Chronic egg laying (CEL) in pet birds is a problem that has become increasingly common as some types of birds are becoming more and more domesticated. Pet birds are often selectively bred for high production and consequently may try to reproduce uncontrollably. Contrary to popular belief, egg laying in birds does not require the presence of a male bird. Only the fertility of the egg depends on the male. While some may argue that continual egg laying is not a problem since domestic chicken hens lay eggs almost daily, it must be remembered that domestic chickens only are kept alive for about one to two years.
The egg (despite its recent bad reputation because of the cholesterol content) is a concentrated source of high quality nutrients. Even the shell has large quantities of calcium. Where do these nutrients come from? Usually they come directly from the body stores of the hen. Combine this with the fact that most pet birds are fed nutritionally inadequate diets and it is easy to see where a serious problem can develop. Additionally, the hormonal changes involved in the reproductive process of the female temporarily makes them less enjoyable as pets.
What Can Be Done?
Now that we have established that CEL is a problem, what can be done about it' There are essentially three levels of treatment for CEL. The first is behavioral and environmental modification. The second level involves hormonal manipulations involving administration of synthetic male or female hormones. The third level is surgical hysterectomy.
Behavior and Environmental Modification
Behavior and environmental alterations work best in those species that are seasonal in their breeding habits. Year round breeders such as Cock- atiels may temporarily respond but often will revert to egg laying when the techniques are...