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Egg Binding in Birds—The Symptoms, Causes, and Treatment?

Egg binding in birds

Does your pregnant bird’s abdomen look swollen, and can you see an egg bulging through its vent?

If your pet bird couldn’t expel the egg during the normal delivery time frame and experienced those signs, she might be egg-bound. Egg binding in birds is fatal, so immediate action is crucial to saving your avian’s life.

But what exactly is egg binding in birds, and how does it happen?

In this article, we’ll discuss the:

  • common reasons that cause egg binding
  • the symptoms and treatment
  • and preventive steps to avoid this life-threatening condition

If you’re currently having an egg-bound budgie or any bird, this guide will help you deal with this health problem and save your avian friend’s life.

So, What is Egg Binding in Birds?

Egg binding occurs when a female bird fails to expel eggs off its reproductive tract and body within the standard period.

The egg can be stuck inside the bird’s vent, the opening where birds expel materials from their urinary, gastrointestinal, and reproductive tracts. In this case, you can see a tiny bulging egg through the vent.

But egg binding can also happen in the higher part of the reproductive tract, the oviduct, the tube that connects the ovary and the vent, or the inside of the cloaca.

The egg delivery period varies for every species, but most birds expel an egg within 24 to 28 hours.

So, if it has been several days since your hen laid its eggs, she may be egg-bound.

Most birds have no problem laying eggs, but others experience egg binding with their subsequent eggs. And if not treated immediately, your bird may become critically ill.

Egg binding is more common in smaller size birds such as canaries, finches, budgies, lovebirds, and cockatiels.

causes of egg binding in birds

What Are Causes of Egg Binding in Birds?

The causes of egg binding in birds vary depending on each case. But here are the most common reasons why birds suffer from this condition:

Unbalanced Diet

Calcium deficiency is one of the birds’ most common culprits of egg binding. This mineral is necessary for eggshell formation, and lack of calcium can lead to soft shells or shell-less eggs that are prone to get stuck.

Vitamin E, D, and calcium deficiency also lead to improper contraction and failure to pass the eggs. Birds need those vitamins and minerals to contract forcefully to deliver the egg out of the hen’s reproductive system.

Too Large Eggs

Sometimes, the problem lies in the egg itself. It may be too large for the hen to push out of its digestive tract or positioned incorrectly, making it challenging for birds to lay normally.

Overproduction of Eggs

Excessive laying of eggs can also lead to calcium deficiency which is necessary to form calcified eggs. Since low calcium often leads to thinner or soft-shelled eggs, it will likely result in egg binding in birds.

Obesity

Obese or overweight birds are also more susceptible to calcium deficiency, so they’re at a higher risk of suffering from egg binding.

Infection, Inflammation, or Tumors

Inflammation and tumors within the laying bird’s reproductive system can cause swelling and interfere with the egg’s passage. Consequently, this results in egg binding.

Other Causes of Egg Binding in Birds

Aside from the abovementioned causes, the bird’s environment can also cause this condition. Inadequate nesting areas, stress from overcrowding, and unsanitary living conditions can lead to egg binding and other health issues.

Dehydration and lack of exercise also put birds at a higher risk of developing egg binding.

That’s why you must provide complete and balanced nutrition and a clean, comfortable environment to your birds to save them from egg binding and make their laying season smooth and hassle-free.

egg binding in birds symptoms

How to Tell if a Bird is Egg Bound—Symptoms of Egg Binding

So, what are the signs of egg-bound birds? Here are the symptoms you should look out for:

Swelling abdomen

An egg-bound bird may have a swollen abdomen or noticeable swelling around its vent due to straining in passing an egg. So consult your vet if you notice swelling on any part of your bird’s body.

Difficulty in breathing

Egg-bound birds may also suffer from difficulty breathing, especially after exertion.

Change in droppings

Observe your bird’s droppings because decreased croppings or all-white excrements may indicate egg binding or other health problems.

Fluffed-up feathers

If your bird’s feathers fluffed up while sitting, that could signify discomfort and egg binding.

Straining

Egg-bound hens frequently make visible efforts to pass their eggs. When birds struggle to move their eggs and make little to no progress, egg-binding should be considered.

Sitting on the cage floor

Egg-bound birds frequently rest on the floor of their cages. A hen’s spine may become severely compressed by eggs, occasionally paralyzing the animal and preventing it from perching.

Lameness

Egg-bound birds may seem lethargic because when an egg gets stuck internally into their nerves, your poor birds won’t be able to stand.

Loss of appetite

It’s a common sign of illness but if your bird is not eating as much as usual, look for other signs of egg binding.

Sudden death

Unfortunately, you won’t notice signs in some egg-bound birds other than sudden death.

But how can egg binding be diagnosed?

How Egg Binding is Diagnosed in Birds

Your avian vet can diagnose egg binding by feeling the hen’s abdomen to see whether an egg was stuck inside during the physical examination.

However, most veterinarians carry out x-rays to confirm the egg’s presence, its exact size and position, and if the egg has a shell.

Some eggs get bound before the shell is formed, and if they’re shell-less, they’re harder to confirm on radiographs (x-rays). So, other birds need to undergo a sonogram or ultrasound exam to check the presence of an egg.

egg binding in birds treatment

Treatments for Egg Binding in Birds

How do you treat egg binding in birds? Egg binding can be life-threatening. So, it needs immediate medical care provided by avian veterinarians.

The treatment varies on how sick the bird is, where’s the egg’s location, and how long it has been egg-bound.

Let’s dig further into the process to understand better how egg binding is treated.

Warming and Fluids

The first step is to check the bird’s body temperature and warm her body in an area of 85 to 90 degrees Fahrenheit.

Then, your avian vet will inject fluids via IV or an intraosseous catheter to decrease the chance of shock or dehydration.

Medication

Your vet may also provide calcium injection if it is deemed necessary, including medications that promote contractions like:

  • Oxytocin
  • Prostaglandin
  • Arginine vasotocin

Aside from injection, prostaglandin gel can also help, but antibiotics and steroids may be necessary to help your bird deal with the pain.

Ovocentesis

If your bird still can’t deliver the egg by herself, your avian vet may perform Ovocentesis. In this process, he will insert a syringe into the egg to remove its contents.

It should be easier for the hen to pass the egg when it’s smaller since lubrication will also be applied in this process.

Removing the Egg

If all the steps above fail, your avian vet may apply lubrication to help the bird expel the egg from its body. But if it still wouldn’t work, the final solution is the surgical removal of the egg.

The Prognosis for Egg Binding in Birds

The majority of birds will survive with prompt care. But the prognosis is poorer if the trapped egg makes it difficult for the hen to breathe or discharge waste and emergency care is not given immediately.

How to Prevent Egg Binding in Birds

Egg binding is common in birds, and it’s hard to avoid it completely. But the following steps can help minimize the risk of egg binding and save your avian pets from misery:

  • Feed them a balanced diet and supplement them with calcium, vitamins E, D, A, and selenium to prevent calcium and vitamin deficiency.
  • Give your bird some time to exercise and play with each other daily to minimize obesity.
  • Keep their house comfortable and clean and free from stressors.
  • Use the right breeding methods, such as timing the breeding, breeding at the right age, excluding genetically predisposed birds from the breeding program, and creating the right environmental conditions.
  • It’s critical to modify husbandry practices to reduce the hormones that could trigger egg laying. These adjustments comprise lengthening the nighttime hours, eliminating food from the cage overnight, removing any nesting supplies, and limiting access to male birds.
  • Hormone therapy may be necessary to temporarily prevent egg laying and let their body recover, particularly in chronic egg layers.
  • As a final resort, the reproductive tract may be surgically removed if the vets can’t remove the egg through the vent. This process is called hysterectomy, or the removal of the uterus and oviduct. It’s a life-threatening process, so it’s the last choice for avian vets.

egg bound budgie

What to Do if Your Bird is Egg Bound

Egg binding is a fatal condition that needs immediate medical attention from professional veterinarians.

So, if you think your chicken is egg-bound, it’s best to bring him to your avian vet and consult him about your bird’s condition.

You can provide supportive care to your egg-bound pet bird, but it’s best to leave the treatment to professionals.

What is the Difference Between Egg Binding and Dystocia?

Egg-binding is medically defined as a delay in expelling an egg, while dystocia occurs when obstruction causes difficulty in laying.

These terms are often used by pet owners interchangeably. But avian vets need to carry out history and physical examinations and diagnostic testing to recognize the condition and provide appropriate treatment.

Frequently Asked Questions About Egg Binding in Birds

What causes egg binding in birds?

Egg binding, which refers to a bird’s inability to expel an egg naturally, is commonly due to calcium deficiency.

But it can also be caused by obesity, hereditary factors, age, laying environment, tumors, infections, inflammations, and sometimes the egg itself is too large.

How long can an egg-bound bird live?

Critically egg-bound tiny birds’ signs of illnesses can persist for one or two days, followed by rapid demise if not treated promptly. On the other hand, larger birds can survive with symptoms for many days.

Can an egg-bound bird survive?

Most birds will survive if treated promptly. But if the egg stuck in the vent causes difficulty breathing and expels waste or droppings and no emergency treatment is provided, the prognosis or chance of survival is low.

Can egg binding resolve on its own?

Egg binding is a life-threatening condition that won’t resolve independently. It needs immediate veterinary care, especially if the bird struggles to breathe and expel its waste.

It’s also worth noting that DIY-ing the treatment by trying to massage the vent so the egg can find its way out will only put more pressure on it and harm your birds more.

Can birds poop if they are egg-bound?

Egg-bound birds can produce small to no droppings under this condition because the egg obstructs the waste’s passage.

Keep in mind that birds only have one passageway for their reproductive and digestive systems.

How do you fix egg binding at home?

Unfortunately, treatments for egg binding must be done by professionals.

It’s too risky to induce fluids into your bird’s body without having prior experience and background. So, it’s best to leave the job to the professionals.

Can stress cause egg binding?

Yes, behavioral stress due to overcrowding and an unsanitary environment does cause egg binding in birds.

So, you must ensure your pet bird is free from potentially stressful environments or homes.

How do you test for egg binding?

Egg binding can be diagnosed via physical assessment, but a radiograph or X-ray test must confirm the egg’s presence and position.

However, eggs with no shells are hard to detect so they may require an ultrasound exam.

egg bound parakeet

Egg Binding in Birds: Final Thoughts

Egg binding in birds can be prevented, but if your bird has fallen victim to this condition, it’s best to bring her immediately to your avian vet.

It can be costly, especially if your vet has to remove the egg surgically, but it’s worth saving your beloved pet’s life.

Once the egg gets expelled or removed successfully, you need to give your bird much-needed time to recuperate. It’d be best if you could provide a bird hospital cage, but a separate cage will also do.

At this stage, your bird needs a supply of clean water and a balanced diet. It can be challenging for your feathery companion, but with your supportive care and immediate action, she can survive egg binding and live.

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