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I need help with an ethical dilemma

First, a little background:

Of the three six-month old lovebirds, Oboe has his own cage, and Piccolo and Banjo share a cage. Banjo has been impossible to live with lately. She’s been aggressive to both me and Piccolo. She bites easily and she bites hard. I can’t even put food in the cage while she’s in it – I have to let her out first, or she’ll attack me. I’ve actually been wondering about her mental health and have considered the possibility that she’s suffering from heavy metal poisoning. That bird used to be crazy about me; now she’s just plain crazy. Piccolo’s scared of her too.

So I tried to move Piccolo in with Oboe a couple of weeks ago, but Oboe wouldn’t have him. That experiment lasted about five minutes, until I rescued Piccolo and returned him to Banjo, who took him back but made him live in the water dish.

Yesterday, I let them all out of their cages. I was starting to remove the paper towels from Piccolo and Banjo’s cage when I noticed something on the floor. There’s always stuff on the floor but this was different. I mentally ran through everything they’d had for breakfast – brussel sprouts, peas, peanuts, rice, granola, kale – and it wasn’t any of those. Slowly it dawned on me what I was looking at: a little white egg about the length of my thumbnail. Nearby I found a second egg.

A stack of papers left on my desk

This explains a lot about her territorial and hormonal behaviour of late. It also explains the feverish paper shredding she’s been engaging in (see photos). Female lovebirds shred paper for nests. But they’re not supposed to lay eggs unless they’re provided with an enclosed space, like a nest box, to build a nest in.

I quietly covered the two eggs with the paper towel and left the room feeling a bit queasy.

Banjo is only six months old; it’s not good for her to be laying eggs yet. She shouldn’t be breeding with her brother anyway, for genetic reasons. (I might have to name their children Dueling Banjos.)

And frankly, I’m just not ready for another miracle of life right now. I’m still hand-feeding Billie and Lester’s youngest five, and while they’re adorable and charming, I’m looking forward to them weaning themselves and going to new homes. I don’t need these new eggs turning into baby birds in three weeks. Also, I don’t even know if there’s a market for lovebirds; I haven’t advertised the babies yet. What if I can’t find any takers? It’ll be like the rats all over again.

My Tickler File System, shredded

A bird expert told me that what I should do is boil the eggs and put them back in the cage. Banjo will keep sitting on them until she gives up on them. If I just take them out and throw them away, she’ll keep laying more, and deplete her system of energy and calcium and so on.

I feel absolutely sick about the idea of boiling her eggs. I’m pro-choice all the way, but this is not about choice. Banjo would not choose this. This is like imposing abortion on her. I have good reasons for not wanting her to have these babies but I honestly don’t think I can bring myself to drop her eggs in boiling water.

What would you do?

19 comments to I need help with an ethical dilemma

  • I’d get another cage so she can’t lay any more fertile eggs. Without a nesting box will she actually sit on her eggs? Then I’d supplement her feed to make sure she had the nutrients she needed.

    Ugh, I feel for you. This isn’t a decision I’d want to have to make either!

  • They’re not exactly in their natural (tropical) habitat, nor have they been raised as if they were. You’re already intervening on their lives, and that requires making decisions for them. She’s just acting on instinct. This one might be a harder decision, but it’s still your responsibility to make it.

    – RG>

  • They’re not exactly in their natural (tropical) habitat, nor have they been raised as if they were. You’re already intervening on their lives, and that requires making decisions for them. She’s just acting on instinct. This one might be a harder decision, but it’s still your responsibility to make it.

    – RG>

  • Wow, this is a hard one. I’m upset myself thinking about what to do. I agree with Mudmama that you should move Banjo into her own cage to prevent this from happening again. As for the eggs that are already here…that’s tough. I would leave them in the cage and do nothing. Since it is not an ideal environment, perhaps they are not actually viable or won’t be nurtured by Banjo to actually hatch.

    If you can’t boil them (I couldn’t either), then I think you have to be prepared to take care of two more babies. Hopefully the eggs will never hatch, but you have to be prepared for the fact that they might.

  • I was wondering about the age of sexual maturity for love birds. Animals don’t understand incest, so the boys and girls all need to be separated.

    I would harden my heart and boil the eggs. (This from someone who is feeding the rabbits in her backyard, the same rabbits that destroy the garden.)

  • It’s not easy to do, but I think you should boil the eggs. Not only is it better for you (not having to take care of moore birds you might not be able to find homes for) but perhaps also the baby birds themselves, being the products of incest, they might have all sorts of health problems – I don’t know not being a bird expert. It will also be be better for Banjo, so she doesn’t get sick laying more eggs.
    If you can’t bring yourself to boil the eggs, could you maybe give banjo some replacement eggs? Being this close to easter, you might be able to find something similar at the dollar store… I don’t know if Banjo could tell the difference, but maybe you could give her some cadbury mini eggs (though hard to say if they’d melt) or somethign like that. How big are love bird eggs anyway?

  • Cara

    You don’t need to boil the egg. If you remove one of the eggs from her for about 24 hours and then give it back it isn’t viable. On the next day, take the other one(s) and do the same thing. She can then go through her egg laying/sitting session without hatching them. After the length of time normally required to hatch them, throw them out. This is what I’ve done for my cockatiels over the past 14 years and it’s worked fairly well.
    Also, I’ve learned to distract my birds when it looks like they are going to mate/lay eggs. This really cuts down on the amount of egg laying. We’ve gone for a couple of years without any.
    Egg laying too soon or too often can cause serious problems such as brittle bones because they loose so much calcium.

  • First off Incest does not usually mean damaged spawn at the first incident. Think of all the herd animals in the world with one dominant male populating a whole group. It is only with repeated inbreeding that the flaws in family genetics start showing up as they are reinforced generation after generation.
    Second since you have to make virtually every decision for these birds, food, space, living arrangements then you have to make the one about procreating too. If you don’t want more birds cook the eggs and stop fussing about it.
    I know it sounds harsh but it is a harsh world.
    And then enroll the birds in a just say no class so they will learn that the only proper way to go is celibacy until they have been properly married by a minister of God.
    It works perfectly for people too.

  • Are there bird birth control pills? Cara’s method sounds good to me, followed soon by separate cages. From a budgetary perspective, have you considered building a Lovebird Condo? Possibly Ikea Gorm or similar plus hardware cloth or fine chicken wire?

  • Greencolander

    I know I’m jaded due to my job, but I say boil them. If it wasn’t a planned mating and you already are having difficulties in finding homes for the other birds, then you will soon be facing a bigger problem (hoarding and/or euthanasia). I agree it’s unpleasant, but it’s nicer than the alternatives. <>

  • The reason they say boil the eggs is so they don’t go rotten. I would give them all separate cages and try to find new homes for them. Otherwise, as you say, it’s the rats all over again.

    I would not allow the eggs to hatch. If you don’t want to boil them, throw them away. If you want to get her something to sit on (even though she didn’t make a nest), consider some polished stones or something inedible and impervious.

    Separate cages! For all!

  • Don’t allow the eggs to hatch. Not sure exactly how to do that but I’m sure Mr. Google will have ideas in addition to Cara’s. A pet store or craft store may have similar-sized plastic eggs you can replace them with. Let her set on them, then take them away, and separate the birds.

    That’s the problem with some birds, they just keep having babies. And even if they don’t know it’s a bad idea, you do. Hard, but true.

  • redfraggle

    I would not let them hatch – because I think more babies will be overwhelming and you may start to resent the birds. Not good for anyone. Other suggestions about cages sound good too. Of course, I’m not saying its easy though – just practical and probably better long term.

  • redfraggle

    also, I eat eggs with no remorse at all.

  • Wow, I have no idea what you should do but I’m confident that you will do the right thing.

  • TechWood

    I’d boil them. I’d rather protect her from health issues and risk health deffects with the offspring. More birds now without homes may put the whole flock at risk.

  • grace

    What realgrouchy said.

  • grace

    “Even though Billie was absolutely and utterly devoted to her babies ever since she laid those eggs, she was rather spectacularly unconcerned about their sudden disappearance. We absconded with the whole nesting box while she was out flying around the house, and when she returned to the cage she seemed momentarily puzzled. Then she had breakfast and a drink and started playing with the new toy we put in the cage.”

    I had to go back to find this. I think Banjo will be fine if her eggs are absent. More wary of predators perhaps . . .

  • Thanks everyone. This was really, really helpful. I was able to put things in perspective and make a practical decision. I think I was just floundering a bit earlier because it’s disturbing to drop an egg in boiling water while you’re hand-feeding baby bids.

    Anyway. I’m going to do what Cara suggested. In fact, I removed one egg yesterday, and will swap it with the second egg today.

    I’m not sure there’s any point in separating the birds, though. She can continue to lay eggs with or without a mate.

    And Grace, thank you for the reminder…I needed that. 😉