Sunday, June 17, 2012

Egg Bound Hens - How to Recognize, Treat and Prevent


Imagine one of your hens is acting funny.  She is fluffed up, her eyes are closed and she is lethargic.  You notice her sitting on the ground and maybe dragging her wings.  Her tail is down and most likely she is straining or pumping her backside.  Upon closer examination you notice that liquid is dripping from her vent and you may feel an egg-shaped lump.  All signs of an egg bound hen.


Considering the process that a chicken goes through nearly every day to lay a perfect egg, it's no wonder that things go wrong sometimes.  Fortunately, being egg bound is not all that common, and there's a good chance you may never have a hen suffer from it, but it's still good to know the signs and how to treat it.

An egg bound hen literally has an egg stuck in her oviduct. It is most common in young chickens.  It could be due to a large or double yolked egg that is too large to pass through, genetics or a calcium deficiency. Calcium is needed for proper muscle contraction.  Too much protein in a hen's diet can also cause egg binding.  Other potential causes are stress, internal worms, low quality feed, dehydration or weakness from a recent illness.

You want to handle your egg bound chicken carefully to avoid breaking the egg inside her, which can lead to infection and possible death.  Peritonitis is caused by egg material stuck inside the hen and must be treated immediately with an antibiotic, such as Baytril, and probiotic powder to build up her good bacteria.

Even if the egg is not broken, the condition must be treated quickly.  An egg bound hen will die if she is not able to pass the egg within 48 hours, so once you have made your diagnosis, treatment should start immediately.

Here's how to treat an egg bound hen:  The easiest thing to do is to carefully bring the hen into the house and soak her in a plastic tub in your bathtub.



Submerge her lower body and vent in warm water with some Epsom salts for about 20 minutes, gently rubbing her abdomen.


Remove her gently from the bath and towel dry her, blotting her feathers carefully.  If it's winter or there's any draft, dry her off with a hair dryer set on low heat.


Then rub some vegetable oil around her vent and very gently massage her abdomen once more.  Put her in quiet, dark location in a large crate or cage.  A dog crate or bird cage with a towel or blanket draped over it, a towel that has been warmed in the dryer on the bottom, and set over a pan of hot water (or with a heating pad under the towel) with a heat lamp is perfect.  You want to create moist heat.


Give her an eyedropper of Nutri-Drench and 1cc of liquid calcium.  Then give her some time to herself.  Repeat the soak in the tub every hour or so until she lays her egg.


As a last resort, a visit to a vet is recommended or, if you can see the egg, you can carefully extract the contents of the egg using a syringe and then gently crush the shell, keeping the fragments attached to the membrane and remove it using vegetable oil squirted in and around the vent. This is risky and carries with it the danger of your hen contracting an infection, so should ONLY be used after all other remedies have been tried. 



VENT PROLAPSE:
A somewhat related but different issue is a prolapsed vent. Occasionally, a hen’s vent prolapses. This condition occurs when a portion of her oviduct ends up outside her body. It is serious and likely to happen on a recurring basis after it has occurred once. It is more common in chickens forced to lay through the winter instead of being able to adhere to a natural laying cycle, overweight hens, young hens or hens who lay extremely large eggs or soft-shelled eggs.  

Treatment should include withholding feed for at least 24 hours followed by several days of light rations of mainly greens and some milk, plus clean water to prevent another egg being laid. Carefully cleaning the prolapse and then pushing it back into place before applying witch hazel is the recommended treatment. Witch hazel is a natural anti-inflammatory which will help tighten the skin and vent, as well as reduce the pain and swelling. 

The treatment should be repeated daily until the prolapse has healed; the hen should be kept separate for the duration to prevent pecking by flock members. Vigilance is mandatory to be sure the vent stays in place.

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34 comments:

  1. Oh my I hope I never have to face this. Poor hens. Sounds traumatic for them. Great info though. Thanks.

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  2. I've bookmarked this in case I ever need to use it. Thanks.

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  3. I have bookmarked this post too. We lost a chicken last month, and my husband thought it might be egged bound. Is it true besides giving calcium you can give them molasses? Thank you

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    1. I have heard that molasses is good for flushing worms out, not for egg binding specifically, but the Nutri-Drench IS molasses based. I know that molasses has alot of nutrients in it, so it wouldn't hurt.

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    2. Thank you for for your reply- Anna

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  4. Thank you for this post it was extremely informative! I just started raising chickens this year, so I am always looking to learn new information!

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  5. Great to know. Saving this post... just in case!

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  6. Good info! Pinning it just in case. I've been looking for information on bedding to use for chicks but haven't found anything on your blog. Maybe I missed it? My 2 week old chicks seem to eat any bedding I put in their cage and I'm just worried they will get sick. What do you recommend for bedding?

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    1. I usually just put down a few layers of newspaper and then lay a piece of rubber shelf liner over that. It gives them a good surface to grip and they can't eat it. They can get sick or even die if they eat too much of the shavings so I would switch out to the shelf liner for awhile and see how you like it.

      I do have a blog called Baby Chick Care, if you put that in the search bar it should pop up :0)

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    2. Wish I had some on hand but alas I don't and the store is way to far away. I took the shavings away as they were eating them and gave them straw but they are eating bits of that too.

      I'll check out your blog. I think they are getting to the age where they really want something fresh but not sure if they can handle grasses yet.

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    3. You can try a regular bath towel over some newspaper. That will give them a good grip. If you have two old towels and just switch one out when it gets dirty, hose it off and lay it in the sun to dry and use the other, that works well.

      They certainly can have some grass. What I do is pull up whole clumps, dirt and all. That way they have access to the grit they nee to digest, as well as aren't apt to get cropbound because they will just nibble off short pieces. If you cut grass and give it to them, they will suck it up like spaghetti and it can get stuck in their crop. But at this age, chopped lettuce or spinach, weeds, especially dandelion, grass are all fine.

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    4. Dug up some grass for them. They are loving it. I will keep them in grasses and clover and maybe they will leave the straw alone. Really don't have anything else to give them for bedding and with 19 of them using my towels would just be a mess. It sure is a challenge when you live off the grid! Thanks Lisa! You are always very helpful! :)

      http://offthegridat-30.blogspot.ca/
      https://www.facebook.com/pages/Flat-Mountain-Acres/363975616973348

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  7. were do u get the meds that you will need to give the chicken

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    1. I bought both the liquid calcium and nutri-drench from amazon. Nutri-drench is great to keep on hand anyway, its a great vitamin boost for any ailing hen.

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  8. My goodness, this sounds terrible! Thank you for this great post. My very first girls are still a few months away from laying, but I am so thankful to have veteran Chicken Moms like you to turn to for information!

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    1. I have never had to treat an egg bound hen, but the one time I did think I had one (and glad I took photos so I had them to use for this post!) Lucy really didn't mind the bath or blow dry nearly as much as I thought she would. She turned out not to be eggbound but the bit of spa treatment certainly didn't hurt her.

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  10. Thanks for the info. I haven't had a egg bound hen and I've been raising chickens for over 6 years, but good to know what to do if that should happen to one of my girls. Thanks for the info! The chicken Lady of Waverly, VA

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  11. I have one chicken who occasionally acts out of sorts. I keep an eye on her and she always eventually lays an egg. Thanks for the advice in case I ever have to take action!

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  12. Great info. I've lost hens to being egg bound and it happens fast. I never knew what to do outside of giving them antibiotics. Thanks.

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  13. Good post - great information for those who are in the field of poultry farming. How lucky that eggbound hen-LOL! Thanks for the share!

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  14. oh my, i just found your blog and loving all the links too, TSC moving in close by this month, can't wait! Loving all the info as i am brand new in the chicken venture. Im loving my chickens, but not the best chicken meister in the world YET. Lost two out of five, possibly killing them with kindness? I should have read more before jumping in the fire. I'll be backkkkkkkkkkkk. (THE BEST IS YET TO COME) blessings from Central Mississippi

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  15. I had an egg-bound hen, and noticed something was "wrong" when she was sitting in the nesting box all the time for a couple of days. I thought she was being broody. But then she wouldn't eat, and started looking like she was really suffering. By the time I brought her to the vet, she was emaciated and died the next day. :( The vet told me to handle the chickens every day and feel their healthy breast muscles, and become familiar with their shapes. If a chicken is egg bound, she probably won't be eating, and will lose muscle weight. Thanks for this article, there's more good info here.

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  16. Is there any way of preventing this? Maybe by feeding them something regularly?

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    1. There isn't one specific way to prevent egg binding, but overall health, healthy eating, not too many treats etc all can help prevent it.

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  17. hello, wondering if you could help me figure out what is wrong with my chicken, she hasn't laid for 4 days now, not eating, but drinking, shutting eyes when laying down, droopy wings and lazines. i thought she was egg bound, but clearly not reading the info above, any ideas on what is wrong with her and treatment.. asap - Lauren

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    1. Sounds like she might be. A soak and some oil around her vent won't hurt and could help. I would try that anyway. Certainly sounds like something is wrong. Some vitamins & Electrolytes in her water might also help. So hard to diagnose over the internet, but I would treat for egg binding as a start. Lisa

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  18. Today we lost our second chicken to being egg bound this year. We are handling daily, feeding layer pellets and scratch grains, full fresh water daily. I don't want my wife or the rest of our girls to go through this again. One was an Easter egg and the other was a Red. Trying to figure out what we're doing wrong. Any ideas out there?

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    1. As long as you're not overdoing the treats and the are overall healthy, there's not alot you can do to prevent it. Sometimes its genetic even. But the key is recognizing the symptoms and treating quickly. My sympathy is with you - I know its heartbreaking to lose one.

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  19. I knew I could count of you and your site to provide solid and reliable information.

    I noticed, when I was tucking every one in last night, that one of my bantams didn't look right. I looked on here for egg-bound infromation, and sure enough, she had a few of the symptoms. We promptly brought her in the house, soaked in warm water, dried her off, then she had a rest in a nice dark chicken box, and we rested that box on top of a bucket of very, very, warm water to provide warm, moist, heat with.

    The next morning she had laid that egg and was as happy as could be!

    Thanks, Fresh Eggs Daily for being there when I needed you!

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    1. Thank you Sheila! That is one of the nicest endorsements we've ever gotten. Nice job with your girl!

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  20. Its really nice post. Eyelastin appreciate for your post. Thanks for shearing it with us. keep it up.

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