Is It Parrot-Egg Time?

Is your bird acting funny? Mine is. This is Lorenza, a Yellow-naped Amazon. She walks around the house and finds empty nesting boxes lately- sometimes she bites the wood, other times she tries to go in, even if they are too small. In Lorenza’s case, I don’t want her to lay eggs! She has no male Amazon to fertilize them and Amazons are aggressive breeders. Not sure I want that for her. So, she has no bed or box in her cage, where she sleeps at night (she’s out most of the day).

If you have outdoor birds, spring may bring a change in your bird, making him or her unrecognizable! Males get super defensive, females too, and the hens start to hide out in their nesting box or cozy. Both are busy and no longer have time for you, because they are playing house 🏠!

Is A Male Parrot Required?

Female parrots do not need a male to lay eggs, but they generally do require a good diet and a space to nest. Some birds will use their food bowl if they have nothing else. Generally speaking, if you don’t want them to lay eggs, because it taxes their body, (since it takes energy and a lot of vitamins and minerals from them) and stresses them out, there are a couple things to do.

No Expectations: 🥚 How To Avoid Eggs

You can remove eggs as they are laid, which is a little sad. They look surprised, frantic when the eggs disappear (if you do this, I recommend making sure they don’t see you doing so). People sometimes replace the eggs with plastic or wood eggs, so that they don’t hatch. This way the hen gets to sit on her clutch of eggs, and eventually she’ll give up because they didn’t hatch.

You can also provide no nesting box, though our budgie simply flew to another parrot’s cage and claimed the cozy (a fabric ‘tent’ for them to sleep in) and cage for herself; when I gave her the cage, because she kept insisting, she laid her eggs. So, some birds just want to be parents.

Seeing the eggs and then seeing tiny, naked dinosaurs is amazing! Parrots are born naked (people keep offering to knit sweaters for the babies – LOL!) It provides a unique perspective on the miracle of life, except there’s no expensive human-hospital bill, no crying in the middle of the night and no diapers to change! The mom-parrot handles it all, generally with the support of her mate.

🐣 Do I Recommend Breeding?

If you are comfortable and you find that you are living the Parrot Life, then you may love breeding parrots. There are certain animals that are more than a pet, they are a lifestyle, and having parrots means you take on a Parrot Life. Farm animals, like horses, and parrots, take a lot of time and dedication to care for physically (food, cleaning) and emotionally (bonding, mentally stimulating/training and engaging them).

To give you a good idea of what it’s like:

Breeding birds means you have to understand the additional dietary needs for breeding; you also have to be ready to help a parrot hen who is egg-bound (means that she can’t get the egg out of her vent, it’s stuck). You also want to learn about the babies so that you recognize signs of abandonment by the parents, which means you may need to take over and offer heat and round-the ⏰ clock feedings!

Breeding parrots can be a spectator sport or a rather involved chore. So, if you enjoy your Parrot Life and want more of it, try breeding. If not, I’d avoid it. Keep your males and females separate.

Opinion Note: Budgies are awesome. I think they are under-valued. They are a lot smarter than people recognize, a lot easier to take care of (compared to most parrots) and they are some of the best talkers. However, they are too inexpensive in a pet store. I do not recommend breeding them, there is not enough demand for these. People can make an inexpensive purchase ($20 to $100) and then don’t always take care of a budgie the way they would if the had paid $3,000 or more for a Golden Conure or an African Grey. Even a Green-cheek counure at $200 to $500 means people are more invested financially and personally.

If you are going to breed parrots, breed parrots that will help you pay for all the bird toys, cage and food you are spending money on; a bird that is exotic, not just by definition, buy also by price tag. Unfortunately, price tag produces a perceived value and greater caring for a parrot. Our budgie is determined, but we are limiting her.

How Many Eggs In A Parrot’s Nest?

Eggs can have different shapes – they can be more oval or tear-drop shaped. Depending on the kind of parrot you have, 3 to 6 eggs is a ‘normal’ clutch size. A rule of thumb is that the smaller the bird, the more often they breed and the more they tend to have larger clutches. Larger birds tend to lay less often and lay less eggs. For example, finches (which are not hook bills) tend to lay eggs one clutch right after another with 4 to 6 or more eggs. If you let them, they will produce several clutches per year – easily over 20 babies. Palm cockatoos, as a sharp contrast, only produce a clutch every couple of years – usually with only one egg.

Again, these are the ‘extremes’ just to give you an idea of how many eggs and how often a parrot produces. Most parrots produce twice a year only, since they are not as small as finches.

How Long & How Do I Know?

Most parrots eggs incubate for 22 to 28 days, once the hen has begun incubating her eggs. A hen will often wait until she has 2 eggs to start to sit on them, incubating them.

At 7 days of incubation (we always give it a couple more days) you can start to “candle the eggs” to see if your hen’s eggs are fertile.

Take her eggs out (we like to do it when she’s out of her nest eating) and, using your flashlight on your phone, gently hold the egg up to the light.

The photo shows a ‘clear’ egg, which means that even though she has incubated the egg (it’s warm to the touch because she’s been sitting on it) for over 7 days, it is infertile. If her egg were fertile it would not have a light yellow color. Instead veins start to form, literally lines on the walls. The yellow also gets darker as the days go by. Around 3/4 of the way through incubation, you can start to see a little birdie-body!

Egg Problems

Sometimes you’ll find a broken egg, or part of one, in the nest or in your parrot’s cage. If an egg is too soft, she may lack the minerals and calcium (especially) she needs to make a strong-enough egg. It can also be that the parrot-parents are breaking the eggs, which they do when they do not feel it is safe to have babies. In this case, they are too stressed, you can try moving their cage to a quieter, ‘safer’ space.

Touch the broken egg shell. If it is soft, make sure to provide a mineral block and calcium. This can be as easy as baking your breakfast egg shells. Rinse them and then bake them in an oven until they are dry, then grind them up and add them to your parrot’s veggies (which they tend to eat more of when they are breeding) or in a separate dish by themselves.

You may also notice that part of the shell is gone. This is because hens can eat the shell, re-absorbing the calcium which they will need for themselves or for their next egg.

A Parrot Life

Yes, breeding is a blast! But, it has stress built in. Some babies hatch and then die- this can be due to a lack of food or a problem that you have not caused. Parrots that are breeding and feeding eat triple (or more) and smaller birds need more seeds than they needed in the off season. The same is true for the larger parrots too, but I find that the smaller ones need more all around due to their faster metabolisms. That’s how they out-fly the larger birds, they burn more calories and need more too.

Parrots are amazing animals, some of the most intelligent. Their natural habitats are disappearing; whether it is right or wrong, the fact that people are providing them homes as pets offers a new chance at life. Some are greatly opposed to breeding, others find that it helps the family psittacines keep from going extinct. Some parrots that we think are common, like Amazons, Sun Conures and African Greys, are endangered. When parrots are well-taken care of, they are given the opportunity to live longer than they would in nature, since they have food and a lack of predators; they can keep healthier, because they can be fed a parrot-balanced diet, and can keep more beautiful plumage.

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