How to Treat Egg Binding in Chickens
9 of 12 in Series: The Essentials of Tending a Sick or Injured Chicken
When raising chickens, you hope to never encounter egg binding in your flock. Luckily, the causes of egg binding (genetics, poor feed, heavy worm infestations) are uncommon in a backyard coop, although older hens are more susceptible.
If a hen is handled roughly just before she lays an egg, the egg may break inside her. So be sure to handle hens carefully, especially early in the day.
A hen who’s egg bound will sit on the floor or ground. Her feathers will be fluffed, and she’ll be drowsy and act sick. Sometimes you’ll actually see her strain as if trying to produce the egg. More often, you’ll notice her tail pumping up and down.
Moist heat is considered the safest remedy for egg binding in chickens. Put the hen in a cage with a wire floor. Place a large, flat pan of steaming water beneath the cage. Keep the water warm under her, but don’t keep it so hot that the steam burns her.
Provide some overhead heat from a heat lamp, and enclose the whole cage with a blanket or plastic to keep the moist heat in. Make sure it doesn’t get too hot, however. A thermometer can be used to keep the heat between 90 and 102 degrees Fahrenheit. Water should be available at all times for the hen to drink.
The hen should pass the egg in a couple hours with this treatment. If you see an egg, she should have perked up and will be ready to be removed from the cage. If no egg has passed but she seems more active and will eat, you probably misdiagnosed her. Something else is wrong. If she continues to act droopy and ill, give her a few more hours of treatment. A vet can give a hen an injection of calcium gluconate, which will often cause her to pass the egg.
A hen that’s truly egg bound will die if she doesn’t pass the egg, usually within 48 hours. Don’t stick things like syringes full of oil up her vent; you’re likely to hurt her and cause infection. Trying to break the egg inside her and extract the pieces isn’t usually effective either; it’s likely to result in infection and death.