are bird eggs hard when laid

How do birds lay eggs? Most people don’t know it, but all female birds can lay eggs, regardless of whether they have mated with a male.

Think about chickens—they lay all the eggs we buy in supermarkets for us to eat without ever even seeing a rooster. The same is true for a pet bird laying eggs. The difference is that for most parrot species, males and females cannot be distinguished just by looking at them, because parrots do not have external sex organs and males and females only look different in a handful of species.

A few individual birds have demonstrated over time that they cannot successfully reproduce, and that letting them lay eggs could be harmful. Let me explain. A specific quantity of calcium must be deposited during the egg-laying process in order for the eggshell to be sufficiently hard to allow the egg to pass easily through the reproductive tract and be successfully laid. In the event that there is a flaw in this process and the egg does not receive enough calcium, the eggshell will stay soft and the egg may become lodged in the bird’s reproductive tract. This is known as being “egg-bound,” and in order to prevent infection, surgery may occasionally be required to remove these eggs. For birds that experience this issue on a regular basis, we have been using a hormonal implant that physically stops the birds from laying eggs.

Occasionally, birds excel at creating nests and depositing viable eggs, but they struggle to raise those eggs. Sometimes it is vitally necessary for us to reproduce the species, and we don’t want to take the chance that they won’t successfully incubate the eggs, especially if they are new parents. In these circumstances, we might decide to personally incubate the eggs. When we decide to incubate eggs artificially, we take the real eggs from the parents and put fake, or “dummy,” eggs in their place. To make their dummy eggs more durable, The Bird Team usually hollows out infertile eggs and fills them with plaster. Rather than starting the process of laying eggs anew, the parents will “incubate” these dummy eggs and be prepared to raise the chicks.

Hi everyone, Lauren Wilson here to provide you with more information about the ins and outs of Zoo Atlanta’s Bird Department’s breeding season. We covered all things related to nests in my previous blog post, including types of nests, materials for nests, and the efforts made by the Bird Team to guarantee that each species of bird has all it needs to construct suitable nests. We’re going to talk about the purpose of creating nests now—laying eggs!

When an animal lays an egg, it contains all the necessary components for the developing embryo to survive from the moment of laying until it hatches. This is why eggs are so amazing. Additionally, while many different kinds of animals lay eggs, birds are special in that their eggs have hard shells. They can support the developing embryo through more difficult circumstances, such as dry environments or rolling out of a nest, and are stronger than soft-shelled eggs. In addition, the shapes, sizes, and colors of bird eggs vary according to the species that lays them, the type of nests they construct, and the camouflage that serves to shield them from predators. Without delving too far into the biology of eggs, how do we manage them here at Zoo Atlanta? The short answer is—you guessed it—very carefully, but I’ll give you the long version because, like nests, managing eggs requires a lot of thought and preparation.

Selecting which birds in the Bird Department should breed and which ones shouldn’t is the first step in managing eggs. Long before the breeding season officially starts, I collaborate with the Lead Keeper and Senior Curator of Birds on the Bird Management Team to determine which species and which pairs of each species should breed each season. These choices are based on the recommendations of the Species Survival Plan® (SSP), interest in the species from other aquariums and zoos, the amount of habitat space that is available, and the individual birds’ past.

How Do Birds Lay Eggs?

Female birds ovulate (small swellings that burst) on a regular basis from their ovaries, just like women do. They do this independently of males. Female birds do not menstruate, although ovulation causes women to do so. As an alternative, their ova, also known as ovulated follicles, pass through their bodies and emerge as the well-known hard-shelled eggs.

Although wild female birds ovulate year-round, they typically increase their reproductive activity in response to environmental cues, such as longer days and warmer temperatures in the spring, in order to get ready to lay eggs and raise young. Because they are typically not exposed to these variations in light and temperature, pet birds living in our homes may ovulate and lay eggs year-round.

How Does an Egg Develop?

As embryos, birds have two ovaries. With the exception of certain raptor species and Australia’s brown kiwi, most birds regress their right ovary as they mature, leaving only their left ovary to develop.

The developing follicle on the surface of the ovary ruptures to release the egg, or ovum, which then enters the funnel-shaped end of the oviduct, which resembles a woman’s fallopian tube. This tiny bundle of cells travels down the oviduct with a coating of yolk around it, which, should the egg be fertilized, serves as the “food” source for the growing embryo. After that, the membranes inside the egg, the shell, and another layer of albumen, or “white,” are applied to the ovum inside the yolk.

The hard shell, which is the last to be added while the egg is still in the uterus and right before it exits the bird’s body through the cloaca, contains calcium and other minerals. This common chamber of the cloaca is where the reproductive tract, urogenital (reproductive and urinary) tract, and gastrointestinal tract empty.

Through the vent opening, birds transfer their eggs from inside their cloacas to the exterior of their bodies. This is also the exit point for both urine and stool (the white, solid, chalky part of the urine and the clear liquid urine).

For the egg to properly deflate and not become stuck, its pointed end needs to be facing the vent. In the event that it is not, or if the egg is large, birds may experience difficulties laying, become “egg-bound,” and need veterinary assistance in order to lay the egg.

The majority of parrots require up to two days for the egg to exit the ovary, travel through the oviduct, and exit the vent. Therefore, female parrots can typically lay an egg every other day!

FAQ

Do bird eggs come out hard?

And, although many different types of animals lay eggs, birds are unique in that they lay hard-shelled eggs. They are stronger than soft-shelled eggs and can support the developing embryo through harsher conditions like arid environments or rolling out of a nest.

When a chicken lays an egg is it soft or hard?

The Normal Egg-Laying Process Hens typically start laying eggs at around 5-6 months of age, and their reproductive system is designed to produce a strong, hard shell around the egg. However, when soft-shelled eggs appear, it indicates an underlying issue that needs attention.

Why are bird egg shells hard?

The hard outer shell of a bird egg makes it possible for the parents to sit on the egg to keep it warm. It also means that the baby bird needs a way to crack the shell from the inside in order to hatch. They use their beak and an “egg tooth” that they loose once they hatch.

Can bird eggs be soft?

Laying soft-shelled eggs means the female bird is either deficient in calcium and cannot lay a hard shell, or the egg is moving too quickly through the uterus as seen with uterine infection and sometimes internal infections.