This is a common problem for many breeders of finches. Most experts state that the most common factors in egg-binding are:
|(1) lack of calcium ||(3) excessive egg laying ||(5) soft shell
|(2) poor husbandry ||(4) temperatures, e.g. chills ||(6) small bodied hen
In my experience I have found that they all play a part. However, the major cause of Egg binding in cage birds, my opinion, is malnutrition, specifically the lack of fats and the fat-soluble vitamins in the diet. Teaching your finches (Teacher Birds) to eat a diet rich in the fats and fat soluble vitamins will completely eliminate the problem.
Essential Fatty Acids
My experience suggests that two nutrients are crucial in preventing egg binding, Vitamin F and Vitamin A. Vitamin F is a group of essential fatty acids found in nutritional oils. These are linoleic acid, linolenic acid, and arachidonic acid. Linoleic acid is the most important of the three.
There are hormonal changes that occur when a hen begins a reproductive cycle. To facilitate the passage of an egg through the cloaca, hormones are produced that cause the muscles of the pelvic floor to relax. They also are responsible for the loosening of the cloaca muscles. The ligaments holding the pelvic bones also relax. All of these changes make it possible for an egg to pass through the pelvis and cloaca.
As important as the essential fatty acids are, the most important nutrient for maintaining the flexibility and moist character of the oviduct is Vitamin A. This vitamin keeps the mucous cells in perfect health, moist, and flexible in the oviduct. This allows the egg to slide freely out of the oviduct. When an adequate amount of Vitamin A is not available, the mucous cells dry out and harden. An oviduct that has lost its moist and slippery flexibility cannot pass the egg, and egg binding is the result. If the hardening of the mucous membranes occurs in the reproductive tract, the sperm are unable to travel to the egg after mating occurs, and the result may be a clutch of infertile eggs.
Signs of eggbinding vary.
Commonly, a hen will become depressed, stop eating and will sit all fluffed up. She may be straining occasionally. Droppings may be absent, because the egg is preventing them from passing out through the cloaca. The abdomen may appear swollen, especially around the vent area. In the final stages if the hen can not pass the egg she will go to the floor of the cage and stretch her head and wings as shown in photo. Immediate treatment is necessary to save the hen.
Excellent sources for the essential fatty acids are the oily seeds, rape, flax, hemp, niger and sunflower. Hard-boiled eggs, mealworms and insects are good sources of Vitamin A.
Calcium- Most Common Theory
The most common theory is that egg binding is the result of lack of calcium in the diet. Most bird fanciers offer a variety of calcium sources to their birds (eggshell, cuttlebone, oyster shell) and yet hens still die from egg binding.
Calcium is used not only to form the shell of the developing egg and maintain strong bones, but is also crucial in the proper functioning of the muscles. The hen needs calcium for the muscle action needed to expel the egg.
Vitamin D3 is crucial in the absorption of calcium. Without it, all the calcium we offer our birds passes right through their bodies without being adsorbed. In outdoor aviaries, our birds are able to produce D3 via a chemical reaction in sunlight. In indoor aviaries, they are unable to do this. Sunlight through a window is not sufficient. The ultraviolet light needed does not pass through window glass. See Robert Blacks article on Lighting. Full spectrum lights can help, however for inside birds, a D3 supplement is almost always necessary.
Some of the greens we feed our birds can also interfere with calcium absorption. Oxalic acid found in spinach, beet greens and chard reacts with the calcium so that it can not be absorbed. It is important to feed them in small amounts and provide extra calcium when doing so.
Prevention is better than cure
I also offer Calcium Plus one time per week year round and three times per week during breeding season. Calcium Plus provides not only the calcium, but also the D3 needed to absorb the calcium. There have been some studies that indicate that if you give an ionized calcium every day, the blood becomes so saturated with calcium that the bones do not easily give up the calcium when laying commences.
Treatment for Eggbinding
Finches succumb quickly to egg binding and urgent action is necessary. When handling an egg bound hen, extreme care should be taken to avoid rupturing the egg passage which can lead to egg peritonitis. The bird must be immediately given warmth. She should be placed in a hospital cage with a constant temperature of 79-85 degrees Fahrenheit until egg has been passed. If a hospital cage is not available, a 100 watt light may be placed inside a cage and the cage wrapped with plastic or cloth. During this period, the hen should be kept quiet and provided with an increase in humidity. This humidity can be created by placing a flat dish of water close to where the hen is being housed.
It will also help to increase the calcium intake of the hen. This may be done by placing several drops of calcium into the drinking water, or one drop to the beak. I found that Calcium Plus works great for this application. An immediate increase in calcium will do nothing to harden the shell of an already formed egg but will do wonders in improving the muscle action needed to expel the egg. Vitalize can also be administered to keep energy reserves up while the bird works at passing the egg.
To assist with the passage of the egg, gently massage with a vegetable oil, the area where you feel the egg. If not laid within one hour, catch the bird again and gently try to massage the egg out. You will have little to lose by drastic measures since the egg must come out or the bird will soon die. Egg-bound hens that recover should be given antibiotics for a few days. It is dangerous to attempt to breed this hen again until the nutritional deficiencies have been addressed.
Always keep in mind that egg binding is a symptom, not a disease. It is a symptom of extreme malnutrition. Breeders who feed only grains, greens, cuttlebone, eggshell and water will invariably find their birds do have egg binding problems.
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