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Ask Dr. Michael Salkin Your Own Question

Dr. Michael Salkin
Dr. Michael Salkin, Veterinarian
Category: Vet
Satisfied Customers: 27331
Experience:  University of California at Davis graduate veterinarian with 44 years of experience.
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I have a 2 year old rescue hen. She shows signs of being eggbound.

Customer Question

I have a 2 year old rescue hen. She shows signs of being eggbound. I have had other egg bound hens and treated them but this one seems different. She has a very swollen abdomen, but is eating and drinking small meals and is pooing. I think she feels as if she has 3 eggs inside as I can feel very solid egg shapes. I have lubricated her vent and put a finger inside to lubricate, but I cant feel an egg shell, only what feels like skin. The egg which is closest to the vent opening is not protruding. I have given her several warm baths in the last 24 hours and kept her warm but no egg.
She hasn't been well for several days, but sometimes these rescue hens have off days. I did think she had gape and treated her with flubenvet, they are wormed twice a year with the same, at christmas and midsummer, so they have only just been wormed. I feed them on Organic layers pellets and corn as a treat. They are freerange only being locked up at night. The other 7 hens are fine and laying quite normally.
Could the egg have missed the egg duct and be in the abdomen?
Submitted: 2 years ago.
Category: Vet
Expert:  Dr. Michael Salkin replied 2 years ago.
Aloha! You're speaking with Dr. Michael Salkin

I'm sorry that your question wasn't answered in a timely manner. There's a paucity of avian-oriented vets on the site. If you're can palpate more than one egg or, indeed, three, she's badly bound and is likely to need a vet's attention. Please see here: www.aav.org) You're limited to what you can do for these hens but increasing their ambient temperature to 80F and force-feeding a calcium and vitamin D3 supplement is reasonable. Treatment varies with how sick the bird is when presented to your veterinarian, as well as the location of the egg(s) and the length of time the bird has been egg bound. Critically ill birds are first treated supportively for shock and then attempts are made to treat the egg binding. Mildly affected birds may respond to supplemental heat, re-hydration with injectable fluids, calcium gluconate, and vitamin D3. If the egg is near the cloacal opening, it might be gently extracted. Eggs that don't pass with drug therapy require treatment that is more aggressive. A needle may need to be placed through the abdomen into the eggshell to aspirate the contents of the egg, causing the shell to collapse. Following this treatment, the empty shell will be pulled out if possible or will usually pass out of the bird within a few days. Failing this, surgery under general anesthetic may be performed to remove the egg or shell fragments.

To answer you directly, if her oviduct ruptured and an egg fell into her abdomen, you would have lost her to peritonitis by now. Most hens in an egg-laying operation are culled when recurrent egg binding and, particularly, if cloacal prolapse is seen. I understand that you might not want to do that in a small backyard group of chickens but It's best to approach this process with a clear sense of the bird's financial value to your operation. Although some services might be available free of charge through a county agency or land-grant extension office, the expense of some diagnostic tests and treatments can add up quickly. While it’s always worth your time and money to identify a bacterial or viral infection that could potentially impact more than one member of the flock, this might not be the case with a condition that only affects one hen.

Please respond with further questions or concerns if you wish.
Dr. Michael Salkin, Veterinarian
Category: Vet
Satisfied Customers: 27331
Experience: University of California at Davis graduate veterinarian with 44 years of experience.
Dr. Michael Salkin and other Vet Specialists are ready to help you
Expert:  Dr. Michael Salkin replied 2 years ago.
Thank you for your kind accept. I appreciate it.

I'm going to check back with you in a few days for an update. Feel free to return to our conversation - even after rating - prior to my contacting you if you wish.

Please disregard the info request.
Customer: replied 2 years ago.

Hi Thanks, ***** ***** much better today, and has been walking, slowly, round the house. I am keeping her in the dark from 4pm till 9am to try to prevent her producing any more eggs. Her tempertature is normal, so is her breathing. I am keeping her in the bath so she stays warm ( empty bath of course) and doesnt go too far. Shes eaten well, and pooed nearly normally too. She talks to us and seems very normal except for a drooped tail and full abdomen. I hope her body can reabsorb the eggs over time or perhaps I am too optomistic. If she seemed distressed I would take a more proactive stance. I am giving her calcium and omega 3 supplements. She is a pet rather than a producer and very sweet, her name is Jessica.

I have had a variety of sick hens over the years and have never lost one to illness yet, or at least when they have died it has been quite sudden and unexpected. My first hens had prolapsed egg vents which I was able to put back, they lives happily and laid well.Some of these rescue birds lay 3 ounce eggs, got to be a strain, dont know which one but suspect it has been Jessica.

Thanks for your reassuring advice. And you are right, finance does come in to this. The hen I had with egg peritonitus cost about £60 in fees and injections, but she got well and lived and laid over the next year. Some of these rescue hens look so neglected, even though Jessica and her companions came from a free range farm they had bare pecked patches and few feathers, Jessica doesn't know she can eat worms, and ignores them.

They are very good company and follow us all up and down the garden, in the work shop, into the house, we have a smallholding with a couple acres of woodland. I hope I can continue to give you good news.

Kind regards

Judith

Expert:  Dr. Michael Salkin replied 2 years ago.
I'm pleased to hear that Jessica is feeling better. If you're correct that 3 formed eggs are in her, however, they're not going to reabsorb...that doesn't occur. Chickens such as Jessica can be fun, can't they!?

Keep up the calcium and don't forget vitamin D3 which is necessary for the calcium to be absorbed into her system. Please keep me posted.
Customer: replied 2 years ago.

Thanks.Well if she doesn't reabsob, perhaps she can live with them. Oh dear what a dilema. This must be the worst part of keeping these rescue hens. They do sometimes come with problems, fingers crossed that she can somehow cope and be "happy". Will keep you posted. most of my neighbours are farmers and of course think I am rather stupid to consider her as a being. But she is. No matter how simple she may be, she has feelings. Not wishing to anthropamorphise her, she deserves consideration and respect. Lets hope mother nature has a simple solution to this problem. They are very resourceful creatures. I admire their evolution, they give eggs, then meat, and feathers, and manure. Such a generous creature.

Judith

Expert:  Dr. Michael Salkin replied 2 years ago.
Nicely said. I'll watch for your next post.
Customer: replied 2 years ago.

Well Micheal, shes seems about the same, eating a reasonable amount, having little walks though sitting a lot not that she has much space to walk about, very wet and cold out today so she cant go out. She doesn't look like a sick hen, however after being active she is breathing more noticably. She has been making a nest with the straw in her pen in the kitchen. A waiting game. Will let you know how things continue.

Kind regards ***** *****

Expert:  Dr. Michael Salkin replied 2 years ago.
Thank you, ***** ***** the update. I'll think good thoughts for her.
Customer: replied 2 years ago.

Hi Michael,

Jessica is doing very well, eating and drinking well, bright and interested in what's going on.She is walking a little better I think although her abdomen is still as full, it makes her waddle like a duck, slowly. She is still in the kitchen next to the range , too cold outside for her but when the summer house warms up today I will put her in there for a few hours and see how she goes and let the others in there too.

Perhaps she will just need extra care till the warmer weather comes, she seems to alive to cull. I hope I am doing the right thing, pretty sure I am, but we can easily see what we want to see can't we.What do you think ? This is where I vasilate between animal world and human world, just because she isn't as able as most hens does she need "removing".

Anyway she is still with us. Kind regards

Judith

Expert:  Dr. Michael Salkin replied 2 years ago.
Thank you for the good update, Judith. A hen can't stay eggbound without eventually being lost. Perhaps her "swollen" abdomen isn't due to egg binding?! Swollen abdomens can also be due to heart failure, tumors, cystic ovaries, obesity and inflammation of the oviduct (salpingitis). Sigh...such is the dilemma of being an online vet!
Customer: replied 2 years ago.

H i Michael,

yes I can imagine your dilemma. I guess that until something else presents its self, and while she is so "normal" I will let nature take its course. She spent several hours outside in the winter sun with the other gilrs, thay all went for a dust bath and stayed together, though Jessica didnt go far from me, as I worked outside to be near them. Definetely not obesity, and if she had salpingitis would she have a raised temperature. I had thought of cysts and tumours but the hard egg shapes are so obvious. Perhaps heart failure as a result of the extra weight/mass she is carrying.

When she was negotiating the garden and seemed unsteady on her legs she used her wings to steady herself.

I would like your honest opinion, do you think I should let this carry on?

Regards

Judith

Expert:  Dr. Michael Salkin replied 2 years ago.
As long as she continues to eat and drink on her own, you can let nature take its course. It wouldn't be appropriate to force feed at this late date. Keep me posted, please.
Customer: replied 2 years ago.

I will keep you posted. I would never force feed her, but she is eating well though its easier for her to eat and drink from a dish at her shoulder height. Thank you so much for your interest.

Expert:  Dr. Michael Salkin replied 2 years ago.
Thank you. I set a follow up for 03/01 in case I miss you.

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