Dr. Laurie: So female birds can lay eggs, just like chickens lay unfertilized eggs, the ones that we eat. Parrots can also lay eggs, so can pigeons and doves and this is a normal physiological process for them. What's important though, is to try to prevent problems from developing. Egg binding, very, very common in all species of birds that we see. The way to prevent egg binding is fairly simple. There's a number of things that we need to focus on. Could you tell us about that, Sarah?
Sarah: Absolutely, I would say the diet is probably the biggest thing. Low levels of calcium in the body is probably one of the biggest causes of birds experiencing egg binding. Low calcium, it's also called hypocalcemia. And the way to prevent it simply is to make sure that your bird is on a balanced pelleted diet. Seeds are notorious for having absolutely no vitamins in them or nutritional value, really just fat. And unfortunately that's not going to give the bird the calcium that they need to make these eggs and then pass them. Not only is the calcium needed for making the shell, but also for the muscle contractions to actually push the egg out.
Dr. Laurie: Very, very important and we could have birds on great diets, pelleted diets, but what we forget about is that we actually need ultraviolet light or sunshine to make vitamin D in the skin. To absorb the calcium from the good food that we provide them. So while birds are outside, they get sunshine all day, birds that are in our homes unless you live in a climate where your bird is actually able to go outside all year round, they don't get exposed to ultraviolet light.
So we actually have special lights that are safe for birds and safe for their eyes. They don't get hot. They don't get burned, that we expose them to all day long so that they actually can make vitamin D and absorb calcium from their foods, so they can lay eggs safely. They are not fertilized eggs. Remember there's no fetus. There's no baby inside. Some birds will lay eggs continuously for months on end and just remember, just because they haven't laid eggs in the past doesn't mean that they can't.
I had an owner call me on emergency. She had a 30 year old African Grey Parrot and she described her bird actually passing some wet droppings, a little bit of blood in the stool, these are all signs of potentially of egg laying. When I asked her whether her bird had actually ever laid an egg, she actually scolded me on the phone. She said, "Absolutely not, my bird is 30. She's never laid an egg. That's ridiculous, I don't even know if she's a girl."
And I said, "Okay," and that was the end of that. I didn't see her and actually the next day I walked into the office and there was a big box of chocolate and a big gift card for me, saying thank you very much, you were right. So just because a bird hasn't laid eggs, doesn't mean that she can't. There are many factors that will cause a bird to lay eggs. Some of them are social. Some of them are environmental, medical, nutritional. They all have to be right for a bird to lay eggs and it's just important to make sure that we do everything we can to prevent egg binding, because it can be a life threatening situation when it occurs.