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Treating Egg Bound Hens - How to Recognize Causes, Symptoms and Prevent Egg Binding



Imagine one morning you notice one of your hens acting funny. She's sitting in the corner all fluffed up, her eyes are closed and she is lethargic. Her tail is down, she may be dragging her wings, and most likely she is straining or pumping her backside.

Upon closer examination you may notice that liquid is dripping from her vent and you may feel an egg-shaped lump. These are 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 on occasion. It's really important to identify and treat an egg bound hen asap because the condition can be life threatening and cause death in just a short period of time. 

You've got about 48 hours for her to pass the egg or she won't make it. So don't waste any time - and if you even suspect that she's egg bound, start treatment as described below. If it turns out she wasn't, no harm done. And you'll have a really clean chicken!

What is an Egg Bound Hen? 


An egg bound hen literally has an egg stuck in her oviduct. It is most common in young or obese chickens or chickens forced to lay year round using artificial light in their housing.

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. If she isn't able to lay the egg within 48 hours, it could kill her.

What Causes an Egg Bound Hen?


Too much protein in a hen's diet can cause egg binding.  Other potential causes are stress, internal worms, low quality feed, dehydration or weakness from a recent illness.

Or it could be due to a large or double yolked egg that is too large to pass through, genetics or a calcium deficiency. Adequate calcium in the diet is necessary for strong eggshells, but also is needed for proper muscle contraction to help the hen expel the egg.
Causes

Very young, premature layer
Poor overall diet Calcium deficiency Excess protein Obesity Overly large egg gets stuck Oviduct infection Internal parasites Genetics

So what are the symptoms of an egg bound hen?

Symptoms

  • Loss of appetite/decreased thirst
  • Lethargy
  • Droopy wings
  • Waddling
  • Straining or pumping the rear end
  • Frequently sitting on the ground
  • Wet feces, or lack of defecation
  • Pale comb and wattles

How Do I Treat an Egg Bound Hen?


As soon as you have identified an egg bound hen, you must treat her 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.

You want to handle your egg bound hen carefully to avoid breaking the egg inside her, which can lead to infection and possible death.

(Peritonitis, an infection caused by egg material stuck inside the hen must be treated immediately with an antibiotic, such as Baytril, and probiotic powder to build up her good bacteria, so you want to avoid that at all costs.)

But even if the egg hasn't broken, you will want to treat her as soon as possible.

What you Need for Treatment

Treatment

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.  Then 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 (or read supplement label instructions).  Then give her some time to herself. Repeat the soak in the tub every hour or so until she lays her egg. 

If you can see the egg, you can try to 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.



 



What if Home Treatment Doesn't Work?


As a last resort if the above treatment doesn't work within a few hours, a visit to a vet is recommended.

How Do I Prevent an Egg Bound Hen?


Prevention


Thanks to Orange Chicken for her role as the egg bound hen. She did a wonderful job pretending to be ailing.
p.s. I think she actually enjoyed all the attention and the impromptu bath!

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