Dove Eggs

Basic Info Egg Defects Problems Abnormalities Candling
Incubation Hatching Eggless couples Breeder Feed  


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Basic Dove Egg Info:


Dove eggs are larger than those of the average bird.  They are a glossy white about 2/3 the size of a golf ball.  Sometimes it is difficult to determine which is the small end of the egg and which is the large end. There are usually 2 in each clutch. Some may have only 1. The second egg is laid anywhere from 27 to 40 hours apart. I have seen and read both. It depends on the dove.

Rumor is that each clutch has one male and one female but I have no data to support that rumor and it is likely more fiction than fact. 


The egg should lay undisturbed for 12 hours before beginning incubation. Although the reason was not given, I suspect that it allows the egg shell time to harden and complete calcification. As long as an egg is not allowed to freeze or become too warm 72+, the eggs can be kept for days and weeks before starting incubation. Although some doves will start sitting after the first egg is laid, older doves wait until the second egg is laid to start sitting so they will hatch at the same time. Don't get excited if the dove is not sitting on the egg or is standing over the egg not getting it warm. They will sit on it when they are ready.


The incubation will take about 15 days for the eggs to fully hatch.

Dove eggs do not have a waterproof membrane like chicken eggs so it is important not to get a dove egg wet. Anything you put on the egg will penetrate the shell and affect the baby inside. It is important to wash your hands with an antibacterial soap before handling a fertile egg. Despite what others may have said, do not write on or stick anything on a dove egg. Do not run it under water. Do not allow the egg to become chilled once incubation has begun. If a dove is sitting on the egg, take care not to disturb them where they might break the fragile egg. The slightest thing will damage the shell.


Egg defects:


Fragility - Dove eggs are extremely fragile and will chip or crack very easily.  Once the egg is chipped or cracked, the egg will fail. At least I have tried to rescue such eggs without any luck. The developing vessels stop when reaching the defect and will die.


Coloring - Sometimes the shell of a dove egg has wide, pale rings which is either caused by a lack of vitamins or minerals such as calcium or a defect in the reproductive structures. I will update this information as soon as I have a definitive answer. Either way, the egg is not harmed and will function as it would normally.


Shell Hardness - If an egg is laid with a soft rubbery and transparent shell, it will soon dehydrate and collapse. This problem is usually caused by lack of calcium or aborting the egg before it has completed its cycle. Be sure that the female has ample access to hi-calcium grit and additional vitamins if necessary. Do not overdose dove on too much vitamins which would cause worse problems. Keeping the dove from stress will also help prevent spontaneous abortion of the egg.


Missing shell - If you see evidence of a dove bearing an egg without a shell, medical attention will be needed. If you see the dove straining to defecate egg white and egg yolk or if you see evidence of this on the bottom of the cage, either the dove had insufficient calcium levels in the blood which can be tested by an avian vet or part or all of the shell may still be inside the dove if it is not in the cage. Both yolk or shell can cause serious infections, complications and death if not attended to immediately. She will need to be examined for any shell that may remain inside her and have the particles removed. She will also need to be thoroughly irrigated inside her vent to rinse out any remaining yolk or white. It will take the skill of an avian vet to prevent her from going into shock while performing these procedures. Additionally, she will need an  injection of an antibiotic to prevent infection and possibly follow up medication. It is important that she received medical attention quickly. Waiting one day is too long. The sooner the better.


Egg Laying Problems:


Egg Binding - Is a life threatening situation that needs immediate medical attention. When a dove has been straining for more than an hour, she may be egg bound. Try raising the humidity and temperature for her.  KY Jelly may help as well. Make sure she has access to fresh hi-calcium grit on a constant basis. If it is more than 6 months old, get rid of it and buy new grit. 

Unless you know what you are doing, do not try to express the egg. If you break the egg inside, she could die from complications and infection. Do not wait more than 8 hours to get her to an avian vet. Sooner if she has been straining or is bleeding. 


Egg breaking - If the eggs are being broken because the female is laying them from the perch and allowing them to drop to the bottom of the cage, try removing the perch when she is getting close to laying her eggs. The vent will be slightly bulged when she is ready to lay. You should be able to feel the shape of the egg but do not press on the area or the egg might break.  If needed, you can place the food dishes down low and remove anything she can stand on above the bottom of the cage. Or you can put her in a small cage for a few hours until she lays.


If the male is disturbing her from the nest, you can try to separate them for a few hours, but be sure that she is ready to lay or you may be preventing the egg from being fertilized.


If the eggs are being broken in the nest, it is probably missing the soft layer. Try lining the nest with straw, cotton balls, or other soft nest material. Be sure that the nest is recessed so that the eggs do not roll out. Remove any excess sticks or materials that may damage the eggs.


Also, be sure not to disturb the female too much when she is bearing an egg. You may damage the egg or cause a spontaneous abortion of the egg. Be certain she has access to fresh hi-calcium grit.


If the doves are breaking the eggs by being too rough, you can obtain plastic eggs (quail eggs will do) from a local hobby store such as Hobby Lobby, Michaels or perhaps a Walmart. The doves don't mind if the eggs are speckled or plain and sometimes will accept a smaller egg. If you have an incubator then exchange the real eggs for plastic and the doves will be just as happy. If the plastic egg falls out of the nest, just put it back in. The doves wont care. By having the doves continue to sit on the nest with the plastic eggs, you will be able to replace the plastic eggs with the hatching babies after incubation is complete and the doves will hopefully raise the hatchlings as they normally would.


Abnormal Laying patterns:


If the dove is not laying consistently, she is probably not getting enough calcium and vitamins. Supplements are available. She may also be ill or have an infection. A check up at the vet may be in order. They can do blood tests, throat and stool cultures. Many things can affect a dove and her production of eggs.




It is much easier to candle an egg than most would lead you to believe. You don't need a special device. You don't need to be an expert. When the egg has been incubated for 5 days, use a strong flashlight with good batteries, and shine the light from behind the egg. On the other side, you will see the veins appearing inside the egg shell. A small blob may be missed by the untrained eye, but if you see the veins, the egg is fertile. In a week, you will not be able to see through the egg because the baby will block the light.




Natural Incubation - The natural parents are the best way to incubate the eggs. The parents will turn the egg and maintain the correct temperature and humidity. However, not all parents are good parents. It is a good idea to have an incubator available just in case. Sometimes one or both parents will not properly sit on the egg. If the egg becomes chilled, it will die. If the humidity is incorrect it could die. If you have to use an incubator, try to substitute plastic eggs for the real eggs in the hope that the parents will accept and feed the babies when they hatch.


Sometimes, another dove might be willing to foster the egg. They might surprise you. I have had a male in a same sex couple rear plastic eggs. Usually the males are more willing to foster an egg that is not their own. Even more so when it has been a while since he has had a nest of his own.


Artificial Incubation - The best incubator I have found is made by Lyons. It has a clear dome, a temperature control and regulator, a humidification system and an automatic egg turner which is very important. The eggs must be turned no less than once every 4 hours. If the babies are not turned properly, they will become deformed. Toes may become adhered and circulation to parts of the body may become impaired. It is difficult to maintain the egg turning schedule manually when you are sleeping or working so an auto turner is very important. The temperature will need to be maintained at a constant 101 degrees Fahrenheit and the humidity at 51%. The auto turner will turn the eggs once each hour. The only thing you will need to do for the next two weeks is keep the water bottle full with distilled water and check the temperature and humidity. Although you can get cheap incubators for around $15, this incubator is what you need if you are serious about saving the babies. It costs around $350 with everything.


You will need to decide how you want to handle the eggs after they have hatched. The incubator is too warm if you have other eggs in it and the air circulation system is too drying on the baby's skin. And will you be feeding the baby or will the parents feed the baby?




If all goes well, the eggs will start to pip by day 14. Do not help the baby hatch the egg or you will tear the membrane and cause it to bleed to death. Once the baby pips an air hole in the eggshell, it takes about 24 additional  hours for the baby to draw all of the contents of the yolk sack into its abdomen and for the egg membrane to dry and seal the blood vessel endings. When the baby hatches and the membrane is bloodless and flaky dry, then it is ok to take away the shell pieces. The yolk sack should be gone from the shell and dried and detached where it once was attached to the baby and shell. The baby can survive 24 to 48 hours on the yolk sack contents it absorbed during the hatching process.


Human impatience is the #1 biggest killer of babies hatched in captivity.


Eggless Parents:


Eggless parents can easily be satisfied with plastic egg substitutes which can be purchased at a hobby store. For just a few pennies, the doves are delighted with their new plastic eggs. They will even accept speckled eggs or eggs that are smaller than normal. This will give them good practice at becoming reliable sitters and good foster parents for abandoned eggs or taking over in an emergency.


Breeder feeds:


Breeder feeds can be purchased inexpensively at a local farm feed store or ordered. Purina makes several mixes for doves and pigeons. In a pinch, hen laying mash can be substituted or mixed with wild dove seed.

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Newly laid egg
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Egg in newly built nest
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Puffed up to appear larger when threatened
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Sitting on eggs
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egg hatching
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Both parents excited about hatching eggs