Q & A: “Why do my parrots break their eggs?” – by Tony Silva
Parrots break eggs for many reasons. Night fright, perhaps caused by a rodent; inexperience, especially amongst first-time nesters; an improper nest that is not deep enough; possibly the male not being in reproductive condition; or one of the birds finds that breaking the eggs is enjoyable. When a pair breaks the eggs, it is important to try and assess who is the culprit. Sometimes it is the male but sometimes it is the female.
The installation of a camera inside the nest can shed considerable light on who, how, and why the eggs are broken. With this knowledge, the process of solving the breakage becomes easier. When it is the male, my recommendation is to offer a very deep nest that is narrow. In the Galah (Eolophus roseicapillus) I have found that shallow nests tend to fail, with the male often breaking the eggs. If these same pair were offered a nest only 25 cm (10 in) square and 120 cm (4 feet) deep, the habit of egg breakage is often eliminated. I have found the same to apply to a vast array of species, especially caiques which are notorious for breaking the eggs.
Simply making the bottom of the nest totally dark will effect a change in behavior, which when compounded with a narrow cavity teds to dissuade egg breakage. The deep nest is simply following nature, where most tree nesting parrots use a narrow and deep cavity. So narrow is the nesting sites sometimes that the chicks become entrapped and cannot maneuver out, the nest not only being their birthplace but also their tomb. Ensuring that a rogue male has enrichment in the aviary is important.
We have one male Hawk-headed Parrots (Deroptyus accipitrinus) that break eggs if his aviary is not full of branches, split green coconuts, pine cones, and other things to keep him occupied. In his boredom he decides to play football with the eggs, evicting the hen and tossing them about. In pairs that simply break the eggs without responding to the nesting box modification or enrichment, we provide a glass egg; this is especially useful with first-time layers, which really do not understand the fragile nature of the egg. We add one glass egg at a time and at the same time that the egg is laid, which is usually in the late afternoon or early evening; if the real egg can be salvaged, it should be, and then it should be placed in an incubator for a possible return at a later date.
Rogue birds will often be seen throwing the eggs about in a video if a camera was installed into the nest. In many cases after the second glass egg has been placed in the nest, the breaking will stop. At that point, the real eggs can be returned one at a time.
With birds that do not respond to any treatment, we do what we have found is almost foolproof: we blow (remove the contents) an infertile egg, then fill it with household ammonia, cap the perforation with a piece of an eggshell fragment, and then glue this using household non-toxic glue. This egg is placed in the nest about the time egg-laying occurs. When they break the egg, the birds will be seen flying out of the nest. I have found that two eggs tend to break the habit. They seem to detest the smell of ammonia as much as humans do!
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