EGG BINDING is a serious
disorder that most commonly affects a young hen when
laying her first egg, but can affect any hen at any time.
Some cases are so severe
that the only possible solution is surgical, and can
result in a complete hysterectomy. This would require the
assistance of a qualified Veterinarian and must be done
under a general anesthetic. But I'd like to discuss the
cases that would be considered mild to moderate, where
the brave and curious Fancier is interested in trying to
help out their hen.
The first thing I highly
recommend (although I realize not always practical), is
to obtain an x-ray of the bird's abdomen. This is a
valuable tool in confirming that you truly have an egg
bound problem. Swollen and distended abdomens can be
symptomatic of other more serious disorders. If the x-ray
shows a distinctly formed and calcified egg, then you
have a certain course of action. If the x-ray shows no
distinct egg formation, then you can be dealing with a
shell-less egg and that can get complicated. You may even
be dealing with an internal layer. However, if the hen's
internal structures are fuzzy and indistinct, you could
also be dealing with an abdomen that is filled with
fluid. In this case, you'd be dealing with a completely
A fluid-filled abdomen
could be a sign of peritonitis - egg related or
otherwise. Whether caused by egg material never passed or
not, a good course of action is to immediately put the
hen on a good broad-spectrum antibiotic, such as Baytril.
(Good SUPPORTIVE THERAPY should be included in any
treatment program - May issue.) If the condition does not
improve through the course of treatment, then a local
Veterinarian should be consulted for possible fluid
removal and to determine the next course of action.
If the x-ray confirms the
presence of a calcified egg (egg with a shell), and the
hen is not in any serious distress, then you can follow a
conservative and simple medical and supportive approach.
Begin by making sure the
hen has adequate protein, calcium, selenium, and vitamins
A and E, since dietary insufficiencies can be a cause of
egg binding. A preventative course of antibiotics is good
too, but make sure you add a good probiotic during and
Be sure the hen has plenty
of fresh water to drink (hand water if necessary), and
lubricate the cloaca (vent). Use a water based lubricant
such as K-Y Jelly. This should be applied at regular
intervals. Attempt to get some just inside the cloaca -
but be cautious not to cause a tear in delicate tissues.
If you can see the tip of the egg through the cloaca,
even better - lubricate it too. An additional step that can be taken is
to attach a heat-softened piece of small tubing to a 3 cc syringe
and inject warmed KY or warm soapy water (mixed with sterile water) via
the tube up past and around the egg.
A warm, moist environment
is helpful. If you have a duck, you can begin by offering
her a very warm bath. (Bantams fit nicely in the kitchen
sink - much to the dismay of my spouse.) If you can find
a small screen to lay over the top and put something
heavy on the edges to secure it, then you can walk away
and let the girl float about for awhile. If you have a
hen, then you'll have to support her so that the bottom
half of her body is submersed for about fifteen minutes.
As long as the bird seems fine otherwise, I would just
repeat this at regular intervals, and give Mother Nature
a chance to work.
If you can palpate the egg
to determine that it's close to delivery, and your bird
seems to be having a hard time, you can go beyond the
warm water baths and put her into an incubator. Set the
temperature between 85-90 degrees with high humidity or
place wet towels inside the incubator. Make sure the bird
has a fresh airflow. Most incubators have a good intake
and exhaust system for fresh air - but make sure the air
holes are open so that you don't suffocate your bird.
Don't leave her in there more than a few hours. And keep
an eye on her condition.
If she still hasn't
expelled the egg, and you don't think she's going to on
her own, then you can move to manual manipulation. This
only applies if she is still bright and not in shock.
Palpate the abdomen to find the location of the egg and
gently manipulate it in an effort to move it along.
GENTLE is the key word here. If manual manipulation fails
and you can see the tip of the egg, another option is
aspiration, implosion, and manual removal.
First, get someone to help
you hold the bird very securely while you work
(preferably not upside down). Then, using a syringe and a
large needle (18ga.), draw the contents of the egg into
the syringe. After aspiration of the contents, gently
collapse the egg all around. You want to do this gently
in order to keep the inner membrane of the egg in tact,
which will keep the eggshell fragments together.
Last, gently remove the
egg. (Copious amounts of lubrication would be good here.)
Go slow and try to keep the shell together (although
broken). If all fragments do not come out, they should
pass, along with remaining egg content, within the next
These are simple, at-home
remedies for a condition that can become very serious.
There are more methods available for the more difficult
cases, but too many to list here. If your hen isn't
helped by the methods I've listed, then either the egg
binding is serious, or you have a different problem
altogether. If it is a severe case of egg binding, it may
be serious enough for a Veterinarian. If a local Vet is
not available that is willing to help, you're desperate
to save the bird, and you are a brave soul, you may be
able to get a Vet from an Agricultural College to walk
you through a more complex procedure.
But for the simple cases of
egg binding for a hen's first egg, the above procedures
may be just enough to save many of the birds that are
lost each year at sexual maturity.
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