Help! My Chicken Is Egg Bound

Updated April 3rd, 2020

‘At A Glance (Details Below)’ Emergency Care

How To Treat An Egg Bound Chicken

  1. Your chicken is almost certainly not egg-bound- true egg binding is rare
  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 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

Cocoa the HyLine or ISA Brown Chicken

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!

Related: Heritage chicken breeds available in Adelaide | Caring for chickens

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

Andrew

6 Replies to “Help! My Chicken Is Egg Bound”

  1. I have an Australorp about 2kg I’ve had her since March brought her secondhand with a friend I call red but she’s a mixed breed I’m not quite sure of what they were happy and healthy and have been laying eggs up in till I got some Isa browns these were day old chicks which I hand raised and then put out into the henhouse, red wouldn’t let them go to bed so I started putting them in the coop myself black (my australorp) is very shy and very skittish, the browns started laying which there were a few soft eggs around as they are new to it and red was being a bully! I’ve since fixed the problem and everyone seems to be getting along just fine have put some extra calcium out which no one seems to eat, so I do give them a treat a small takeaway container full which is usually a mix of fermented chook food or pasta or rice mixed in with some scrambled eggs , corn and yoghurt not all at once and in small amounts as a treat. I put 2 tablespoons of shell grit mixing with the treat, they are free range in the backyard and I’m not locked up and have a good quality layer pellets and scratch mix. All have been laying Nice hard eggs even reds eggs are harder but black not one ☹️I thought she may have been egg bound and did the absent salt bath. But it’s didn’t really do anything and I didn’t like any of the other things on offer online. She is still laying Softshell eggs I find them cracked in the oddest of places. Like she’s on her way to the chook house to lay and it just pops up on the way ‍♀️ I thought all I this attention could be causing it so I have left all alone and just continue with the treats and Extra calcium. Buy now she is always fluffed up in the corner walking around slow and sluggish doesn’t run when I go to pick her up and normally she’s the 1st to hide and isn’t hanging out with the other girls still eating and drinking but very small amounts could she have the same as above ☝ And if so what do I do as I’ve lost my job and am sort on money at the moment. I’m located in Parafield Gardens but will travel to help her.

    1. Hi Cara. It sounds like she’s quite unwell, but the cause isn’t clear from the description. Possible reasons might be not using balanced layer pellets, diseases like mycoplasma, or egg peritonitis. It’s best she gets a check up with the vet.

  2. 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?

    1. 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.

      1. 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.

  3. 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!!

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