and minerals. Additionally you can provide your bird cuttlebone on a regular basis or vitamin supplements that are soluble in water.
Unfortunately the hereditary factor is out of our control but you can encourage exercise for overweight birds. Alternatively, more extreme precautions include hormone therapy or hysterectomy (surgery to remove the reproductive organs)
In conclusion, egg binding is considered a medical emergency. Take every precaution possible to save their life. No matter what, female and male birds are equally lovable pets!