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Egg Peritonitis in Chickens: Symptoms and Prevention

There’s nothing more stressful to deal with than egg peritonitis in chickens.

Don’t know what that is?

Egg peritonitis is a condition in which an egg becomes “stuck” inside a hen’s body, leading to inflammation and infection of the peritoneum (the lining of the abdominal cavity).

This condition is more common in older hens and those who are laying an excessive amount of eggs, as well as those who may be suffering from other underlying health issues.

While egg peritonitis can be treated with antibiotics and supportive care, it’s unfortunately not always successful and can lead to a hen’s untimely demise.

The best course of action when it comes to egg peritonitis will always be to prevent it from occurring in the first place.

But how exactly do you do that?

We’ll take a closer look at everything you need to know about egg peritonitis, from diagnostics to treatments, in this comprehensive post.

What is Egg Peritonitis?

Egg peritonitis is a condition that occurs commonly in hens and is often fatal.

It happens when an egg that has not been laid properly, or a broken egg, leaks its contents into the hen’s abdominal cavity, causing an infection.

The infection can spread quickly, causing inflammation of the tissues and even leading to fluid buildup in the abdomen.

Although it affects hens of all ages, it typically occurs in older birds since their egg-laying organs tend to weaken with age.

Hens with egg peritonitis will exhibit a wide variety of symptoms, including lethargy, depression, a decrease in appetite, and increased abdominal size.

There’s no one-size-fits-all approach here, so you must be attentive to rule it out as a potential issue.

Unfortunately, even if you can look at telltale signs and symptoms (more on this below!), the only way to truly and definitively diagnose egg peritonitis is through an examination by a veterinarian.

They will often perform a physical exam and take X-rays of the hen’s abdomen.

Treatment options for this condition are limited and, unfortunately, often unsuccessful.

Antibiotics and pain medications can provide temporary relief, but they won’t cure the infection on their own 100% of the time.

Because of this, prevention tends to be the best course of action.

Preventing this condition requires keeping a close eye on the flock’s health and egg-laying behaviors, including regularly checking their nests for any broken or abnormal eggs.

Adequate nutrition, a clean environment, and regular veterinary check-ups can also help reduce the risk of egg peritonitis and other health issues in your flock.


Understanding Hen Anatomy and Egg Peritonitis

Before we delve more into egg peritonitis, it’s essential to understand the anatomy of hens.

chickens anatomy

Egg peritonitis is a condition that affects the reproductive and immune systems of hens, leading to inflammation of the peritoneum, which is a thin tissue layer lining the belly cavity.

Hens, primarily those that lay eggs regularly, are susceptible to this condition since the egg-laying process involves breaking down ovarian follicles and releasing eggs that travel through the oviduct to the cloaca.

When the egg-yolk or egg-white material accumulates in the abdominal cavity instead of the eggshell or cloaca, it can cause peritonitis.

Some chicken breeds are renowned for their ability to lay large eggs.

Such breeds include the Orpington, Plymouth Rock, Sussex, Rhode Island Red, and Leghorn.

While these breeds are popular among backyard chicken keepers, they’re also at a higher risk of developing egg peritonitis.

This is because hens that lay large eggs have a higher egg-production rate, leading to more strain on their reproductive system.

As a result, they’re more prone to developing reproductive issues such as egg binding and egg peritonitis.

Hen Laying Eggs

What Are the Symptoms of Egg Peritonitis?

Now that we’ve established what egg peritonitis is and what causes it let’s talk about the symptoms you should be on the lookout for.

This condition can be quite serious, so it’s important to recognize the signs early on.

One of the most common symptoms of egg peritonitis is abdominal swelling.

This usually occurs on one side of the bird’s body and can be quite noticeable (and quite extreme).

You may also notice that your bird is walking differently or seems to be in pain when moving around.

Here are a few other issues to pay attention to.


Birds that have egg peritonitis can become lethargic and weak.

They may seem less active than usual and may have difficulty moving around.

If you notice your bird is not as active as usual, check her abdomen for signs of swelling.

The combination of lethargy and a swollen abdomen is generally a strong indication that your bird may have egg peritonitis rather than some other issue.

Decreased Egg Production

Another symptom of egg peritonitis is decreased egg production or not laying eggs at all.

If your bird has stopped laying eggs for no apparent reason, it could be a sign of egg peritonitis.

When the reproductive system is not functioning as it should, the bird will stop laying eggs as they aren’t being produced and passing through corrected.

If the condition is left untreated, it can lead to even further complications, and your bird may need veterinary treatment.

Changes in Droppings

Pay attention to your bird’s droppings when she is ill.

If you notice any changes in the consistency or color of your bird’s droppings, it could be a sign of egg peritonitis.

Infected yolk can cause inflammation of the oviduct, leading to changes in the droppings.

Difficulty Breathing

In severe cases, egg peritonitis can cause difficulty breathing.

A buildup of fluid and infected matter in the bird’s reproductive system can press on the lungs, making it harder for the bird to breathe.

If you notice a change in your bird’s breathing, seek veterinary attention immediately.

Is Egg Peritonitis the Same as Egg Bound?

Egg bound and egg peritonitis are two terms that are often used interchangeably, but they are not one and the same.

To put it simply, egg bound refers to a chicken who is unable to lay an egg due to various reasons such as stress, malnutrition, or even a physical obstruction in the oviduct.

Meanwhile, egg peritonitis is a more serious condition that occurs when the lining of the abdominal cavity in a hen becomes inflamed and infected due to a ruptured egg or a reproductive tract issue.

Both conditions can be incredibly uncomfortable and even painful for birds, but egg peritonitis can quickly become life-threatening if left untreated.

Egg binding can technically be life-threatening, too, but generally is more treatable.

The good news is that there are ways to prevent both egg bound and egg peritonitis, such as:

  • Ensuring your birds have a balanced diet
  • Maintaining appropriate living conditions
  • Seeking veterinary care if necessary

How is Egg Peritonitis Diagnosed?

If you suspect your hen has egg peritonitis, the first thing you should do is take her to a veterinarian.

They can perform a physical exam and run some tests to help diagnose the condition.

During the physical exam, the vet will likely feel the hen’s abdomen for any inflammation or abnormalities.

They may also check the hen’s vent to see if there is any discharge or evidence of infection.

If the vet suspects egg peritonitis, they may also perform some diagnostic tests.

This could include a blood test to look for signs of infection or inflammation, as well as imaging tests like X-rays or ultrasounds to look for abnormalities in the hen’s reproductive system.

In some cases, the vet may also take a sample of fluid from the hen’s abdomen for testing.

This can help confirm the diagnosis and determine the severity of the condition.

Overall, diagnosing this health problem requires a combination of physical examination, diagnostic tests, and careful evaluation of the hen’s symptoms.

If you suspect your hen has this condition, don’t hesitate to seek veterinary care as soon as possible.

chicken laying egg

Egg Peritonitis in Chickens: Prevention

As we mentioned earlier, preventing egg peritonitis is far easier than treating it.

Here are some of the best options:

1. Provide a Clean and Hygienic Environment

One of the important aspects of preventing egg peritonitis in chickens is providing a clean and hygienic environment for them to live in.

It’s an infection, so keeping things clean can help prevent this frustrating disease.

As a general rule of thumb, the coop should be spacious and well-ventilated, and clean bedding should be provided regularly.

Regular cleaning and disinfecting of nesting boxes, perches, feeders, and drinkers can also help reduce the risk of infection.

Remember to clean up any uneaten food or broken eggshells, which can attract pests and spread bacteria.

The most common bacteria that cause this disease are E.coli and salmonella (with E.coli bacteria being the toughest to treat).

2. Maintain a Balanced Diet

Diet plays a crucial role in keeping chickens healthy.

A balanced diet with the right blend of protein, vitamins, and minerals can strengthen their immune system and reduce their susceptibility to infections, including egg peritonitis.

Make sure your chickens receive high-quality feed, along with calcium supplements or crushed eggshells, to provide them with the essential nutrients they need for optimal health.

3. Manage Your Flock’s Egg Production

Chickens can be prolific egg layers, with some breeds laying eggs on a daily basis.

However, excessive egg-laying puts a lot of stress on their bodies, particularly their reproductive systems.

Overbearing stress can lead to a higher risk of egg peritonitis, so it’s best to limit your flock’s egg production by controlling environmental factors that you’re able to control, including light exposure, temperature, and feeding schedules.

4. Check For Egg Abnormalities

Chickens can lay odd-shaped and soft-shelled eggs, which are common breeding grounds for bacteria like E. coli and salmonella, leading to egg peritonitis.

Make sure you check all eggs for abnormalities like cracks, deformities, and soft-shelled eggs.

If your hen is laying irregular-sized eggs for an extended period (often enough that you notice it as being unusual), consult with your veterinarian.

5. Keep an Eye Out for Symptoms of Egg Peritonitis

Preventing egg peritonitis also includes vigilance of your birds and their behaviors.

Try to observe your chickens often to get an idea of what’s normal (and what’s not) for them.

Chickens affected with the condition can exhibit symptoms like a swollen abdomen, excessive lethargy, lack of appetite, and an unusual discharge from the vent.

Monitor your flock closely, and if you observe any of the mentioned symptoms, it’s best to consult with your veterinarian immediately.

Best egg-laying chicken breeds for beginners featured image

How Do You Treat Egg Peritonitis?

The first step is to isolate the affected chicken from the rest of your flock to prevent the spread of infection.

This can also prevent bullying behavior that might affect a chicken who’s not getting around as well as she normally does.

Make sure she has access to plenty of fresh water and nutrient-rich food, and keep her in a warm, dry, and clean environment to help prevent further infection.

You’ll also want to seek veterinary attention, as we’ve mentioned numerous times already in this post.

Your vet may prescribe antibiotics to reduce the amount of bacteria present in the hen’s abdomen, reducing the potential for further infection.

They may also provide pain relief medication if the hen is in discomfort.

In severe cases, your vet may recommend surgical treatment to remove any affected tissue.

This is more commonly done in cases where the condition has been left untreated for a while, and there is a lot of inflammation and infection present.

Treatment may also involve draining the excess fluid that has built up in the abdomen, which can help to relieve pressure and reduce inflammation.

In some cases, egg peritonitis may be a sign of an underlying reproductive issue or disease.

So it’s important to keep an eye on your flock’s overall health and seek veterinary attention if you notice any unusual symptoms or changes in laying behavior.

With proper care and attention, you can help keep your flock happy and healthy for years to come.

Egg Peritonitis in Chickens: Before You Go…

Egg peritonitis is a serious condition that needs to be managed with proper care and attention.

Prevention is key, so always invest in maintaining a clean, healthy environment for your birds.

The early detection can help you save your birds, so be aware of the symptoms and take corrective action immediately.

While it may not end up being egg peritonitis that you’re dealing with if you suspect this might be the issue (even just a little bit!), get your chicken to the vet ASAP.

Since egg peritonitis is often fatal, it’s not worth risking self-diagnosis. Get a professional opinion.

Though this condition can be fatal and is tough to treat, knowing the signs and symptoms (as well as your options) will help you give your hens the fighting chance they deserve. Good luck!


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