Egg Bound Chicken: All You Need To Know

Egg Bound Chicken All You Need To Know Blog Cover

Egg binding is a serious problem and can lead to the death of the hen.

Many times though, with proper intervention and care, hens can go on to live a good, long life giving you lots of nutritious eggs!

An egg bound chicken has very unique symptoms which can easily be spotted if you know what to look for.

Today we are going in depth with this emergency and will give you some tips and treatments to help your hen with this crisis.

What Is Egg Binding/Egg Bound?

Egg bound sounds benign doesn’t it? It is actually a real emergency for your hen and without intervention from you she may develop complications and could ultimately die.

‘Egg bound’ means she has an egg stuck somewhere in her oviduct. The usual place is between the uterus and the cloaca. Sometimes you can even see it from the cloaca/vent.

Egg Bound Hen

When the egg is ready to pass, the cloaca seals shut the intestinal opening so that eggs don’t get covered in poop. If the hen cannot poop within twenty four to forty eight hours, she will likely die.

Other effects seen from egg binding are vent prolapse – where the vent hangs out of the rear end and, in severe untreated cases, egg yolk peritonitis which can quickly kill a hen from infection.

What Causes Egg Binding in Chickens?

There are a variety of things which cause egg binding. Some are manageable, others not so much.

  • Passing large or odd shaped eggs. The oviduct can only stretch so far and a large or misshapen egg can get stuck.
  • Malfunction in the reproductive system. Some hens are prone to problems and will lay odd or parchment eggs on a fairly regular basis – genetic issues.
  • Double yolk eggs. These are larger than the usual egg and can cause problems.
  • Malnutrition – poor diet low in necessary vitamins, minerals and protein.
  • Sedentary life or obesity – muscles become weak from lack of activity or being overweight.
  • Premature laying – hens that are forced to lay before they are fully developed often develop binding.
  • Elderly chickens – weak muscles and inactivity.
  • Egg retention – if insufficient nest boxes are available a hen will sometimes ‘hold’ her egg.
  • Underlying reproductive tract infection.
  • Severe infestation of internal parasites.

Deformed Egg

As you can already see, some of these are readily preventable by good nutrition and attention to the health and welfare of your hens.

Egg Bound Symptoms

How do you know when a hen is egg bound? Truly, sometimes you don’t. As we know, hens are secretive about any illness or problems. If she is able to pass the egg herself you may not even realize she had a problem.

Common symptoms to look for include:

  • Decreased appetite and drinking.
  • Lethargic, sitting around, fluffed up.
  • ‘looks sick’, depressed.
  • Shaky wings.
  • Walks like a penguin – she will periodically stop walking and try to squat.
  • Abdominal straining – the cloaca (vent) can be seen straining to expel something.
  • Tail pumping – her tail will pump up and down in an effort to expel the egg.

The first three groups of symptoms can probably be applied to any chicken that is sick with anything. They will usually sit off by themselves in a quiet spot. The feathers will be fluffed out and she may have her eyes closed like she’s taking a nap. These signs always bear watching.

Skin of EggMost definitely the tell-tale signs are the penguin walk and the tail pumping. Once you have seen these you will know there is a problem brewing.

However, please be aware that these indicators can also be seen in a constipated chicken!

Treatment: What Do You Do For an Egg Bound Chicken?

Firstly, is she egg bound?

Using a latex glove and some KY, very gently insert your finger into the vent. Push your finger straight back about two inches or so – you should be able to feel the egg. If you cannot feel an egg – she’s not egg bound.

Prepare a warm water bath with Epsom salts (1 cup ES/1 gallon of water). It needs to be deep enough for your hen to sit to a depth of about three to four inches.

Before you put her in the bath, give her some calcium.

Human Tums or a regular calcium pill will work great. Make sure you powder it or break it into very small pieces so the hen can swallow it. Calcium helps to improve the strength of the contractions and helps to expel the egg.

Gently put your hen into the water. She may struggle for a bit, but they usually settle down after a couple of minutes – I think it feels good for them!

She will need to sit in the bath for about fifteen to twenty minutes. When you take her out, towel her off so she gets dry – a hairdryer will do the trick nicely if she tolerates the noise.

Apply some KY, Vaseline or even a little veggie oil to the vent. Some folks will try massaging the abdomen to help with egg expulsion, others say not to. I do massage for about ten minutes or so – the key is to be very gentle.

Massage from front to back to try and stimulate the oviduct to contract. Remember she has an egg stuck and it’s possible to break it with rough handling – not something you really want to do.

After her ‘salon treatment’, put her in a darkened crate with some water and food to drink. If her vent area is swollen, apply some Preparation H, it will help to reduce the swelling.

You may need to repeat this treatment three or four times over the next several hours to try to move the egg along.

If, despite your best efforts she does not pass the egg, your treatment options are getting narrower.

The services of a veterinary should be sought if you can afford it, if not – the alternative is to remove the egg yourself. This is not without hazard to your hen. This course of action should be taken as a ‘last resort’. We do not advise you to do this unless you have no other choices.

If you can see the egg at the vent, gently make a hole in it large enough to be able to suck the contents out with a syringe (please, no needle!). Once you have the contents out, gently pull on the shell in an attempt to bring it out intact, but if it breaks apart make sure you have all the pieces.

If you cannot see the egg but can feel it, try to lubricate the vent and cloaca well and try manual manipulation. Sometimes the egg will move, sometimes it breaks.

If it breaks you will have to manually remove all the shell. Any shell pieces left inside will cut and abraid the interior of the oviduct leaving the hen wide open to infection.

If you have successfully removed the egg, put her in a crate for a few hours until you know she is eating and drinking just fine. Also check her vent area for prolapse or excessive redness – if it looks red and sore, keep her separate from the flock for a bit longer.

If the egg broke inside her you will possibly need to give her some antibiotics to prevent infection – this requires a veterinarian.

Until recently, here in the US, many animal antibiotics were available over the counter. This practice has finally been stopped, due in part to the rise of antibiotic resistant bugs. The antibiotic needs to be specific for the cause, so please don’t ‘self-medicate’ the hen without your vets’ say-so.

How to Prevent Egg Binding

As we saw in the causes list above, several of the reasons for egg binding are treatable. We are going to briefly look at the ones that are preventable.

Premature Laying

Your hen will naturally determine when she will start to lay. Do not put extra lights on for young pullets hoping to get them to lay earlier.

Diet

Commercial poultry feed is very specifically mixed. Unless you have the knowledge to make your own feed inclusive of all nutrients, then buy ready-made. Always ensure there is a separate calcium feeder so the hens can regulate how much calcium they take in.

Do not add calcium to feed, it needs to be separate since too much calcium for a non-layer can cause problems.

In times of stress, heat waves, long winters I give them soluble vitamins/electrolytes once a week in their water.

Nest Boxes

Ensure your ladies have enough nest boxes. One box for every three to four hens should be sufficient. If you have a dominant hen guarding the boxes, build or buy a couple of extra nest boxes and set them up in a dark, quiet spot and make sure the younger hens know about them.

Sedentary/obese hens

If your hens are obese, they need to be encouraged to get a little exercise. A rousing game of cabbage tetherball, chasing frozen (or fresh) blueberries thrown into the yard will get them moving! Try to give healthful tidbits, avoid the treats and human leftovers.

Older hens

Not much can be done about old age and generally older hens lay infrequently, if at all, but monitor their health carefully.

Infestation

Severe infestation with worms can cause many problems. If you suspect worm overload, take a sample to the vets’ office – it should be fairly inexpensive to test.

Treat for worms as needed and treat the whole flock. Hosing off the chicken yard and cleaning out the coop is a good idea also since they do peck at poop.

Summary

Egg binding is actually not a common occurrence, although more cases are being seen, perhaps due in part, to backyard hens living longer than their industrial sisters…

On a personal note, I do not add light to encourage them to lay believing that the hen will do so when she is good and ready. Winter is a time for rest and regeneration, so if they lay – great, if not – oh,well.

This is purely a personal choice, if you choose to add light during the winter, be aware of the possibility of problems such as egg binding occurring.

Here’s hoping you never have to deal with this problem, but if it arises now you know how to deal with it… Happy Chickeneering!

Let us know in the comments below how you manage egg binding…

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Comments

  1. K. Hall says

    Love the info from “the happychicken coop”.
    We are learning as much as we can before owning and raising chickens❤

  2. Frank Saroop says

    Wow, just reading this I had four layers hens dying within one week with the same problem. Wish I had known this earlier..

  3. Theresa Montsho says

    Invaluable information.have experienced this condition in layers didn’t know how to control it .Doing a great job due to poultry producers especial those who are keeping birds for egg production purposes
    Thanks

  4. Chrissie says

    Hi, I have a araucana hen until last week she laid pale blue eggs, she is pure not an EE. Now her eggs are white, any ideas. Thanks

  5. Sandi freeman says

    Thanks for the information after this happened to my hen I called a vet. and found out my hen’s needed to be wormed they have 2differant kinds of worms I have used DE since I got my hen’s thinking that was all I needed to do to keep them healthy but I was so wrong and cost me one of my best hen’s now with this information maybe I can help the next one if it happens again

  6. Kimberly says

    Thanks for sharing video, I pray I never have to do this. It says to put calcium separate from food so chickens can regulate how much to eat. We have oyster shells separate but our layer food has calcium in it. Is this OK? Also we have two nesting boxes but since we were given 5 more chickens, is 2 enough for 9 chickens. I currently have 3 laying.

    • The Happy Chicken Coop says

      Hi Kimberly,

      That sounds right to me, they wont eat the oyster shell if they don’t need it.

      If you only have 3 laying then two nesting boxes is enough. Roughly one nesting box per three laying hens…

      Claire

  7. Sue says

    Thanks for the great article! I had just dealt with my first ever egg bound hen last week and she passed it and is back to normal doing great! I am wondering on average how long it’ll take before she starts laying again?

    • The Happy Chicken Coop says

      Generally 2-3 weeks and she should start to lay again Sue 🙂 However, I would still check her daily to double check she doesn’t turn egg bound again!

      Claire

  8. Jessica says

    Our chicken was egg bound, we followed the advice, and she popped out a rubber egg (egg no shell). We thought this was the end of the pain etc, but she still died ? heartbroken as she was a pet. Any idea why she still died? Ex battery hen rescued 2 months ago. Good diet with us, free range, no prolapse etc.

    • The Happy Chicken Coop says

      I’m so sorry to hear about this Jessica.

      Unfortunately it’s impossible to say without doing a postmortem 🙁

      Claire

  9. Megan says

    Good info. I just had to deal with a chicken who had egg binding. I did pretty much what you laid out here. Warm bath – she wouldn’t take the calcium- with a glove I helped her expel the egg. Of course, a ton of waste came out with it…it had been about two days. Now that the egg is out…do you think she’ll be okay. Or will the fact she couldn’t poop for that long…cause a lasting effect that will ultimately kill her?

  10. Leigh Fairey says

    Wondering how long it might be since the egg was expelled for her to feel “normal” again. I’ve got her inside in a crate, separated from the other hens, but she hasn’t eaten or drank yet and seems uninterested.

  11. Andrea Jo says

    I thought my chicken was egg bound. Did 2 warm epsom salt baths and used mineral oil to lube her vent. I do not feel an egg though. She has a lot of creamy white-pale greenish discharge. Can she be egg bound if I don’t feel an egg?

    I’m thinking it’s time for a vet or… 🙁

    Thanks in advance

    • Kriss says

      My hen just had the same thing, creamy white discharge, bleeding ect. After an Epsom Salt soak I finally felt a lightly rough squishy something. After a few more min I realized it was an egg. It was soft and the shell was not developed. I work for a vet and the white substance reminded me of mucous. That’s what I think it was anyways due to the straining of trying to expel the soft egg (same as dogs, cats, and people when we strain to poop). I accidentally broke the egg near the opening of the vent and the contents came rushing out. I pulled the soft shell out and the hen perked right up! She was relieved but exhausted, I left her to rest. I will check on her in a bit. Hopefully she is ok. Hope your hen turned out ok.

  12. Allie says

    My hen just died and it turns out she was egg bound, there were lots of egg yolks inside her. She expelled a couple of eggs that were hard to get out but then she was acting total normal even up until last night she showed no signs of anything.

  13. Lori Nelson says

    I just wanted to give a HUGE thank you for this information and how easy it was to understand. I’m only a year into having chickens and I could tell my hen was stressed. With this great information I was able to help her get that egg out. I was so nervous with the whole situation but this article walked me through it.

  14. Sondy says

    I think my one year old hen might be egg bound. She doesn’t want to leave the nesting box. Is that a sign of binding?

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