QUESTION - Sent in by Gisele L.

Hello, I bought a green pied love bird last mother's day....Supposedly a
male, She turned 1 at the end of this January/06.

The problem I am having is that she has laid 22 'proud' eggs since last august.... The eggs are strong, and fully formed and my bird is fine, but she is definitely more of a breeder than the pet I thought I was getting....She is very territorial (understandably so) and not as loving a bird as I have found out from other owners.
The cage is cleaned weekly and I do move everything around for variety as suggested in all the books, but still she insists on laying eggs.  I spend as much time with her as I can and she is free to fly around whenever I am home....Am I doing something wrong?...Should I invest in another love bird for company?...Should I consider letting her go to a breeder and if yes, who would I contact?

Any information you can provide will be most appreciated. Thanks in
advance....

REPLY - By Jessica Miller

Hello, Gisele!

 Sorry to hear that you are having a little trouble with your lovebird.  I hope that I am able to offer some suggestions that will be beneficial to both you and your little girl.

 Of course, of most concern is your lovebird’s persistent egg-laying habits.  This is of concern, because she could unintentionally deplete her body of its calcium stores.  This can eventually lead to soft eggs, egg binding (a potentially fatal condition), or both.  May I ask what you have been doing with her eggs?  Some pet females that lay eggs are alright with their owners throwing out the eggs that they lay immediately.  My own pet masked lovebird lays eggs on occasion, and she is fine with me throwing them out as she lays them.  However, some females are not okay with this.

 Most breeders will tell you that they observe that their female lovebirds lay a specific number of eggs in each clutch.  Every female appears to have their own set number of eggs that they will routinely lay each time they raise babies.  This appears to be instinctual.  If you are throwing your lovebird’s eggs out as she is laying them, she may continue to lay eggs in an attempt to reach her certain number.  She has proven that she is not going to give up laying eggs at this point.  I would recommend you taking a small container (perhaps an old butter container that has been cleaned out), put some tissues in the bottom of it, and introduce it to your lovebird on the bottom of her cage.  If there is an egg currently on the cage bottom, place the egg in this “nest” for her.  She will quickly get the idea that this is a good place to lay her eggs.  She will lay future eggs in this container.  Allow her to lay her clutch of eggs and sit on them as long as she remains interested.  Females usually lose interest in eggs that don’t hatch when the last egg laid is approximately 25 – 30 days old.  Fertile lovebird eggs will hatch about 22 – 23 days after they are laid.  Female lovebirds seem to know this instinctually, and once this time frame has come and gone, females will abandon eggs that haven’t hatched.  This full-fledged “attempt” at raising a family often satisfies pet females enough to allow them to return to their pre-egg-laying lifestyle.

 For future reference, there are a few additional things that you can do to diminish your lovebird’s desire to lay eggs.  Re-arranging the cage routinely is a great place to start.  Also, longer daylight hours (indicating spring-time) often trigger this shift in hormones.  Increasing the number of dark hours she gets each night may help subside the urge she has to lay eggs.  This can be accomplished by making the room she is in totally dark or covering her cage for 10 – 12 hours each night.  Some females are less likely to lay eggs if you prevent them from finding areas that can be interpreted as nesting sites.  If you notice that your lovebird favors certain small, dark areas when she is out of her cage, then you will want to discourage her from spending time in these places.  If you have a nesting box, happy hut, or other kind of thing in her cage that can be mistaken as a nesting area, you’ll want to remove these items.  Nests and happy huts are very bad ideas for lovebirds (both females and males, who can also exhibit different types of mating behaviors).  There are also a small handful of female lovebirds that are so “in love” with their human owners that they directly perform mating behaviors in response to their owners.  My female masked lovebird is like this.  She presents herself in a suggestive way (lowering her head, lifting her wings and tail, making a certain noise) when either myself or my husband is near-by and she is in a hormonal mood.  These advances must be discouraged if/when they occur.  Do not make eye contact or touch your lovebird if/when she is doing this, as it will tell her that you are reciprocating her advances and are interested in raising a family with her.

 As far as the pet quality of your lovebird…  That is something we can discuss further.  It is difficult to advise you about this topic without knowing more about the relationship you have with your lovebird.  I can tell you that it is understandable if your lovebird is territorial about the place that she lays her eggs during this time.  Most females (even pets) are protective of their eggs.  This, too, is instinctual for obvious reasons.  It is our personal experience with pet lovebirds that they are more loving and make better companions if they have their wings trimmed.  Many people do not believe in wing clipping for their birds, and that is fine – a decision solely left up to the owner.  For lovebirds, it has proven to us to be very beneficial, though.  Lovebirds are flock creatures, and in a flock setting, they try to establish their place in the flock.  Each bird, of course, wants to be the more dominant bird in the flock, because they can get what they want in the future.  Establishing yourself as the leader of the flock (even if it’s just you and your single pet lovebird) is particularly important in the human-lovebird relationship.  Since your bird is fully flighted, she can do whatever she wants when she wants to do it.  If you try to tell her to do something she doesn’t want to do, she can just fly away from you.  This power has placed her above you in your flock.  Whenever you attempt to do something that she doesn’t like or that would require her compliance, she is probably more likely to bite you or fly away from you.  You are breaking the flock rules, because the “lower” flock member should be following the commands of the flock leader.  Females are more likely than males to try to be the flock leader.  Most breeders will also tell you that their females are dominant over their male mates.

Step-up training is of great importance for pet lovebirds.  This establishes and reinforces the human as the flock leader, as it is a simple command that you give that the bird must follow.  When your pet lovebird is done with her egg-laying cycle, I would recommend you begin to work with her to build a different relationship with her.  This will take some time, especially as the relationship is already established in her mind, but the effort is well worth the results that you will get in the end.

 I wish you and your lovebird much luck!  Let me know if there is anything else I can help you with.

 

Jessica Miller
Love 'n Let Aviary
www.lovenlet.com

 

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green fischer's lovebird
Photo credits: blue peachfaced lovebird by Vera Appleyard, black-cheeked lovebird by Deb Sandidge, Madagascar lovebird by Gwen Powell (bird owned by Roland Dubuc), Fischer's lovebird by Lee Horton.