Updated June 6, 2021
‘At A Glance (Details Below)’ Emergency Care
How To Treat An Egg Bound Chicken
- Your chicken is almost certainly not egg-bound- true egg binding is rare
- When a chicken is egg bound, it is mostly due to poor nutrition such as attempting to feed chickens entirely on table scraps
- Most cases suspected of egg binding are really egg peritonitis or internal lay
Now dive deeper.
What Is Egg Binding?
Egg binding is when an egg gets stuck and a chicken can’t pass it easily. Signs are of repeated efforts to lay, or prolapse of part of the uterus through the vent. It can be nasty and is most often associated with low calcium diets.
What if I said egg binding in chickens almost 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.
Yolk Peritonitis vs Egg Binding
The REAL disease is egg peritonitis, also called internal lay, when one or many egg yolks are lost into the abdomen. Normally egg yolks are passed from the ovary to the oviduct. However, in egg peritonitis the yolk is either ruptured (we all know how fragile they are) or misses its target. Then it gets infected with E. coli bacteria.
Why 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.
HyLine or ISA Browns are the commonest point-of-lay pullets sold in Adelaide (one is shown below). 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 HyLine or ISA Browns die of egg peritonitis between two and three years of age.
Treatment Of Egg Peritonitis
Egg 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, and although success isn’t guaranteed, it’s also true here. However, the longer they go on laying internally, the harder it gets.
Just such a chicken is Cocoa. When she first presented to us with egg peritonitis, we helped her owner nurse her back to health. It took a long course of antibiotics to treat the infection. We also inserted a Suprelorin implant to stop her laying more internal yolks.
There’s a tremendous irony in spending good money to stop a chicken laying eggs. It just goes to show how valued they become as individuals, not just egg producers.
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. Check out their ‘advantages’:
- They aren’t as cheap
- They’re harder to find
- They only give 3 or 4 eggs a week even when in lay
- They go into regular non-laying moults
- They get broody easily.
However, these really aren’t major problems. Heritage breeds are very fine looking birds that look great in any garden. With care they should become family favourites for years to come and you’ll almost certainly still get too many eggs!
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By Andrew Spanner BVSc(Hons) MVetStud, a vet in Adelaide, Australia. These help topics are from a series regularly posted on email and Twitter. Subscribe via email here to never miss a story! The information provided here is not intended to be used as a substitute for going to the vet. If your pet is unwell, please seek veterinary attention.