FunNature & AnimalCan birds lay eggs without a male?

Can birds lay eggs without a male?

All these questions have to do with sexual behavior that includes all the behavior patterns that mark the reproductive period in birds. Frequently in pet birds, there are behaviors that are misunderstood or even encouraged by the owners themselves, which can lead to our pet ending up establishing certain patterns of unwanted behavior and even pathological states that can put the life of the animal at risk. .

Despite the fact that all birds are susceptible to hormonal-reproductive disorders, it is generally in the birds of the Psittacidae family where these disorders take on considerable importance, due to their great intelligence, their sensitivity and their great popularity as pet birds.

puberty in birds

It marks the beginning of sexual maturity and is different in different species. In small psittacines (nymphs, parakeets and lovebirds) it occurs around 6 months-1 year, 1-3 years in medium-sized psittacines (Aratingas, Loris…) and between 3-6 in large parrots.

As in the case of human beings, “adolescence” entails a series of behavioral changes, through which birds follow their natural reproductive instinct, looking for a mate. In the case of parrots that do not live with specimens of the same species, but with ourselves, this role often ends up in the hands of the owner. Other birds “court” dolls, toys in their cage, or their reflection in the mirror. Some of the behaviors that mark the beginning of the hormonal-reproductive state are the following:

  • Affectionate parrot : The bird adopts a sweeter or more docile character than we are accustomed to. He allows himself to be caressed excessively and constantly seeks our company. Grooming behavior becomes more important and the bird allows itself to be touched in certain areas where it was not used to accepting before: under the wings, the back, the tail/vent area, etc.
  • Regurgitation : It is totally natural for birds to feed their partner. Many birds in heat regurgitate on the shoulders or arms of their owners. In the same way, when we offer food from our own mouth to the bird, we are stimulating its reproductive behavior.
  • Copulation : Our birds can try to copulate with our shoulder/arm, and can even masturbate with the cage’s breasts.
  • Search for places and nesting material : The vast majority of parrots nest in their natural environment in cavities in trees. Many of the captive psittacines preserve this instinct and it is common for a bird in heat to look for semi-hidden places to nest. If they don’t have a nest box, they often take over a cardboard box, a raised shelf, the feeder, or even a hole in the couch. In turn, we can see that the parrots become more “destructive” in order to obtain nesting materials. A well-known example of reproductive behavior is that of the Lovebirds or Lovebirds, which cut thin strips of paper with their beaks and place them under their wings to later transport them to the nest.
  • Territoriality : Birds often defend their nest, food sources, and cage. In the same way, they can become very aggressive with the rest of the household members, especially when they are with their owner-partner.

The development of sexual behavior culminates in the laying of eggs in female birds. We speak of “chronic laying” when a bird begins laying eggs repeatedly outside the natural breeding season. If it continues over time, this leads the bird to a state of great metabolic wear and tear that can lead to true medical emergencies (dystocia or inability to lay, hypocalcemia syndrome, cloaca/oviduct prolapse, egg yolk peritonitis, salpingitis, etc.) .

It should be clarified that females can, and in fact do, lay eggs without the need for a male to copulate. The eggs are nothing more than the ovules covered with the shell, in the event that there is a male there is the possibility that these eggs will be fertilized.

In turn, both males and females can suffer a state of sexual frustration that can lead to undesirable behaviors such as an excessive increase in vocalizations, masturbation, aggressiveness, cloacal prolapse or even pecking and self-mutilation.

My bird displays sexual behavior. What should I do?

If you suspect a different behavior in a bird, consult your veterinarian specialized in avian medicine. He will be the one who can guide you about the management changes and therapeutic options available for the specific case of your bird.

The reproduction of birds is largely influenced by certain environmental conditions such as the amount of light, temperature, rainfall or the availability of food.
There are a number of measures you can take at home to avoid stimulating sexual behavior in birds:

  • Daylight hours : the natural breeding season for the vast majority of birds occurs when the days are longest (spring/summer). Make sure that your bird does not have more than 8-10 hours of light per day. The rest of the time you should sleep. It may be convenient to cover his cage if this measure interferes with family life or even the most advisable thing would be to take him to another room in the dark.
  • Eliminate potential nests and nesting materials : If we do not want our birds to reproduce we should not provide nest boxes. Popular belief says that access to nest boxes makes our birds sleep safer. This says a lot about reality. Our birds will rest perfectly on their perches as long as their cage and the surrounding environment are safe and familiar.
    We will remove coconut feeders, caves and other accessories that may resemble a future nest. In the same way, we must avoid access to nesting material such as the paper of the bottom of the cage.
  • Restrict food : a generous source of available food makes our birds believe that they can be prepared to carry out their clutch without difficulties, so you must stick to what is necessary. Adjust the proportion of food according to the needs of your bird, especially in the proportion of seeds. Your specialist veterinarian can guide you about the specific diet of your bird, as well as the correct guidelines for the transition to a diet made up of formulated food (feed).
  • Suppression of sexual behavior stimulation : owners often unintentionally contribute to the hormonal status of the bird. We must avoid kissing our bird’s beak, feeding it directly from our mouth, caressing it on the back, under the wings and the cloaca, etc. In turn, we must prevent our bird from climbing on the shoulder during puberty or heat. This fact constitutes a hierarchical challenge on the part of the parrot and can encourage defensive and aggressive behaviors (remember: when your parrot is on your shoulder, it is also close to your face).
    If the bird exhibits sexual behavior around a doll, mirror, or toy, it should be removed from its environment.
  • Ignore courtship behaviors and masturbation.

  • Basic training and environmental enrichment : Carrying out basic training routines based on positive reinforcement contribute to the psychological well-being of the birds. An intellectually stimulated bird will be a happier bird and less likely to develop behavioral problems such as chronic laying or feather pecking.
    There are professionals specialized in behavior (Ethologists) who can help you focus on a training plan and enrichment of the environment, as well as monitor the evolution of your bird during the process.

If all else fails, don’t despair, there is hormone therapy .

It is never the first option, and the type of bird will change a lot, but your specialist veterinarian will be able to advise you on the different medical treatments used for the inhibition of oestrus in birds, and which is the option that best suits your case. short and long term.

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