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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hi everyone

Two weeks ago I rehomed a pair of cockatiels. Today I was really alarmed to find some yellow on the floor of the aviary. Worried that it could be a disease, I isolated my birds into separate cages in pairs, so that I could find out who it had come from, as I couldn't see anything on any of the birds. Once I had done this I cleaned the aviary and found a very fragile broken egg. I was relieved that it wasn't a disease, but am concerned that the hen is perhaps calcium deficient.

Since I have had them I have mixed eggfood into the food because I had seen them mating as soon as I got them, and thought that she might lay eggs.

I haven't had a bird with this problem before so I would like advice as to whether I have done the right thing, should I do something else? Should I offer a dish just with eggfood in it, so she can build up her calcium, if this is what you think it is? Or do you think it could be another problem altogether?

Thank you in advance for your thoughts.

9,158 Posts
Should I offer a dish just with eggfood in it, so she can build up her calcium, if this is what you think it is?

eggfood is a source of protein not calcium.

Define aviary...such as size, indoors or outdoors. what type of lighting do you have.

it sounds the hen passed a shelless egg. Below is something to read. And also a pix/collage I am working on (still have to add type) of what you do not want to see as far as an egg.

The Importance of Calcium

We have all heard that it is important to supply calcium sources, especially when a bird is laying or breeding. The reason why is to provide enough calcium intake to produce strong, dense shell on the eggs, and to also be a preventative to soft of shelless eggs, which can contribute to egg binding and/or dystocia, impaction or prolapse of the uterus.

The most common recommendation is supplying cuttlebone or calcium supplements, and greens or veggies that are rich in calcium. In supplying this we think the bases are covered and aid as a preventative to a hens reproduction problems, yet have a hen that passes a soft shelled egg or is egg-bound…why?

Most times this is not enough. There are several factors that can influence the output of calcium circulating in the bloodstream, which is drawn from the bones while an egg is in the uterus (shell gland).

1...Researching the sources of calcium and other mineral nutrients is very important. High levels of phosphorus in the blood will inhibit the mobilization of calcium from bone. When this occurs this increases the chances of soft-shelled eggs which can lead to impactions and binding.

You can go online to search for the following: You can look up on this site which foods (Nutrient lists) are high in calcium:

Below is a listing of what a shell consists of. When researching foods nutrient contents you will want to also look up which greens/veggies foods contain trace elements of the following:
Calcium carbonate: 94-97%
Phosphorus: 0.3%
Magnesium: 0.2%
Sodium, Potassium, Manganese, Iron and Copper: traces
Organic matter: 2%
The small amount of organic matter mostly consists of matrix proteins (mixture of proteins and polysaccharides rich in sulphated molecules) and shell pigment. The matrix proteins are critically important in determining the egg shell structure and serves as foundation for the deposition of calcium carbonate.

The structure of an eggshell when examined under a high powered microscope will look like a tangled network of mineralized fibers…kind of like looking at the mat in an air conditioner filter. The eggshell is formed around a mat of proteins, which is coated and overgrown by calcium carbonate and other mineral salts. The result is a tough, waterproof package that still allows gas exchange between the inside and the outside, enabling the developing embryo to 'breath', while providing astonishing mechanical strength. The shell has enough calcium carbonate in it, which as the embryo gets close to hatch, it can use this reserve to draw into the body and bloodstream for the developing bones.

NOTE: most greens and veggies contain oxalic acids. These will bind useable calcium from foods. What you want to do is look for foods that have a higher calcium content than oxalic acid. The useable calcium is the difference between the two. Print out the following tables from both links:
Guinea Lynx ::Oxalic Acid in Selected Vegetables
Guinea Lynx :: Calcium Chart

Once you print out the 2 links above, you will have to look at the listed calcium level in this link: Deduct the oxalic acid levels to give you a clearer pix of the calcium to phosphorus ratios. The calcium to phosphorus ratio should be 2:1.

2...Proper lighting plays an important role in good reproductive health of hens. Either available in the form of real sunlight (not filtered thru glass) or from Full Spectrum Lighting (FSL) In simple terms the skin absorbs the UV (ultra violet) rays from the lighting and the body converts it to useable D3, and this in turn aids the uptake of useable calcium.
The reason why either access to real sunlight (not filtered thru a window) or Full Spectrum Lighting (FSL) is important is that is that birds absorb the light into their skin which converts it to vitamin D3, also known as cholecalciferol, and is required in the intestines to help absorb calcium to regulate important blood calcium levels which as the hen is forming the shell in the uterus. The calcium is drawn from the bones via the blood stream.

Some Cautions: This form (sunlight or FSL) of vitamin D3 is far safer than supplementing with vitamin D3. Vitamin D3 is a fat soluble vitamin, which gets stored in the body, and if supplementing in excess this can create a toxicity in the body. It can also contribute to hypercalcemia (too much calcium in the blood) which affects the heart, other organs and cause liver toxicosis, calcification of the kidneys and gout.

Therefore when feeding pellets, (they do contain D3 and calcium) you should never give additional supplements that contain (D3) and calcium because the diet is designed to provide what the bird needs.

If feeding a varied diet…which is pellets (approx 20%) , seed, and fresh greens/veggies then it is safe to provide a calcium source, such as cuttlebone and/or mineral block. FSL and sunlight access are natural forms of sources for D3 and are safer and more easily assimilated than from artificial sources.

When monitoring a tiny chick it may be hard to tell if there is any slight gain or loss if the scales weighs in grams.

Scales that weigh in increments of .001 grams:

Scales that weigh in .01 grams:

Some problems that can occur during ovulation are:
This is an article I am working on that has some helpful info:

Ectopic ovulation is occurs when the infundibulum fails to engulf the yolk (ovian) because of reverse peristalsis of the oviduct, trauma or stress. The yolk misses the funnel of the infundibulum and goes into the abdominal cavity.
If the egg moves too fast (don't know the causes of this) then it does not pick up the yolk but the other steps are done in the uterus it will result in an egg with no yolk. An egg with no yolk will not hatch.

Oviductal diseases that may result from Ectopic ovulation may include infectious salpingitis, rupture of the oviduct, cystic hyperplasia, peritonitis.

Egg yolk peritonitis is most common with: cockatiels, budgies, lovebirds, ducks and macaws. Clinical signs include weight loss, depression, respiratory distress, anorexia, and ascites. Abdominal distension may or may not be present.

PART 2 in the next posting


9,158 Posts
Part 2 of Importance of Calcium

7...Examining and providing the best sources of calcium does not stop at providing good shell quality.

Hypocalcemia, and Seizures
When keeping and breeding we focus on supplying proper lighting and calcium sources to the hen. The above is just as important to a male. If lacking, the bird would have problems assimilating calcium and a lack of compensatory mechanisms to maintain serum calcium levels, and an inability to mobilize skeletal calcium. Sometimes this can also appear as a vitamin D3 deficiency. When this happens the bird is very prone to having seizures.

A…Hypocalcemia and seizure activity tends to be a problem only with male cockatiels.

Treatment for hypocalcemia consists of calcium (injectable calcium with phosphorus at time of seizure), D3 (preferably exposure to sunlight or full spectrum lighting) and supportive care such as Sub-Q fluids, which will get the blood levels up, and multivitamin injections (must contain Vitamin A and E)

Another thought at the time for seizures was a malabsorption problem. I found this is partially true. Most greens contain oxalic acid. I didn't know this at the time except for spinach which with the calcium and reactions to oxalic acids form calcium oxalates. Stress causes a sudden increased acidity in the GI tract and also upsets the metabolic balance of fluids in the body. Everything is a chain reaction.

I had some birds that had to have a health inspection. One had a seizure in the vets office. He drew blood to have sent out to a lab. I told him to give a Calphosan shot (calcium and phosphorus) because it had worked in the past for me to bring a bird out of it. At the time I had only thought it to be a malabsorption problem. Blood calcium and phosphorus levels were real low. Similar to what is seen with African Greys which are also prone to hypocalcemia.

At the time I did not know what exactly was the cause. In reality simple capture increases the heart rate that can trigger a hypocalcemic bird into a seizure because there is not enough calcium in the bloodstream. Some mutations such a cinnamon, fallow and lutino, or splits to these mutations tend to have this problem. Heart rate is increased when trying to get a bird out of the cage, or chasing and netting. But if blood was drawn while the bird has a seizure it would show very low blood levels. The quickest way to bring it out of seizure is injectable Calphosan. or orally with a drop of liquid calcium under the tongue. The injectable calcium rapidly gets the blood calcium levels up.
In regards to your birds many greens are rich in calcium and phosphorus. Researching the nutrient content of foods (1...) is just important to the male.

B…The need for a good source of calcium does not stop at supplying it prior to egg laying. The calcium is drawn into the developing embryo as it grows through the vascular network of blood veins radiating into the body from the yolk. During this time the embryo draws calcium from the shell to strengthen developing bones. If the calcium in the shell is insufficient this can contribute to weaker bones, and problems such as splayed leg , soft flexible leg bones, and/or fractures forming within days after hatch. For good bone growth and strength these post hatch problems can be avoided by supplying food sources rich in calcium and trace minerals to the feeding parents.

C…Examine any eggs when they are laid. Ideally what you want to see is a uniform color and smoothness to the shell. If there is any swirling to the shell that looks like alternating bands of pinkish and white this is an indication that not enough calcium was in the body as the shell was being formed. The pale areas of the shell are weaker and can be sources of moisture loss as the developing embryo grows and after piping it will draw from the calcium reserves of the shell. If there is insufficient calcium this can be seen by soft areas of the shell collapsing inward and appearing like large dents. If the shell is compromised and fluid is lost this can also result with a chick trapped in the shell which in turn can cause death if not assisted out.
If there are deposits of calcium on the exterior of the egg, which appear as gritty lumps adhered to the egg this could be an indication that there might possibly be an infection in the uterus (shell gland)

Small eggs with no yolks
If you candle the small egg you will not see the yellow yolk in it. Many times if the egg is forming in the oviduct the contents of the egg (Region 2 in the Illus) may have started to move downward in the oviduct before the yolk was dropped into Region 1 If this happens the egg is smaller and does not contain a yolk.

If there has been nothing that has stressed the hen during the laying process or she has not been handled, this may not be a problem. If so, there is a possibility the yolk could have missed entering the funnel in Region 1. if this happens them the yolk gets diverted into the abdominal cavity of the hen.

If you have a scales I would suggest that you weight the hen now. if a hen is ovulating and prior to laying she will gain approx 5-6 grams in weight. If there is a problem developing such as egg related peritonitis there would be approx a 10 gram increase and each day the weight would increase up to 7-10 days as much as 20 grams. This you do not want to happen.
Some Additional reading

Harrisons has an excellent online Avian Medicine book in PDF format. Chapter 29 is very informative, and worth reading.
Note: I got permission from the publisher to remix several of their illustrations.

OVIDUCT of a Hen: During active laying the oviduct enlarges and occupies much of the left abdomen.
The Reproductive Female:
Female Bird Reproductive Anatomy:
Reproductive Problems
Article on the complications of egg laying:
Article on prolapse:
Endoscopic Salpingohysterectomy:
How I treat psittacine egg binding and chronic laying (What a vet will do):
Chronic Egg-laying in Single Cockatiels:
Why did my cockatiel lay an egg?
Emergency and Critical Care:

9,158 Posts
How long does it take for a bird to make an egg?

Once the hen starts to ovulate they will lay an egg every other day. So the next egg will be approx 48 hours from when the shelless egg was laid. Below is a pix (click for a larger veiw) of the oviduct.

Worst case scenario...The problem with the hen passing a shelless egg, and another one ovualting, even if you do suppkly good lighting, and calcium sources, the body does not have time to really build up body reserves in the bone. In such a situation the hen is at risk of having a thin-shelled egg stiff to the uterus inside, and as she strains to pass the egg, could also have a prolaped uterus or tissues...which looks like a red tissue mass protruding from the vent. OR...if there if the blood calcium levels are low and the body draws from the bones the bones can become very brittle and hollow and the wings can break/snap while trying to fly.

If you have a vet I would strongly suggest that you go in ASAP and ask if they can give an injection of Calphosan.


54 Posts
Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Thank you for all your help, last night I heard a lot of flapping in the garden and they were spooked by something. Could this have caused her to lay early, before the shell had properly formed?

9,158 Posts
Could this have caused her to lay early, before the shell had properly formed?

This would be more the cause for:

1... an Ectopic egg....meaning the yolk getting diverted into the abdomnal cavity, which can lead to peritonitis.

2...If the forming yolk was ruptured from the movement it could get absorbed into the bloodstream and cause a stroke and/or death.

3...If the egg was in the upper oviduct it could cause a tear in the thin tissue and get diverted to the abdominal cavity.

4...If the egg has gotten as far as the shell gland and the disturbance occured when the shell was being formed it could have broken, but the shell part would be adherred to the uterus and the next devloping egg would impact on the matter in the oviduct. Several eggs can get impacted 1 on top of the other (broken soft shells stacked up) and ciontribute to egg-binding or prolapse. In this case the inside of the egg (yolk and white) would be seen on the cage/flight floor.

Do you have a low wattage bulb (40 watts) or night light on during the night outside? If not this would be helpful and cut down on any panicing during the night. I've learned that when a hen is laying movent, handling, and disturbances need to be kept at a minimum.
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