Egg-binding, when the egg does not pass through the hen at a normal rate, is a serious and often fatal condition that affects female birds of breeding age. It most commonly occurs in smaller birds like parakeets, cockatiels, lovebirds, canaries and finches. Young birds reproducing for the first time and older hens are the most vulnerable to egg-binding. Because it's so important for egg-bound hens to receive prompt medical treatment, owners should know what signs and symptoms to watch for in their pets.
If left untreated, death can occur within hours, especially for the smallest birds. Recognizing the signs of egg-binding early on is key to your pet's survival. If you observe any of the following symptoms, contact an avian veterinarian as soon as possible. An avian vet can properly diagnose your pet's problem and get it on the road to a fast recovery.
- Rapid or labored breathing: Many egg-bound hens look like they are having a hard time breathing. Even slightly labored breathing is a symptom of egg-binding.
- Swelling: An egg-bound hen may appear to have a swollen stomach or show swelling around her bottom from straining to pass an egg. Birds with swelling on any part of their bodies should be seen by a medical professional as soon as possible.
- Constipation: If you suspect that a hen may be egg-bound, watch her droppings. You should suspect a problem if they look abnormal or if she fails to produce any at all.
- Fluffed-up feathers: One of the most common symptoms of illness in birds, fluffed-up feathers can also be a sign that a bird is egg-bound. If you observe your bird sitting with her feathers fluffed up, assess her for any other symptoms or abnormalities.
- Straining: Egg-bound hens often visibly strain to try and pass their eggs. Egg-binding should be suspected in birds that strain but show no progress in moving their eggs.
- Sitting on the cage floor: Most of the time, birds that are egg-bound take to sitting on the cage floor. Eggs that are stuck inside of a hen can put immense pressure on the bird's spine, sometimes causing paralysis and the inability to perch.
- Drooping of the wings: Canaries might exhibit this symptom.
- Lameness: This occurs when the egg puts pressure on the nerves going to the legs.
- Loss of appetite: This is a common symptom of several illnesses, but if you notice your bird is not eating, assess it for other signs of egg-binding.