Thursday, March 3, 2011

PARAKEET EGG BINDING ... What to do to Rescue Hens.

Spicy, a Normal Bourke with his mate,
Sugar, a Rosy whose feathers came in
darker after recovering from egg binding.
An offspring whose mother suffered
egg binding and his egg was fostered.
I’ve mentioned egg binding in other posts, but thought I’d do one specifically targeting the subject. Until a more experienced bird breeder gave me excellent advice, I lost a few hens to this.

Symptoms: Most hens already with one to three eggs will leave the nest and look lethargic and ill. Interest in their eggs will be gone. They will fluff up and appear inactive and obviously sick. If they are sitting on the floor and puffed up, that’s an obvious sign something’s seriously wrong. Death can occur within 24 hours, so it’s important to act fast.

Pick her up in a warm towel. You will be able to see a bulge near the vent, but do not press there or you will kill her instantly if the egg breaks.

Common Advice:
I followed directions given in my bird books, but it was not enough. They say to wrap the hen in a towel to restrain and protect her while holding her vent over steam. This is called “steaming the egg.” They also recommend carefully adding Vaseline to the vent area being careful NOT to massage the area. I followed this advice at different times with three hens, but none of them subsequently laid the egg and sadly all three didn’t survive.

Bonnie and Clyde, Rosy Bourkes.
Bonnie survived egg binding and has
had several successful clutches since.
What Worked:
Instead of Vaseline, lukewarm mineral oil was carefully put into the vent with a small eye dropper. It was also given to the hen orally. Surprisingly, my hens seemed to want to ingest the mineral oil and I had no trouble feeding it to them via the eye dropper. Next, I also held them over steam for a minute or so…being careful not to let them get too hot as my bare fingers were there too. Once they seemed moist and warm, I put them into a small carrying cage with water and seed present. I completely covered the cage with a towel to give them privacy and warmth. Next, I boiled a large mug of water and put it inside the towel so that the steam could reach the hen. Don’t put it in the cage with her…she might injure herself on the hot liquid.

An area heater nearby is a good idea too. You want her to stay very warm, about 98 degrees or so, if possible. Don’t forget the steaming cup of hot water inside her “tent.” Moisture helps, and for this reason a very small cage is an advantage.

Sugar's dark feather pattern after suffering egg binding
and losing feathers. I expect her to be pink again after a molt.
Check on Her Every Hour:
If the egg isn’t laid within an hour, repeat the whole process again. Then check after another hour and keep checking and repeating the process until the egg is laid. I’ve never had to do it more than twice before it successfully helped my hens lay their oversized egg.

Right after being subjected to this unpleasant treatment, my hens have not wanted to return to their current nest and I successfully fostered their previous eggs under other hens. However, the egg that is covered in mineral oil doesn’t hatch…probably because air cannot penetrate the shell in spite of attempting to rinse the oil off of it.

Admittedly, I always wonder if I’ve given a hen enough mineral oil, or too much. You don’t want to injure her with too much. However, too little may not do the trick. So, if the first application doesn’t work, I use a little more the second time. So far, I’ve used this method with three hens at different times and all three hens laid their egg and have recovered. Two of the three have gone on to raise several more clutches without further problems. The third has laid infertile eggs without a problem.

The first time I attempted to feed mineral oil to a hen, I used a tiny syringe instead of an eye dropper, managing to get mineral oil all over her head. As a result, all the feathers around her head eventually fell out and she looked awful for several weeks. When they came back in, they were much darker than before. See the photo. I expect her to be pink again after another molt.

Sugar and Spice successfully mating
while she was still pink.
My bird books say to wait 60 days before allowing a hen to breed again. I’ve chosen to wait an entire season, typically nine months. I see no reason to stress a hen further. Besides the mineral oil tends to leave them unable to achieve fertility until it is completely out of their system.

It’s always important to have enough calcium present for your birds. A bird that is too young or who doesn’t have enough calcium can produce soft eggs, causing egg-binding. My birds always have cuttlebones and mineral blocks available, as well as oyster shell and grit. The problems I’ve had with egg binding didn’t appear to be soft egg shells, but rather eggs that were too large for them to easily pass.
Spicy is a handfed bird, rejected by his parents.
He's a male Normal Bourke. Notice a tiny bit
of blue above his cere (nostrils). This is
only present on mature Normal males,
not on Normal hens.
If your birds don’t appear to be using their cuttlebone or mineral block, there are calcium supplements available to add to their water. If you decide to do this, however, follow the directions carefully…you don’t want to over medicate them.

In other posts I covered advice given to me for hens who had fertile eggs that didn’t hatch. Two readers and a friend recommended adding small salt blocks intended for rabbits. These contain iodine. For a long time the birds ignored them. However, I notice recently that the birds are beginning to chew on them, so I’m hopeful that those hens in the past that had fertile eggs that didn’t hatch will now be successful.

May God bless you and your feathered friends
with good health and productivity.


neversink7 said...

I first learned about treating egg binding due to cordon blue and gouldian finches. has a really good article. A few key points:
most common factors in egg-binding are:
(1) lack of calcium
(2) excessive egg laying (3) soft shell
(4) poor husbandry
(5) temperatures, e.g. chills (6) small bodied hen

two nutrients are crucial in preventing egg binding, Vitamin F and Vitamin A. Vitamin F is a group of essential fatty acids found in nutritional oils. These are linoleic acid, linolenic acid, and arachidonic acid. Linoleic acid is the most important of the three.

without adequate intake of vitamin D in birds without access to outside sun (even regular glass filters out UV rays), calcium can not be absorbed in adequate amounts, so supplement may be needed.

when treating an eggbond hen, can also be helpful to administer a drop or 2 of highly active calcium (e.g. calcium plus) directly the beak of the hen for 1) help "reset"/"strengthen" the tired muscles of the hen via adding calcium for the calcium channels that function in the muscle cells, and 2)help the shell form faster for soft shell eggs.

In this similar vein, can also be helpful to directly give some supplemental nutrition such as Thrive, NV powder, or even pedialyte which will give the hen extra electrolytes and sugar to help strengthen her.

hope this helps.

marketa drdlikova said...

Very good advice, but I have no idea what is a mineral oil? Btw love your blog!

marketa drdlikova said...

I love your blog! Please can you tell me what is a mineral oil? Thank you

marketa drdlikova said...


I love your blog!
After I saw a pair of Bourke's parrakeets at local Bird show, I fell in love with them, hoping to get a pair soon..

If you could please advise me about what kind of mineral oil did you use for the egg binding, I would be really grateful, as I haven't come accross mineral oil here before (Ireland).

Thank you very much