All About Marie

Animal Files columnist of the Orange County Register from 1992-2016; Emmy Award winning producer of Educational Television Programming; Host of "The Pet Place Radio Show" heard world-wide at; click the player below to listen. Producer/Director/Editor/Co-host of "The Pet Place TV Show" during the 19 years it ran on KDOC TV in Los Angeles and Orange Counties; Wife, Mother of five kids, Grandmother of two baby boys and one baby girl, and pet parent of two cats, one dog, many fish, and a cockatoo.

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Monday, May 11, 2015

Male Sun Conure Laid Egg?

Dear Marie,
My 8-year-old “male” Sun Conure just laid an egg a couple of days ago!  That was a surprise!  Fortunately, “his” name works for a “her” too.  But that’s not why I am writing.  Since she laid the egg, she seems very irritable and lethargic.  She is also just staying in a corner of her cage where the egg is instead of coming out during the day and sitting with me, or playing with her different toys.  The egg is not fertile since I don’t have any other birds so there is no reason for her to stay with it but she won’t let me take it away and because she seems so tired, I’m concerned about her health.  She’s just not her old self and she has absolutely no interest in me right now which makes me sad.  He’s…she’s my best friend.

Dear Billy,
Many, many bird “parents” who think they have “boy” birds find out they have girls in a sequence of events that occur exactly as you have described!  It’s especially surprising when a bird has been in the family for almost a decade.  However, in a number of species, it might take a several years before a female lays her first set of eggs—and yes, you should probably expect at least one or two more eggs.  If she doesn't lay another egg in the next day or two, and continues to appear lethargic, she may be egg-bound and this can be very serious.  A trip to the veterinarian would be your next move.  The vet can determine if there are any more eggs inside your bird that are not passing.  If necessary, your bird can be anesthetized and a procedure can be done to remove an egg(s) that is/are “stuck.”  Hopefully, everything is working the way it should be and this is not the case for your bird.

Laying eggs is not easy and your little bird will need to have an extra good diet of calcium rich food right now.  Cut up some broccoli, kale, and spinach and mix it with a little grated cheese.  You can toss that with some calcium fortified orange juice to make a yummy “salad.”  Almonds and walnuts also have a lot of calcium, and if left in their shells will provide some fun, interactive feeding activity for her.  Of course, give her a variety of fruits and other veggies, along with some high quality pellets too so that she has a well-balanced food offering. 

Even though her eggs are not fertilized, her mothering instincts will be present.  She is not going to want anyone to “mess” with her babies.  It’s not that she doesn’t love you anymore; she’s just assuming the role of “mom” and takes it very seriously. Give her a nesting box and try to move (without getting bitten) her egg into the box.  She’ll lay her other eggs there when she is ready and this will make her feel far more secure and happy. 

As time passes, she will eventually decide she has had enough and will leave the eggs.  This is a good time to take the entire nesting box away.  Don’t remove the eggs before she is leaves them or she will lay more and you don’t want that to happen.  Egg-laying takes a lot out of birds and the more you can limit her cycles, the healthier she will be.

Generally, parrot parents should ensure their female birds get plenty of sleep.  Try to get your bird “to bed” by 6:00 PM each evening.  It helps if you have a room with light-blocking shades on the window.  Cover your bird’s cage as well.  During the day, expose your bird to plenty of natural sunlight and let her get lots of exercise and playtime.  By having a routine like this, you may be able to reduce the frequency of her egg-laying cycles.

Keep a watchful eye out for the signs that another cycle is beginning.  Female birds tend to be noisier and a little bit cranky or “bitey” when an egg-laying cycle is getting started.  That’s the time to put her nesting box back into her cage and to begin giving her the super charged diet I outlined above.

The good news here is that once she is done with her eggs, you will be the object of her affection again and she will be the same old bird that you know and love…aside from the fact that she is not a boy!  Good luck.

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