Help! My Chicken Is Egg Bound

At A Glance (Details Below)

Emergency Care

How To Treat An Egg Bound Chicken

  1. Beware- true egg binding is extremely rare in domestic chickens
  2. When a chicken is egg bound, it is mostly due to poor nutrition such as attempting to feed chickens entirely on table scraps
  3. Most cases of suspected egg binding turn out to be egg peritonitis or internal lay

 

Now dive deeper.

How do I treat my egg bound chicken? This is a common question we get asked about backyard poultry.

What Is Egg Binding?

What if I said egg binding in chickens doesn’t happen? What if most of the internet advice and guide books on how to treat your egg bound chicken are not only wrong and a waste of time, but actually harmful to a sick chook with a completely different problem?

If you have chickens and want to know how to get them to live a long life, or want help choosing chicken breeds, then this is the blog for you. Because the disease that people wrongly think is egg binding is the number one killer of chickens.

OK, there are some chickens that actually do get egg bound. It’s when an egg gets stuck, typically associated with low calcium diets. However it’s so rare in chickens that in over 20 years I’ve only seen it once. Visit this page to learn more about the diseases of chickens.

Yolk Peritonitis vs Egg Binding

The REAL disease is egg peritonitis, also called internal lay. This is a nasty, fatal inflammatory reaction which happens when an egg yolk is released in the abdomen. Normally egg yolks are passed from the ovary to the oviduct. However, in this case the yolk is either ruptured (we all know how fragile they are) or misses its target.

Australorp and ISA brown chickenWhy does it happen? No one can say for sure, but it may be when birds are spooked, or handled roughly, or laying one egg at the same time as ovulating another. What is important is that it happens mainly to the high-producing breeds.

ISA Browns are the commonest point-of-lay pullets sold in Adelaide (one is shown here with an Australorp). They are beautiful animals with unique personalities and become loved like any pets. However, despite the fact that a chicken can live 8 or 9 years (the record is 16!) most ISA Browns seem to die between two and three years of age.

Treatment Of Egg Peritonitis

Cocoa the ISA Brown ChickenEgg peritonitis looks like any sick chook: quiet, fluffed up, not laying. Any chicken like this should see a vet quickly. Many chicken diseases can be treated successfully but it requires their owners to think of them as pets, not just egg producers.

Just such a chicken is Cocoa. When she first presented to us with egg peritonitis, we helped her owner nurse her back to health. Then we inserted an implant which stops her laying future eggs. Luckily her owner doesn’t care if she never produces another egg.

Prevention Of Egg Peritonitis

How can you prevent egg peritonitis and give your chickens a chance to live a long life? Easy. Choose a heritage breed and the odds go way down. These chickens don’t cost $20, they only give 3 or 4 eggs a week even when laying, go into regular non-laying moults, and get broody easily. However, with care they should become family favourites for years to come and you’ll almost certainly still get too many eggs. australorp hen chickenHere’s Australia’s own Australorp; visit our Chickens page to see some more great breeds and read more about broodiness, moults and egg laying.

Then read our Feeding guide and Chicken treament guide. And trust us to help when things go wrong.

Have something to add? Comments are welcome and will appear within 24 hours of lodging.

By Andrew Spanner BVSc(Hons) MVetStud, a vet in Adelaide, Australia. These help topics are from a series regularly posted on Facebook and Twitter. The information provided here is not intended to be used as a substitute for going to the vet. If your pet has has a problem, please seek veterinary attention.
Have something to add? Comments are welcome below and will appear within 24 hours of lodging.

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4 replies
  1. Ruth says:

    Hi,
    I got new Japanese bantams about 6 weeks ago. They were six months when I got them and started laying almost immediately. One was euthanised yesterday and another this morning after just a few hours of looking off and then in the morning they were limp and not eating/drinking. The first we believe was EYP but am waiting on results for the second. I am concerned that it was preventable if two died so close to each other, or it was not EYP at all. It has been super hot so I let them free range during the day to sit under bushes. I am not home all day to know if something scared them. I thought they had a balanced diet. And they laid the day or two before dying. Is it possible it is something else or could that be EYP?

    Reply
    • Andrew says:

      Hi Ruth
      Sorry about your loss. EYP is very unlikely at this age in this breed, especially with multiple deaths. It’s normally a
      sporadic cause of death of commercial-type hens from 1-2 years of age onwards. A post mortem examination is the best way to protect the remaining flock.

      Reply
      • Ruth says:

        Thanks for your prompt reply Andrew. The post mortem did not go ahead for various reasons. I’m watching my older girls closely for any signs of illness and hope it was something related in the young girls.

        Reply
  2. natasha says:

    Great article – thank you so much.

    We have had three ISA Brown hens, all that have had egg peritionitis. Over $2,000 in vet bills, and our last one died in post op yesterday. I wish I had known they were prone to this disease, its devastating they are our pets.

    I need to add a chicken to our last remaining ISA brown so she is not alone and this is great info on what breeds are not prone to this disease. Thankyou kindly!!

    Reply

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