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4 Egg Problems and Illnesses in Hens

A hen’s reproductive system is most impressive; however, hens can have egg issues. 

Problems such as egg bound, vent prolapse, egg peritonitis, and egg drop syndrome can be not only painful but if not treated, may be fatal.

Egg Bound

When a hen is Egg Bound the egg is trapped in the oviduct usually between the uterus and vent. 

Intervention is necessary most of the time, but occasionally the hen will finally push it out.

Spotting the Problem

 There are several signs of a hen being egg bound:

  • Observing an egg partway out of the vent
  • Shaky wings
  • Depressed and lethargic
  • Loss of appetite and drinking water
  • Straining in the abdomen
  • The Penguin shuffle-walk and squatting repeatedly
  • Moving her tail up and down in an attempt to get the egg out

 Treatment

 If the egg is visible, you can guarantee the hen is egg bound. 

 If you’re not sure, you can do a simple check with some KY jelly and a latex glove. Insert your finger gently two inches straight back from the vent. You should be able to feel the egg and if so treatment is needed.

Give your hen calcium, whether in powdered form or even a Tums crushed up. Calcium helps the egg to move and may fix the problem.

If that doesn’t seem to help after an hour, some suggest using Preparation H in the vent area to reduce swelling and then using K-Y Jelly to lubricate around and behind the egg.

A less invasive tactic is to draw an Epsom Salt bath with warm water for your hen. Use one cup of Epsom salt per gallon of water. Immerse her lower half in the warm water. The hen may squawk, but she will settle into that nice warm bath soon enough. Let her rest in it for 15 minutes and then towel dry. If she is still wet, blow dry on low.

Place the hen in a quiet area for an hour and see if the egg passes. 

Manual manipulation from the outside of the bird should be one of the last resorts. Gently massage the abdomen towards the vent to attempt to move the egg. 

Most of the time being egg bound is an infrequent problem, but you may want to check for illness, problems in her diet, dehydration, too sedentary or overweight or an infestation of any parasite or worm.

Vent Prolapse

A vent prolapse is when the internal reproductive tract is loose, and the uterus protrudes out of the vent. When a hen lays an egg, usually the oviduct tract does come out of the vent. However, after laying it goes back in. However, when the vent prolapses, it does not.

This condition is excruciating for the hen in both laying an egg and pooping and can eventually cause death.

Spotting the Problem

A prolapsed vent can be easily visible with red, raw tissue protruding out of the vent. Weekly checks of your flock help you to spot a prolapsed vent when it first starts, which is the best scenario.

Weekly checks of your flock help you to spot a prolapsed vent when it first starts, which is the best scenario.

Other signs can be:

  • Lack of appetite
  • Fluffing out feathers
  • Decreased egg production
  • Bloody eggs
  • Other chickens bullying her
  • Lethargy

Treatment

Separate the hen from the flock and soak her bottom in warm bath water with Iodine to clean out all abrasions and softens the tissue. Wearing a latex glove and using KY jelly or another water-based lubricant and gently push the tissue back into the vent.

Treat the external and internal tissue with antibiotics if any tear or abrasion has occurred. An anti-inflammatory is also needed, such as Preparation H, Hydrocortisone cream, Witch Hazel, or Vetericyn. Continue applying the anti-inflammatory two to three times per day. 

Place the hen in a dark place to suppress her egg-laying. Withhold her feed for twenty-four hours but add calcium or vitamins and electrolytes to the hen’s water to aid in the restoration of the uterus muscle. 

Light rations of greens and consistent supervision of the area are necessary for about a week. Return the hen to the flock once she is healed.

Unfortunately, once a hen has a prolapse, they are more prone to it. Weekly checks of your hen will help catch it early, but also you may want to make sure your hens aren’t overweight, have plenty of room to exercise, free choice calcium and aren’t being forced to lay during the winter months

Egg Peritonitis

Egg Peritonitis is both an infection and inflammation of the abdominal lining or peritoneum. It occurs when the ovum or yolk does not go its usual way through the oviduct but instead goes into the abdominal cavity or coelomic cavity. Once in the cavity, it causes an E. coli infection in the gastric lining which turns to peritonitis.

If caught soon enough, treatment from a veterinarian can help.

Spotting the Problem

Chickens rarely show that they are unwell due to the predator code of picking off the weak and sickly ones.

To assess if your hen has Egg Peritonitis, you may observe:

  • Pale comb/wattle
  • Not laying
  • Tail lowered
  • Off by herself
  • Discharge from eyes, nose, mouth
  • Falling over
  • Lack of preening/rumpled feather
  • Swollen abdomen
  • Unusual Stance

Treatment

A veterinarian will need to administer an antibiotic treatment and may drain their abdomen. However, the chances of a hen surviving with Egg Peritonitis is very meager.  

Egg Drop Syndrome

Egg Drop Syndrome is a viral infection in what seems like a perfectly healthy hen. The virus incubates for three to five days, and it takes four to ten weeks to run its course. Shell-less or thin-shelled eggs are the most telling signs of the disease, but usually, the affected hen will eat the eggs before a flock owner sees them. 

Spotting the Problem

Checking for membranes of eaten eggs in the nesting boxes can be an indicator of the disease.

Other signs are:

  • Drastic reduction in egg production
  • Diarrhea
  • Loss of shell color in eggs lain
  • Loss of egg yolk pigment in eggs lain

Treatment

There is no treatment for Egg Drop Syndrome; it just has to run its course. Once a hen goes through the molting process of the virus, her egg production returns to normal. 

Prevention is the best treatment, and wild ducks and geese are carriers of this disease. Keeping chickens away from wildfowl, their watering holes, and excrement is vital. 

It also can be transmitted from contaminated egg trays or equipment so sanitizing all these items helps stop the spread of the disease. Baby chicks may also be carriers, so it’s advisable to purchase all chicks from a reputable breeder. 

Hopefully, none of these things happen in your flock, but we want you to be prepared and keeping a watchful eye on your fine feathered beauties. 

Have you ever had an incident with one of these diseases?

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