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Egg-Laying Troubles: Egg-Binding and Vent Prolapse

A hen having trouble laying eggs is egg-bound. When part of a hen’s oviduct (which should stay inside the abdomen) sticks out through the vent to the outside, the hen is suffering from a vent prolapse, oviduct prolapse, or more graphically, a blowout.

Identify vent prolapse and egg-binding

A hen who spends a lot of time in the nest box is broody, not egg-bound. Broodiness is the compelling feeling a hen gets to sit and incubate eggs. An egg-bound hen, on the other hand, strains to pass an egg repeatedly throughout the day (in or out of the nest box), wagging or bobbing her tail with the effort.

You rarely discover which came first — whether difficulty laying an egg resulted in a vent prolapse or the other way around. Either way, the common causes of egg-binding and vent prolapses are

  • Obesity

  • Poor diet

  • A tendency to lay very big or misshaped eggs (especially rubbery ones)

  • Oviduct infections

  • Egg peritonitis (a nasty, often fatal infection inside the abdomen)

Provide treatment and care

You have the best chance of successfully treating these two conditions when you place the care of the bird in the hands of an experienced avian or exotic pet veterinarian, because he or she frequently treats these two problems in pet birds and reptiles. If egg-binding or vent prolapses are caught early, avian and exotic pet vets can medically treat these conditions, or if necessary, do surgery.

Hysterectomy is the best option for a beloved pet hen who has repeated episodes of egg-binding. (It also ends her egg-laying career.)

If experienced professional help isn’t an option, flock keepers may be able to help an egg-bound or prolapsed hen by following these steps:

  1. Isolate the affected bird in a quiet hospital pen by herself and provide TLC.

    Maintain the temperature in the hospital pen at a consistent, comfortable 80–85 degrees Fahrenheit (27–29 degrees Celsius). Feed a complete commercial layer diet — no junk food or scratch. Offer oyster shell, available at feed stores, or crushed egg shells (available at home) as a calcium supplement.

    Provide a low, comfortable perch, and keep the bedding in the hospital pen super-clean. Frequently changing the bedding with clean towels may be the best option because most types of litter sticks to the hen’s backside.

  2. Soak the chicken’s lower half in warm water.

    Make the bath water as warm as you would bathe in. Carefully cleanse a dirty vent in the water. Gently restrain the hen in the bath as long as she doesn’t mind it or until the water cools. Ten to twenty minutes of soaking is a good goal. If she freaks out, put her back in the hospital pen and leave her alone for a while.

  3. Gently apply a water-based lubricant on the vent and protruding tissues.

    Use a plain, nonscented, nonmedicated lubricant, available at any drugstore. You can make a brief, one-time attempt to gently push protruding tissues back in with clean fingers. More often than not, the darn thing will pop out again. After that attempt, succeed or fail, leave a prolapse alone. The more you handle her or rub the inflamed tissues with various ointments, the more swollen the area will become.

  4. Leave her alone.

    Let her relax without other animals or people pestering her. Shrinkage of a prolapse or passage of a stuck egg within 24 hours is a good sign. No progress in 24 hours is grim news. Keep the hen isolated for several days until she seems perkier and the vent area looks normal.

Give the oviduct a break for a while by slowing egg production. You can do this by keeping the hen in the dark for 16 hours a day.

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