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How to stop a pigeon from laying eggs

As a proud owner of a female pigeon there is one subject that crops up nearly every month, and that is the subject of egg laying. More specifically, how to stop a pigeon from continuous egg laying. As any person who owns a female pigeon will know, pigeons are prolific egg layers. They don’t need to be mated in order to lay eggs. They just need to feel it is the right time and that they have the right mate and nesting area (although the latter isn’t always the case – many of us have seen photos of pigeons who have laid an egg on the exposed floor!). The right mate can indeed be human. Many pigeons will bond with one human in the household and will court and try to start a family with that human. This behaviour may amuse us, but it is serious business for the pigeon. They want to have babies and will go through all the feelings, hormone changes, and behaviours associated with breeding and nesting. A lack of result, e.g. no babies, may be frustrating or even sorrowful for the pigeon.

So what should we do about this? Do we find a pigeon mate for the pigeon and let them breed? (This won’t solve the problem of chronic egg laying but may help the pigeon psychologically.) But what will happen to the babies? Considering the breeding efficiency of pigeons, you may soon be overrun with their offspring.

In general, feral pigeons can breed throughout the year, as long as there is enough food and shelter for them to do so. Some pigeons take a break during the winter months, some don’t. Feral pigeons will lay two eggs at a time. They incubate for about 18 days, then the squabs will be fed by both parents until they are ready to leave the nest when they are 30 days old. By this time the parents may have already produced another clutch of eggs (at around day 20), and the cycle continues.

So after considering a pigeons breeding efficiency your pet pigeon could be laying 24 eggs a year! (at least!) All this takes a lot of time and energy, and the female pigeon will need to be well fed and have access to calcium and vitamin D for egg production and laying (calcium is taken from the body to create the egg shell). Too many eggs without enough calcium will cause egg-binding or deformed eggs (see photo below for a smaller sized egg my pigeon once laid).

P1100176Left: normal sized pigeon egg. Right: deformed smaller pigeon egg

Chronic egg-laying can cause a number of serious health problems for birds, and can ultimately lead to the death of the female if left untreated.

“Chronic egg-laying in the pet bird poses a significant threat to the health and behavioral well being of many pet birds. When a hen lays repeated clutches or larger than normal clutch size without regard to the presence of a normal mate or confined breeding season, a myriad of secondary problems can follow. Ultimately, functional exhaustion of the reproductive tract poses risk of metabolic and physiological drain on the bird, particularly on calcium and energy stores. All of these ultimately predispose the hen to egg binding, dystocia, yolk coelomitis, oviductal impaction, oviductal torsion, cloacal prolapse and osteoporosis.” Ask an Expert: Chronic egg laying by Dr. Brian Speer, DVM

“Chronic egg laying will deplete calcium, thus causing myriad health problems. One of which is the condition known as hypocalcaemia – With calcium at a low level, the uterine muscles are unable to contract and push the egg out resulting in egg binding. Hypocalcaemia can also cause seizure-like activity and brittle bones, which can be easily fractured. Therefore, it is of utmost importance to prevent excessive egg laying. The first step in treating chronic egg laying is to put your bird on a complete diet. A bird that is on a balanced diet is in little danger of the health problems associated with chronic egg laying.” From: http://www.avianweb.com/egglaying.html

The following article has good advice about egg-binding:

“Calcium is used by the body to not only form the shell of the developing egg and maintain strong bones, but is also crucial in the proper functioning of the muscles. While it does take a large amount of calcium to form an egg shell, the hen also needs calcium for the muscle action needed to expel the egg.

“Vitamin d3 is crucial in the absorption of calcium. Without it, all that good calcium we offer our birds passes right through the body without being absorbed. In outdoor flights, our birds are able to produce d3 via a chemical reaction to sunlight. In indoor flights, they are unable to do this. Sunlight through a window is not sufficient. The ultraviolet light needed does not pass through window glass. Full spectrum lights can help but some studies have shown that the ultraviolet is only at sufficient levels at less than one foot from the light source. For inside birds, a d3 supplement is almost always helpful.” Egg Binding by Carol Heesen

The solution

In order to help reduce the strain egg development and laying causes the female pigeon, it is probably a good idea to discourage egg laying altogether. There are different thoughts on this and some methods may work for your pigeon, while for others it may not. It is up to you to ensure that your pigeon is healthy physically and mentally. Please read the following recommendations:

All about reducing the laying of eggs by the racing pigeon

Diet

Seed availability in the wild is generally only high during breeding season, so an abundance of seeds in the diet is a stimulus to breed.

• Providing a good quality, balanced diet with restricted seed will not only help to reduce laying, but provide better nutrition to keep her healthy and better prepared to lay eggs and fight disease.

Day Length

In the wild, birds generally breed in spring and summer, a time of increasing day length.

• By covering the loft or the windows in the evening at about 6pm, the hormones that stimulate laying will be reduced. As well as reducing mating/egg laying behavior, this will help to ensure a good night rest for your pigeons, which is very important.

Presence of a mate

Pigeons do not need to mate in order to lay eggs. They do usually need to think that they have a partner. A lot of the individual attention the pigeon fanciers will give to the pigeons can be interpreted by them as partner stimulation, and as such it needs to be minimized to the strict minimum.

• We recommend that you don’t cuddle or stroke your pigeons below the neck.

• Training basic obedience and trick training is a great way to interact with your pigeons in a healthier manner.

Nesting Site

Pigeons are more likely to lay eggs if they have a nest. This may be a nest or box, newspaper or material at the bottom of a cage.

• Do NOT provide any nesting material for a pigeon if you don’t want her to lay.

Presence of eggs

• If your pigeons does lay eggs, leave them in the cage for the normal incubation period – approximately 3 weeks for most strain.

• The presence of eggs in a cage stimulates hormones in your bird which decreases the chances of more eggs.

(From: All about reducing the laying of eggs by the racing pigeon)

More information on discouraging egg laying in birds: Egg laying in birds

10 things you can do at home to stop your bird from laying eggs

1. Put your bird to bed early, by 5 or 6:00 p.m. A long day length is one of the most important environmental cues triggering egg laying in birds. By allowing your bird to stay up late, you are mimicking the long days of spring/summer, making your bird think it is time to breed. An early bedtime will help to turn off her breeding hormones. Note that she will need complete darkness and quiet for this to be effective (covering the cage while the radio or TV is on is not adequate!).

2. Keep your bird away from dark, enclosed spaces. Most parrots are cavity nesters, which means that instead of building a nest out in the open they look for dark, enclosed spaces in which to lay their eggs. In order to stop your bird from laying eggs it is essential that she is kept away from such areas. Nest boxes should be promptly removed. Birds can be ingenious when looking for a nesting site (under a couch, behind the microwave, even in the dryer!), so it is important that she is under close supervision when out of the cage.

3. Keep your bird away from other birds to which she is bonded. Having a mate is a strong stimulus for your bird to lay. This mate may be a member of the opposite sex, another female bird, or even a bird of a different species. Separating your bird from the other birds in your household will help turn off her hormones.

4. Discourage breeding behavior in your bird. Some birds will display breeding behaviors with their favorite person, such as vent-rubbing, tail lifting, or regurgitating food. Discourage these behaviors by putting your bird back in her cage for a “time out” whenever she displays them. Don’t pet your bird on her back or under her tail, as this can be sexually stimulating.

5. Remove your bird’s “love-toys”. Some single birds will display mating behaviors with objects in their environment, such as food cups, toys, perches, or mirrors. Mating behaviors include regurgitating food, vent rubbing, and tail lifting. If your bird engages in these behaviors with an inanimate object, that object should be permanently removed from her environment.

6. Rearrange the cage interior and change the cage location. Your bird is more likely to lay eggs in a cage that hasn’t changed in a while. Putting your bird in a different cage and/or changing the cage location can help discourage laying. Changing the arrangement or types of toys, dishes, and perches in the cage can also be very helpful.

7. Give your bird optimal nutrition and provide full spectrum light. Producing and laying eggs robs your bird of the vitamins, proteins, and calcium she needs to stay healthy. It is especially crucial during the breeding season that she is on a complete and balanced diet, which in most cases will be a pelleted diet. A seed diet supplemented with vitamins is not adequate. Ask your veterinarian to recommend a pelleted diet for your bird. Full spectrum sunlight is necessary for your bird’s calcium metabolism, and can be provided by unfiltered sunlight or by a full spectrum flourescent bulb.

8. Avoid removing the eggs which your bird has already laid. Sometimes the easiest way to turn off the egg-laying cycle is to allow your bird to sit on her eggs. If your bird lays a few eggs and then sits on them, leave the eggs in the cage for 21 days or until she loses interest. If however she does not stop at 3 – 4 eggs and continues laying, this strategy may not work, and you should call your avian veterinarian for further suggestions.

9. Ask your veterinarian about hormone injections. In certain cases of excessive egg-laying, your veterinarian may recommend hormone injections in addition to the above environmental and dietary changes. Hormone injections are relatively safe and can help reduce egg-laying in some birds. The effectiveness of hormone injections varies from bird to bird and can not be accurately predicted beforehand.

10. When in doubt, ask your avian veterinarian. If you have questions or concerns regarding your bird’s health, or if the above changes do not stop your bird from laying, please give your avian veterinarian a call.

Author: Hilary S. Stern, DVM

From: http://www.forthebirdsdvm.com/pages/discouraging-breeding-behavior-in-pet-birds


Yesterday I wrote that we were expecting Georgie to lay an egg any minute now, and lo and behold, she did!

The whole day George was restless. She didn’t want to nest in her guinea-pig nest, nor even in the pink and white fleece! For some reason Georgie was rejecting them. I didn’t know what she wanted and nothing I did seemed to please her. Georgie kept moving about without settling.

In the end we found that she’d laid the egg on the floor. She didn’t seem interested in it at all. Poor dear.

P1050273

We left the egg in Georgie’s cage today when we left for work and returned to find her incubating it. Hooray! (By the way, Georgie’s eggs are never fertile.) We now await the appearance of the second egg, which should happen tomorrow.

P1050275

This is a video of Georgie laying an egg earlier this year:

Georgie has had an 8 month break since the last time she laid eggs, which I think is good because as you can imagine, egg production and laying takes a lot of energy and calcium. It can take its toll if birds lay eggs continuously, a condition called “chronic egg-laying”. I’m happy that George made the decision to not lay eggs for a while, thus giving herself a break. Now, however, an egg has appeared and who knows if she’ll continue to lay eggs every month from now on. I hope she doesn’t.

Chronic egg-laying can cause a number of serious health problems for birds, and can ultimately lead to the death of the female if left untreated.

“Chronic egg-laying in the pet bird poses a significant threat to the health and behavioral well being of many pet birds. When a hen lays repeated clutches or larger than normal clutch size without regard to the presence of a normal mate or confined breeding season, a myriad of secondary problems can follow. Ultimately, functional exhaustion of the reproductive tract poses risk of metabolic and physiological drain on the bird, particularly on calcium and energy stores. All of these ultimately predispose the hen to egg binding, dystocia, yolk coelomitis, oviductal impaction, oviductal torsion, cloacal prolapse and osteoporosis.” Ask an Expert: Chronic egg laying by Dr. Brian Speer, DVM.

This article – Chronic Egg Laying from AvianWeb – has some good advice on how to combat chronic egg-laying (mainly aimed at parrot species). Please go to the article to see the full explanation of the points below.

Things you can do to discourage / stop your bird from laying eggs:

  • Do not remove eggs which she has already laid.
  • Remove possible nesting sites and nest-making material.
  • Mimic “Shorter Days”.
  • Limit food access.
  • One vet recommended turning day into night.
  • Discourage breeding behavior in your bird.
  • Rearrange the cage interior and change the cage location.
  • Give your bird optimal nutrition.
  • Provide full spectrum light.
  • If necessary, separate from “mate”.
  • Ask your veterinarian about hormone injections.

The following article has good advice about egg-binding (one of the problems of chronic egg laying):

“Calcium is used by the body to not only form the shell of the developing egg and maintain strong bones, but is also crucial in the proper functioning of the muscles. While it does take a large amount of calcium to form an egg shell, the hen also needs calcium for the muscle action needed to expel the egg.

“Vitamin d3 is crucial in the absorption of calcium. Without it, all that good calcium we offer our birds passes right through the body without being absorbed. In outdoor flights, our birds are able to produce d3 via a chemical reaction to sunlight. In indoor flights, they are unable to do this. Sunlight through a window is not sufficient. The ultraviolet light needed does not pass through window glass. Full spectrum lights can help but some studies have shown that the ultraviolet is only at sufficient levels at less than one foot from the light source. For inside birds, a d3 supplement is almost always helpful.” Egg Binding by Carol Heesen


Georgie hasn’t laid an egg since the beginning of April. That’s about 6 months egg free!! Incredible!!!

A year ago I started recording when she lays eggs, and since April 2009 she’s laid 11 clutches (2 eggs per clutch, therefore, she’s laid 22 eggs in a year). For some reason Georgie has decided to stop laying eggs, however, her mating behaviour has stayed the same. She still presents herself for mating and does her “I got lucky!” dance afterwards (see video: Bonded Georgie), however, she hasn’t laid an egg in 6 months – which is a big surprise for us. I’m not sure what’s going on.

In a way I am very happy – because I always worry when she starts laying eggs (takes a lot of energy and calcium, etc.) and Georgie also gets very moody and a bit difficult when she’s sitting on eggs. However, I’m also a bit bemused as to why she’s not laying any eggs now. I guess I should count myself lucky that she’s giving her body a break! :)

Continuous egg laying can be a real problem for bird owners since the health of the female bird can deteriorate over time as the demands of producing and laying eggs takes their toll. The danger of egg-binding (the inability to pass an egg that has formed) also becomes more prominent. Egg-binding is a life-threatening condition and the vet should immediately be consulted! (Read more on egg-binding: Eggbound symptoms)

I know I’ve mentioned in previous posts that Georgie was eggbound last year (Georgie eggbound), however, it is something that scared us a lot and not an experience we’d want to repeat. So I will take Georgie’s lack of eggs as a good sign and not encourage her too much in her mating behaviour. … Now that I’ve said this I bet she’ll lay eggs this month. :)


Two days ago I posted Goddess of the Sun in which I wrote about Georgie being out in the garden, having a good time soaking up the rays of the sun. Well, after I had posted that I noticed that Georgie was closing her left eye a lot. We checked her eye to see if she had anything stuck in it but we found nothing. Instead we noticed that her eye looked very dry. Her right eye was normal looking.

Georgie’s left eye is the one that is quite cloudy, as seen in this photo:

P1020258

All day on Sunday Georgie kept closing her eye and first thing Monday I got some eye drops for her, which we applied (too early to say if it has helped).

I think that maybe her day out in the sun caused her eye to dry up so when I take her out next time I’ll put a drop on her eye and see if that helps. If it doesn’t then a trip to the vet will be in order.

When things like this happen I feel very sorry for George because she cannot tell me in words what’s wrong. She relies on us to take care of her and understand what she needs, and when she’s having a bad day or has health problems it can be hard to interpret her needs. It can be hard to do the right thing because on the one hand you don’t want to over-react and take your animal to the vet for tests and injections, but on the other hand, if you are slow to react you can make things worst. I guess all you can do is trust your instincts to know what action to take in bad situations.

When Georgie became eggbound last year (Georgie eggbound) it was tough to sit back and wait for her to respond to the treatment she had to help her expel the egg. Although I had sought veterinary advice and done what was needed, I still felt very powerless and as if I hadn’t done enough to help her. I now can see that we had done everything right in helping her in that situation, which gives me confidence to respond if it ever happens again, but I think there’ll always a part of me that fears the worst.

Ok, gotta stop this train of thought now.

I love my pigeon and my pigeon loves me! :)


On the 5th April 2009 Georgie became eggbound with her second egg. I was at work but thankfully Richard was at home and he noticed her having problems laying the second egg (which comes two days after the first). Now Georgie has been laying eggs nearly every month since she surprised us with her first egg in October 2008 (please read: Eggs for breakfast?). We haven’t had any problems but I always had a nagging doubt that her egglaying behaviour could lead to a problem since Georgie is an indoor pigeon and might not be getting the correct amounts of calcium and vitamin D.

So when Richard called me to say he was worried about Georgie I immediately thought with horror, “She’s eggbound”. I asked him to keep her in a warm location, to apply some vaseline around her vent to soften the mucus membranes (to help pass the egg out), and keep a close eye on her till I got home. When I got home Georgie was still struggling. She was unable to stand up and was using her wings to move about. She was clearly distressed. It was a Sunday so our avian vet wasn’t open but I had an out-of-hours emergancy number to call, which I promptly did. Our vet advised us to give her a few drops of calcium (which I thankfully had at hand!) every 2-3 hours and keep her in a warm, humid location (which we had already done).

P1100175

The 2nd egg finally arrives

There was nothing more to do but wait and see. It was a nerve-racking time. About 5 hours after Richard had first noticed Georgie having problems, she laid the second egg. It was half the size of a normal egg and had rough patches on it. Not a nice looking egg to lay! The next day I took her to the vet and she received a calcium injection. Georgie couldn’t stand up yet and couldn’t fly – she was temporarily paralysed (from the egg hiting a nerve).

:(

P1100176

2nd egg on the right

Egg-binding is thought to have a few causes, but lack of calcium and vitamin D3 are main factors. Calcium is needed to form the shell of the egg as well as maintain strong bones, but crucially also for the proper functioning of the muscles used to expel the egg. With the extra calcium injected in her (as well as drops given to her by myself), Georgie slowly recovered. 5 days later Georgie was 100% alright, walking and flying as normal.

I now have an egg diary to record the dates and times when Georgie lays eggs in order to monitor how frequent her egg laying is. We give her Calcivet (a liquid calcium/magnesium supplement that also has vitamin D3) in her water and I’ve recently bought a fluorescent bird lamp to give her that added support. Grit and oyster shell are also part of her diet.

Being eggbound is a very dangerous condition for any bird and veterinary advice and assistance should be immediately sought.

Georgie is now sitting on two unfertilised eggs. She’s doing the usual behaviours (e.g. attacking anyone who dares approach her, siting on the eggs for hours, pooing ma-hu-sive poos!) and everything is going fine, but the memory of that horrible eggbound time still haunts me.

On a lighter note, Georgie has an odd behaviour when she’s broody. Occasionally, and quite suddenly, she’ll lift both wings straight up a couple of times. She doesn’t take off or get up for a stretch, she simply raises her wings then settles back. Not sure what that’s about, but everytime she does both Richard and I raise our arms in response. It’s become a little game of ours. We’ve even done it when we’ve had guests over. … I know, we’re weird pigeon people. :)


As mentioned in her bio Georgie pigeon was thought to be a boy. Before I took her into my care I knew next to nothing about pigeons (so I couldn’t tell that she wasn’t a boy). Sure, I had admired pigeons when I was young as they bobbed and cooed in the street of my home town. I thought them pretty and wondered why they walked like they do. I particularly enjoyed seeing the males trying to get the females attention (all that tail fanning, bobbing and cooing is fascinating). I have always loved animals and had kept many pets but I never had a special interest in pigeons until I began working at a wildlife rescue centre.

You see, pigeons are quite common (really? Could have fooled me. :) ) and many kind and caring people bring injured or orphaned ones to the rescue centre so I was (and still am) pretty surrounded by pigeons (hedgehogs being the next most common animal brought in). I saw my first baby pigeon there and didn’t have a clue what it was. But I quickly fell in love with them as my supervisor showed me how to feed them – the poor darlings squeaking away with such enthusiasm and earnest – “Please feed me, mummy!” and quickly, “Please cuddle me!” as they grew and wanted some love from their adopted carers.

Many people say that squeakers and squabs are ugly but I beg to differ. Maybe it is a case of “Having a face only a mother could love”? Do I care what other people think about them? … (Actually I do. I can get quite upset when people see the baby pigeons at the rescue centre and say “How ugly they are!” I can remember only two people saying how beautiful they looked and I almost hugged them).

Anyway, back to Georgie. So here was this almost 1 year old young male pigeon who Richard and I loved to bits. Then one day, shortly after her 1st birthday, Georgie laid an egg. And she hasn’t looked back since!! :)

Georgie and her first egg

The unexpected egg

We were shocked to bits, our whole view of George changed immediately. She was no longer this cool male pigeon, rather a moody female one. And by lord, can she get moody when she’s incubating her eggs! They aren’t fertile since Elmo boy doesn’t pay her any attention, so we let her incubate them till she’s bored of it. We have a couple of fake eggs to replace her ones just in case we accidently break the real ones (Georgie likes to nest on the sofa despite the dangers of us sitting on them).

So we have to deal with a very moody pigeon on her nest while we are trying to watch TV or relax on the sofa. Richard cannot sit next to her otherwise she’ll attack him. Only I can safely sit next to her, but sometimes, when she’s really into her protective mother role, I have to back off because she’s ‘protecting’ her eggs.

We cannot get Georgie to stop laying eggs. Her body and hormones and mind tell her to bond with me and have babies. That’s just the way it is. Pigeons like to breed. And they’ll do it all year round. That’s why there’s so many of them. Sure, I could stop petting her or letting her cuddle up to me, I could put her somewhere where she hasn’t the opportunity to bond with someone, but that would simply be cruel. Georgie needs affection. She’s semi-blind and craves contact.

So we’re stuck with a loving pigeon (who we still love dearly) who will lay a pair of eggs nearly every month. I keep a diary of when she lays them so I can monitor her health. Georgie was eggbound once and it was a scary ordeal. I now have calcium drops and special UV bird lamp to counteract the strain of her egg production.

At the moment we’re expecting Georgie to lay an egg. The last egg she laid was on the 18th Nov 09, so it’s been over two months, which is pretty good. It’s never good for a bird to lay eggs continuously. For those of you who have seen a pigeon lay an egg it’s quite fascinating. But if you’ve ever thought a pigeon was a boy and he laid an egg?? Well, that’s a different feeling!