Help ASAP with female parrot!

2ajsmamaNovember 24, 2010

New to this forum. Monday night DH noticed our 17-yr old female Gray was on the floor of the cage (where she had been working on a pile of yarn she had torn from a toy), I had seen her chewing on it occasionally, but I figured just b/c she liked the big ball of it she had shoved in the corner after detaching it from the hanging toy.

He was in the room (our main entry, which is also our laundry room) for quite a while, first playing with her and then ironing. He didn't say if she started panting while he was petting her, but she was definitely "agitated" after he put her back, started chewing on the yarn, then backed up to it, put her tail down, held her wings out and started whimpering. He called me in and we agreed that it looked like she was trying to lay an egg. I gave her more yarn from another old toy to see if she would make the nest larger (I was also afraid an egg would break on the grate).

Nothing yesterday, she had dropped the new yarn through the grate, I did some laundry and she was playing normally while I was in there, this room is right off the kitchen and I was baking all day, didn't hear her panting/whimpering from the other room.

This morning I removed the old yarn since she had pooped on it, checked her cloaca and tried to feel for an egg - don't see/feel anything unusual. She tolerated this though I rarely inspect that area. I then started petting her a bit on the back as usual and she started the whimpering, wing-extension, tail-down behavior again, even when I put her back quickly on her perch. This only lasted a few minutes, I left the room and now I can hear her whistling and talking as usual.

I know that egg-binding is an emergency, but she doesn't seem to be in distress most of the time, and the poops I see on the paper seem normal (she didn't poop in front of me just now). She is very affectionate with both of us, and tries to regurgitate every time I hold her, has for her entire life.

This new behavior - is it showing that she is sexually mature (which I assume she has been for years) and eager to mate? I thought females put their tails *up* when they were cycling. I would be worried about egg binding if I heard her panting from the other room and walked in to find her on the floor in that posture. While it looks like she's been preparing a nest, the tail-down, wings-out, whimpering thing has only been these 2 times during/after petting.

Please help ASAP - with the holiday tomorrow, I don't know if I need to get her to a vet *today*! Thanks

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To put it bluntly......she's hormonal and horny.
I bred parrots for many years and what you're seeing is what a hen does when she is in the mating mood.

If she was egg bound she would be depressed, not eating and most likely sitting fluffed and looking ill.

Please take the yarn away since it's a dangerous fiber for a bird to play with. I know it's used on toys but it shouldn't be, just as cotton rope shouldn't be on toys. Besides ingesting it, they can get their claws tangled in it (usually when you're gone) and break their toes/feet/legs. Smaller fibers can wrap around their toes and you won't see it until their toes becomes swollen and infected. I've seen birds lose their toes because of yarn.

If you want to give her nest-like material, shredded paper is good as is pine shavings.

My Grey didn't lay until she was around 20 yrs old. She never had a mate but always had a nest box that she sleeps and plays in and one summer she laid 2 eggs. I just let her brood them until she abandoned the eggs.

    Bookmark   November 24, 2010 at 12:32PM
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Thanks - I figured she wasn't in pain since it was only when we were in the room but with the holiday coming up I wanted to make sure - just didn't have time to post til now. The yarn (cotton?) did come on toys. Took it all away from her.

Isn't it a little late for her to start this? Or is her biological clock ticking just like human female's does in her 30's?

I only let her keep the yarn b/c she seemed to be nesting - but it's best not to encourage that, else she might get eggbound, right?


    Bookmark   November 24, 2010 at 8:23PM
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Greys can lay year round, especially the ones kept indoors. I've seen them lay as early as 5 years but that's not the norm.

Light and diet influence the breeding cycle more than nesting materials and nest boxes. Once they go into a breeding mode there's not much you can do to stop it. If she is healthy (not overweight) and gets a balanced diet it's unlikely she would have any problems laying an egg.
If she does lay, leave the egg where it is and let her finish her laying cycle. She may sit on them, or she may play with them, it just depends on the bird. Once she no longer has an interest in sitting on them, only then should you remove them.

Removing eggs as she lays them can throw her off her cycle, causing her system to think it should lay more eggs. It can also cause egg binding due to her body becoming depleted of calcium from laying too many eggs.

    Bookmark   November 25, 2010 at 2:01AM
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She's on a balanced diet (Exact Rainbow Chunky - she thinks she's a macaw!), but is a little on the scrawny side - always has been petite.

We have her in the mudroom/laundry room (don't think we're mean) b/c it seemed the best place in the new house. She gets to see a lot of us coming and going (greets us, reminds the kids to brush their teeth b4 they go to school, "push!" to put on boots, "Love you" when we leave), also when I'm doing the laundry (at least 7 loads a week), and of course we make time to play with her. The floor is tile, the wall is a mess (gotta move the cage and wipe up the splattered food), and we can turn off the lights after dinner (though we tend to leave the door to the kitchen open, we usually only have the light on over the sink so she's not totally in the dark but it's quieter and darker than the family room).

Should we be covering the cage (she's chewed holes in every cover I've had), or closing the door to keep it really dark for 12+ hours every night (at least the winter - her cage is by the east-facing window so lots of summer sun)?

    Bookmark   November 26, 2010 at 12:06AM
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Covering the cage isn't necessary if you don't have drafts in the room. I never use covers since all my birds (11 who have their own room) use their nest box at night and one of my Greys loves destroying hers. It's the best chewing toy she has!

There are many debates when it comes to parrot diets, but I used to feed my breeder birds a lower protein diet when I wanted them to take a rest from nesting.
You can try changing up your bird's diet by feeding her more fruit/veges and replace a small portion of her pellets with seed. Doing so may help throw her off the breeding mode sooner.
My birds currently get a 50/50 mix of seed and pellets, fruit/veges, or a cooked mix every day.
My opinion is that seeds are a natural part of a bird's diet (in the wild) and they shouldn't be deprived of them in captivity. Their beaks and tongue are made for eating/cracking seeds/nuts and I've learned over the years there are breeds that do very poorly eating only pellets.

    Bookmark   November 26, 2010 at 12:45AM
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There is a heating vent in the floor in front of her cage, I assume that's OK? No draft from the window - it's a new house.

I was told/read long ago that seeds were bad (too much fat) for a bird, so when we bought her (raised from baby), once she was off the hand-feeding mixture, we started her on pellets. She's incredibly picky, finally settled on Exact Rainbow Chunky, and she won't eat the green ones. She also soaks them in her water like a raccoon - makes quite a mess. She gets fruit and nuts very occasionally as treats - someone recently told me that almonds are dangerous for them?

Before we had kids (13 yrs ago) when we had her stand in the kitchen we used to feed her spaghetti, veggies, occasional piece of chicken, scrambled eggs. I guess the protein isn't a good idea right now. What about pasta?

Thank you for all your help.

    Bookmark   November 26, 2010 at 9:54AM
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If I don't have to cover her cage, should I close the door earlier at night, and/or put a shade on the window (for the summer)?

    Bookmark   November 26, 2010 at 9:58AM
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Yes, an all seed diet of a poor mixture, and one that the bird selects only the Sunflower (their favorite) from, can lead to too much fat intake. But, given as treats or partial diet, it's no problem. Nuts....almonds, walnuts, filberts, etc. (in shell or out), are fine if they're human grade. You'll probably find she enjoys veges better than fruit, so you can try thawed, frozen mixed veges, or a mix of chopped fresh ones. Mine love the frozen mix that has lima beans(aka butter beans)in it.
Another good treat is the cooked mixture by Crazy Corn.

Most of my bird gets this diet (a few of them are fruit eaters) and my oldest Grey is 27 yrs old. None have ever needed a trip to the vet.

Pasta is great and my Greys love spaghetti. The occasional pizza won't hurt them either! : ) Like humans, they like variety.

Since our days are so short now, I doubt a light from the kitchen is having much of an effect on her and I wouldn't worry about the sun in the summer as long as she isn't in direct sun with no way to get out of it.
I don't know where the floor vent is located but it shouldn't be too close to her cage. Direct heat isn't good for them, the same for cold air from an AC.

    Bookmark   November 26, 2010 at 12:10PM
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Forgot to mention.........a turkey bone to chew on won't hurt! :)

    Bookmark   November 26, 2010 at 12:18PM
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Durn - just threw the turkey bones in the freezer for soup. I'll give her a little meat though (but don't I want to restrict the protein right now?).

We'll have to start giving her pasta again - since she's not in the kitchen I forget (old house she had her own bedroom, but once kids came along it was harder to have her stand in the kitchen, with the high chair). We give her partially cracked walnuts during the holidays, but almonds are her favorite.

If you heard her talk, you'd think I fed her some weird things ("yogurt?" "mac and cheese?") but that's my kids. Actually, we used to cook a tiny (dime-sized) pancake for her whenever we made pancakes, but haven't done that lately. She'd probably love French toast (without the syrup!) though.

I don't know what we've doing for dinner tonight (have a parade/street fair to go to), but I'll give her broccoli or whatever we're having. Gotta get back in the habit of feeding her table food again now that she's right off the kitchen.

Floor vent is close to the front of the cage, 2.5ft down or so but I have a deflector on it. The angle of the morning sun is such that she's not in direct sun - it rises just to the side (the window is more NE than due east) so it hits the washer/dryer wall, not the cage wall.

    Bookmark   November 27, 2010 at 3:51PM
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