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7 Common Breeding Problems in Birds

Breeding problems in birds

Are you currently experiencing some breeding problems in birds? Creating a bloodline for your pet bird is pretty exciting, but it’s never easy.

It requires time, effort, skills, and patience since you may encounter problems along the way.

If your breeding bird is currently sick or problematic or you’re just planning to breed your bird, you came to the right place. In this article, you’ll discover the:

  • Common breeding problems in birds
  • The undesirable bird breeding behaviors you might encounter
  • How to deal with these issues

Whether you’re finding the reason why your bird isn’t laying or you’re just about to start the breeding process, this article will help you gain insight into these issues and find the appropriate solutions.

Let’s start off with the common medical problems in breeding birds. 

7 Common Breeding Problems in Birds infographics

Common Breeding Problems in Birds

The breeding and egg-laying process are things breeders look forward to but they come with several health risks to birds. Here are some of the common bird breeding problems you may encounter in your journey.

1. Egg Binding (Dystocia)

This breeding problem occurs when the hen can’t deliver an egg with normal effort in a reasonable amount of time. It frequently happens to cockatiels, budgerigars, and lovebirds but canaries and finches may also have dystocia.

Birds experiencing egg binding need immediate attention because they’re usually in shock, respiratory distress, or circulatory collapse.

The first egg that is occasionally laid will be an issue, especially for birds with poor diets. Other factors include:

  • interference from structures
  • unusual egg shapes or soft shells
  • infections, nutritional deficiencies
  • insufficient dietary supplements for chickens laying birds during the breeding
  • repeated breeding cycles
  • bad husbandry techniques


The symptoms include lethargy, labored breathing, depression, and trouble walking or perching. Furthermore, vent dilation and abdominal enlargement could also indicate egg binding.


The diagnosis is often made by palpating the egg, but radiographs may be necessary for eggs high in the oviduct. Check to see if the bird’s health will enable it to withstand the stress of any diagnostic treatment.

If the egg has a soft shell, it may be difficult to evaluate the abdomen.

Prior to radiographic procedures, calcium administration may aid in the delineation of poorly calcified eggs.

In the absence of a clearly defined egg, another testing method is to look for endosteal bone growth, also known as hyperostosis, which is triggered by female hormones.


Birds suffering from egg binding need to be stabilized first before the intramuscular administration of calcium.

Usually, heat, humidity, calcium supplements, and other supportive care will help most small cases of dystocia.

If medical therapy fails to produce an egg, manipulation (milking) could be performed if the egg is extremely close to the vent. And an Isoflurane anesthetic can help speed up this process.

Laparotomy or surgical intervention involving the removal of the egg and typically a piece of the oviduct is the sole option in severe cases to stop recurrences.

2. Egg Yolk Peritonitis

Egg yolk peritonitis is a term used to indicate peritonitis linked with the presence of yolk material in the coelomic cavity. Ectopic ovulation, in which the follicle ruptures and the egg does not enter the oviduct regularly, or oviductal illness are the most common cause of egg yolk peritonitis.

This condition seems to be more common in budgerigars and cockatiels.


The symptoms of yolk peritonitis include weight loss, lethargy, anorexia, and in some cases, abdominal enlargement or ascites (the condition where fluid collects within abdomen spaces).


The typical hematologic finding is leukocytosis (increased white blood cell count), which may also be accompanied by:

  • hypercalcemia (high blood calcium)
  • hypercholesterolemia (increased blood cholesterol)
  • hyperglobulinemia (high concentration of globulins in the blood plasma)

An abdominal tap may detect yolk or fat globules (increased blood protein). Although radiographs may not be very informative, endosteal bone growth (hyperostosis) is generally seen.


The treatment may vary depending on each bird’s condition. In mild cases, supportive care is enough but in severe conditions, you may need to provide bird therapy for shock, antibiotics, and supportive care.

If the bird is already stable, surgical intervention can be done if necessary to remove the egg yolk and break down adhesions.

3. Cystic Ovarian Disease

This common endocrine disease in budgerigars and cockatiels occurs when the ovaries become swollen with fluids. This fluid-filled cyst is usually caused by pathogenic organisms like E. coli, Coccidia and Polyomavirus and infects the ovaries.


Diagnosis can be determined using radiography since endosteal bone formation or hyperostosis usually exhibit reproductive activity.


The treatment includes one or a combination of cyst transabdominal aspiration, surgical removal of the ovarian cyst or the ovary, or hormonal therapy.

4. Clear eggs

Clear eggs are those that haven’t been completely fertilized. The main cause of this phenomenon is the poor hormonal synchronization of male and female birds.

But uncomfortable living conditions and an unbalanced diet, specifically vitamin E and selenium difficulties can also be the cause of this problem.


The best way to prevent clear eggs and promote successful egg fertilization is to provide your bird with a balanced diet. Then, supplement it with selenium and vitamin E before and after its breeding season.

5. Prolapsed Cloaca

Bird’s entire cloaca may also evert out of the vent. This case is not common but occurs more often in cockatoos.

The main cause is still unknown. But it’s most likely due to the breakdown of attachment to the bird’s body walls because of a sudden increase in intrabdominal pressure during the breeding period.

If left untreated, the bird may need to undergo intensive support therapy, depending on how much tissue has relapsed and if there’s already dead tissue in it.


If it’s the first time it happened to your bird, and the tissue damage is minimal, your vet may place a purse string suture around the vent.

6. Ovarian Tumors

This disease occurs at any age but it’s more prevalent in birds over 2 years of age and those who have gone through several reproductive cycles with breeding.

Ovarian neoplasia or tumors refer to the abnormal growth of tissue in the ovaries and it can either be benign (non-cancerous) or malignant(cancerous).

Many vets believe that the main cause of this disease is viruses that are either passed by direct contact or onto an offspring such as:

  • Avian leukosis virus (ALV)
  • Marek’s disease virus (MDV)
  • Reticuloendotheliosis virus (REV)


Some of the symptoms that indicate a bird has ovarian neoplasia include:

  • chronic egg-laying
  • lethargy
  • infertility
  • abnormal swelling or fluid retention in the abdominal area
  • anorexia
  • weight loss
  • long nesting period without egg production


Your vet needs to conduct ultrasonography, radiography and CT scan, and exploratory laparotomy to get a diagnosis.


Surgical removal is dangerous when the disease reached an advanced stage. The other treatment options are chemotherapy and radiation treatments. But birds with tumors are less responsive to radiation treatment than humans.

7. Prolapsed Oviduct/Uterus

The prolapse of the uterus usually occurs in parakeets and cockatiels before or during their reproductive cycle and after a bout of egg-laying.

Solution/ Treatment:

If there’s an egg inside the prolapsed oviduct, it can be manipulated out if there’s an opening and it’s dilated enough. However, in most cases, the tissues are carried out, so the egg is stuck inside the oviduct. 

So, moistening the tissues including the exposed parts of the egg with saline is necessary to loosen the adhesions.

But if the opening is too small or the egg is too adherent, a scalpel blade should be used to incise the oviduct and remove the egg.

The prolapsed tissue then needs to be replaced. It should be easy when the treatment was done early but if the tissue is swollen, a topical application of 50% dextrose is necessary to reduce the swelling.

bird breeding behavior

Common Behavioral Problems in Breeding Birds

Behavioral changes are among birds’ breeding problems too! The most common behavioral problems in breeding birds are feather plucking, mutilation, screaming, and aggression.

The main root of these behavioral problems can be distinguished by veterinary tests and abilities.


The solution may vary depending on the cause of your bird’s misbehavior but here are some ways you can deal with it:

  • Providing a healthy and balanced diet
  • Ensuring they get enough sleep
  • Giving them a variety of fun and mentally-stimulating toys
  • Placing your bird in a good location
  • Allowing them to have enough exercise
  • Giving them access to mild sunlight
  • Being gentle and patient with your bird

Common Sexual Behavior Problems in Breeding Birds

Aside from the behavior problems above, breeding birds may also exhibit the following during their mating period:

Sexual Aggression

Some birds can be very aggressive and exhibit undesirable behavior like screaming and biting while breeding. Other sexually active birds tend to be protective of their cage and their favorite toy or family member.


If this behavior annoys you, you can try to calm down a sexually aggressive bird by controlling or changing photoperiod or behavioral modification.

If these methods won’t work, you may need to use medical therapy.

There’s a contraceptive injection called Medroxyprogesterone (Depo Provera) that has been used in the past to calm sexual behaviors in birds of both sexes.

However, due to the side effects, it’s used with great caution. It uses calming or mood-altering drugs for feather-picking like doxepin, clomipramine, fluoxetine, and haloperidol.

Mate Aggression

This behavior is related to sexual aggression and commonly observed in cockatoos. It happens when a male is ready to mate and breed while the female is not.

So, the male will force the female to stay inside a nest box and try to abuse or kill the female by crushing or traumatizing its head.

How to Prevent It?

You must clip the male bird’s wings to give the female an opportunity to fly away and escape. There should also be more than one exit in the nest box to provide a route of escape for the female.

If your male bird is a chronic offender, then he’s not ideal for breeding.

bird breeding problems

Frequently Asked Questions About Common Breeding Problems in Birds

Why are my lovebirds not breeding?

If your male bird is younger than the female, she might not think of him as suitable as a mate. Other birds are just not compatible and won’t bond as mates so they don’t breed as well.

How do you encourage love birds to breed?

You can encourage lovebirds to mate by placing a nesting material inside the cage. Turning on the lights at night can prolong their days so it can also help encourage them since photoperiod plays a huge role in breeding. 

How do you stop birds from breeding?

You can stop or discourage your bird from breeding by putting them to bed early, by 5 PM or 6 PM, keeping them away from dark and enclosed spaces and other birds they’re closely bonded to. 

It’d also help if you’d put them back in their cage when they sow breeding behaviors to you or their favorite person by vent-rubbing, tail lifting, and regurgitating food.

Why are my birds mating but not laying eggs?

They may just need more time until they’re old enough and ready to produce an egg. However, you have to know that mating doesn’t always result in egg laying.

And if the female bird lays an egg, there’s no guarantee that the eggs will be fertile.

At what age do love birds start breeding?

Lovebirds can start breeding at the age of 1 to 2 years old as long as they’re healthy. They’re monogamous so their mating that starts with a courtship can continue throughout their 15-year lifespan.

Why are my budgies not breeding?

It could be due to the significant age difference between the male and female Budgie, imbalanced diet, or privacy compromised. If none of these are the roots of the problem, then it could be that the Budgies are of the same gender.

How many times do birds breed in a year?

Most birds nest just once a year, regardless of the climate and location. However, some species like the American Robin can produce 4 to 5 nests in a single breeding season.

How long is the breeding season for birds?

Birds’ breeding season only lasts a week or two in the wild. However, pet birds in captivity can experience an egg-laying cycle any time of the year since they’re exposed to perpetual long days.

When it darkens outside, the inside lights are still turned on and these long days they experience which are ideal for breeding stimulate them to do so.

birds breeding problems

Common Breeding Problems in Birds: Final Takeaways

To sum it up, the common breeding problems in birds are egg binding, egg yolk peritonitis, cystic ovarian disease, clear eggs, ovarian tumors, and prolapsed cloaca and oviduct.

But apart from those medical risks, breeding birds may also face behavioral changes and experience sexual aggression.

If you’re a newbie in the breeding department and you notice the symptoms above, it’s best to seek your avian vet’s help.

They can provide expert advice and help you find the cause of their medical and behavioral issues and provide appropriate treatment.

READ NEXT: The Pros and Cons of Getting a Second Bird

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