Egg Bound Chickens: Common Causes, Symptoms & Treatment

Egg bound chicken burrowed outside

Egg bound chicken is a condition that every poultry owner should understand. It’s when a hen is having trouble passing an egg, which can lead to distress and, in severe cases, life-threatening complications.

Yet, don’t let the fear of your hens’ health keep you up at night. While it can be difficult to know what to do if your chickens suffer from egg binding, some simple measures can help prevent this from occurring.

In this article, the causes, signs, treatments, and prevention of chicken egg bound will be discussed in detail. By the end of this guide, you’ll surely know how to give your chickens the best care possible. Let’s get started!

What Is Egg Binding in Chickens?

Chicken suffering from egg binding

Egg binding in chickens is a health issue where an egg gets stuck inside the hen’s oviduct, typically between the uterus and the cloaca. This condition is common in premature, old, or obese hens.

Generally speaking, “egg bound” symptoms in chickens are easily recognizable. For instance, a chicken keeper may notice an affected female fowl will display diarrhea, tail pumping, and vent prolapse.

Yet, a close observation might allow you to see the egg at the vent or even feel an egg stuck somewhere inside the abdomen.

Unfortunately, suppose a hen can’t pass the egg. In that case, it may lead to difficulties — such as egg yolk peritonitis — resulting in death. Thus, dealing with an egg bound chicken requires immediate attention.

In my early days of keeping chickens, I faced an egg bound hen. She was struggling, which led me to suspect she might be egg bound. It was a scary situation, as the risk of the egg breaking inside was high.

With guidance from an expert, I had to extract the egg myself. It was a tense moment as I held the tip of the egg, being as gentle as possible to prevent it from breaking.

What Causes Egg Binding in Chickens?

Typically, a chicken egg bound situation can arise due to various factors. From genetics to diet and the environment, there are many reasons for this health problem to happen in chickens.

For your reference, the following are some of the most common causes of chicken egg binding:

  • Obesity: An overweight hen is more prone to becoming egg bound. Bear in mind that excessive fat deposits around the hen’s reproductive organs can make it difficult for her to lay her egg.
  • Lack of calcium: In most cases, calcium plays a crucial role in egg formation. Hence, a hen deficient in this type of vitamin may struggle to form a proper egg shell, leading to a chicken egg bound situation.
  • Old age: Older hens have less efficient reproductive systems, increasing the risk of becoming an eggbound chicken. Specifically, their bodies may struggle to pass the egg within the expected timeframe.
  • Premature layer: If a hen starts laying eggs too early, its reproductive system might not be fully developed yet. This can cause the egg to become stuck somewhere in its oviduct, resulting in an egg bound chicken.
  • Dietary Issues: More often than not, an imbalanced meal is one of the main causes of egg binding. In particular, an all-seed diet lacking in crucial nutrients like vitamin E and selenium can impact egg formation and release.
  • Poor nesting environment: Chickens need a safe, comfortable space to lay their eggs. Thus, if the chicken coop or nesting box is stressful or uncomfortable, the hen may hold back the egg, which can lead to egg binding.
  • Reproductive infections: Infections in the hen’s reproductive tract can yield inflammation or scarring, which can prevent the egg from moving properly and cause the hen to become egg bound.
  • Genes: Certain chicken breeds are more prone to becoming egg bound due to genetic predispositions. So if a hen’s ancestors frequently had this issue, she is more likely to become egg bound.
  • Stress: Stressful conditions, whether due to environmental factors or changes in the flock, can disrupt the hen’s egg-laying process. This can result in a hen becoming egg bound.
  • Internal parasites: Parasites can interfere with the normal function of a chicken’s digestive and reproductive systems. This could cause difficulty in passing the egg, resulting in egg binding.
  • Egg size and form: In most instances, unusually large or oddly shaped eggs can become stuck in the oviduct, causing the hen to suffer from egg binding.
  • Inadequate hydration: Not surprising, but water plays a significant role in the egg-laying process. Without enough hydration, the hen may struggle to expel the egg.

Ultimately, keeping an eye out for these causes can help prevent egg binding in your backyard chickens. After all, if you catch it early enough, you can usually avoid severe complications like death or egg loss.

What Are the Symptoms of an Egg Bound Chicken?

Egg bound chicken sitting on its nest in the coop

Primarily, an egg bound chicken is a common concern in backyard flocks. Therefore, identifying the signs of an egg bound trouble beforehand should be taken seriously.

Here are the typical signs and symptoms of egg binding in chickens:

  • Change in posture: An egg bound chicken often has a hunched or puffed-up appearance. This change in stance is a sign of discomfort due to the egg stuck inside the hen’s vent and cloaca.
  • Distress or pain: If a hen is egg bound, it may exhibit symptoms of distress, such as pacing, restlessness, or obvious signs of pain. This can indicate that the chicken is unable to pass the egg.
  • Change in droppings: An egg bound chicken may have abnormal droppings. Watch out for changes in color, consistency, or frequency, which could signal a bound egg.
  • Lethargy: The hen may show signs of lethargy, tiredness, and reduced activity, which can signal egg binding.
  • Loss of appetite: Egg bound chickens often lose their appetite. Hence, a decrease in food consumption could be a symptom of an egg bound condition.
  • Abdominal swelling: The abdomen of an egg bound chicken may appear swollen or enlarged. This is due to the egg causing a blockage inside the hen.
  • Penguin walk: An egg bound chicken might walk with a distinct, waddling gait, resembling a penguin. This is not surprising, as an egg stuck inside the hen will cause discomfort and difficulty for the chicken to move around.
  • Straining: If a hen is constantly straining, as if trying to lay an egg without success, this could be a clear sign of egg binding.
  • Labored breathing: Egg binding can cause pressure on the hen’s airway, leading to difficulty breathing. So keep a close eye on your chicken if it is experiencing respiratory distress.
  • Discharge from the vent area: If a hen is egg bound, anticipate that an unusual or foul-smelling discharge may come out from its vent.
  • Decreased or absent egg production: A clear sign of an egg bound chicken is reduced or absent egg production. If a regular layer suddenly stops laying, this might mean she has an egg binding problem.

Recognizing the symptoms listed above allows for immediate intervention and treatment, which increases the chances of survival for your egg bound chicken.

What Are the Dangers of Egg Binding in Chickens?

Egg binding in chickens can lead to complications. Firstly, it causes painful discomfort. An egg bound chicken struggles to expel the egg, which results in distress and unease.

This constant struggle can be hard for the chicken and lead to a lower quality of life. 

In addition, egg binding can cause vent prolapse, where the vent hangs outside the chicken’s body. This condition exposes your hen to possible infections, further complicating its health.

Most critically, egg binding is a life-threatening condition. If left unchecked, an egg bound chicken can die within 24 to 48 hours.

To be specific, the bound egg creates pressure inside hens, which can lead to organ damage and, ultimately, death.

In summary, the dangers of egg binding are significant. That is why keepers of chickens need to monitor their flock for signs of this condition as early as possible.

How to Treat an Egg Bound Chicken

Egg bound chicken checking its eggs

If you suspect your chicken is egg bound, there are a few treatment options you can try.

Abdominal Massage

You can start by gently rubbing the hen’s abdomen area. Doing so might help the egg to move and ease its passage. However, be careful to avoid causing more discomfort or damage.

Vent Lubrication

You can also lubricate the fowl’s cloaca with oil or petroleum jelly. This approach can reduce friction and make it easier for the chicken to lay the egg. Yet, some chickens tend to have thin vents, so this may not work for all hens.

As a seasoned fowl keeper, I occassionally eperience having egg bound chickens myself. One particular instance was when I noticed that one of my obese hens looked hurting.

Gently holding the chicken, I applied oil around the egg that was stuck in the vent. From then on, I made sure to give my chickens a balanced diet to prevent such problems from happening again.

Salt Baths

A warm bath can be beneficial for an egg bound chicken as well. Specifically, a mixture of Epsom salts and warm water can help relax the chicken’s muscles, facilitating the egg’s passage.

In this video, see how warm baths are used to ease the pain of an egg bound chicken:

How to Fix An Egg Bound Hen

Remember, though, that you need to repeat this treatment every hour until the chicken can lay the egg.

Egg Extraction

If the above methods do not work, you might need to remove the egg carefully. This should be your last resort as it carries the most risk.

To start, use a syringe to extract the contents of the egg. Once emptied, you can gently crush the eggshell, making it more manageable for the hen to expel.

Vet Consultation

Although home remedies may relieve the discomfort, a visit to a vet is always best. They will know how to identify and treat any hen from a bound egg.

How to Prevent Chickens From Being Egg Bound

Egg binding is a serious concern for chicken keepers. Luckily, with just a few proactive steps, you can minimize the risk and prevent your chickens from experiencing an egg bound issue.

Here are some ways to help you avoid dealing with chicken egg bound:

  • Provide a balanced diet: A well-rounded diet is essential to keep chickens healthy. To prevent egg binding, make sure that your hens get all the nutrients they need from their chicken feed.
  • Adequate exercise: Physical activity can enhance your chickens’ overall health and aid egg-laying. Allowing them to free-range or providing a spacious chicken coop can help.
  • Proper lighting: Generally, adequate light stimulates egg production. However, overly stimulating hens can lead to issues, including becoming egg bound. Ensure your chickens have a balance of light and dark hours.
  • Hydration: As established, egg binding occurs when a hen becomes dehydrated. To prevent this, make sure your chickens are getting enough water daily.
  • Monitor egg-laying: Keep a close watch on your chickens’ egg-laying patterns. If a hen has an egg inside for too long, try separating it from the other hens and give it some time to rest.
  • Calcium supplements: Calcium is critical for strong eggshells. So, to prevent problems where an egg can get stuck in its oviduct, provide your laying hen with calcium supplements.
  • Vet check-ups: Although you already know the signs of egg bound, sometimes it takes an actual veterinarian to determine why your hen is experiencing difficulty laying eggs. Hence, schedule regular vet visits for your flock.
  • Manage obesity: Overweight hens are more likely to become egg bound. For this reason, it is important to observe your chickens’ weight before and during their laying cycle.
  • Prevent stress: Stress can lead to various health issues, including egg binding. Therefore, create a calm environment for your chickens to help them stay healthy.
  • Create proper nesting boxes: Cozy, quiet, and dark nesting boxes can encourage regular egg laying and minimize the chances of a hen becoming egg bound.

In order to keep your hens productive, focus on prevention rather than dealing with the symptoms. Overall, when conducted effectively, these strategies can drastically reduce the occurrence of egg binding.

Frequently Asked Questions

Egg bound chicken inside nesting box

How Do You Know If Chickens Are Egg Bound?

You can identify egg bound chickens by noting changes in their behavior and physical condition.

Look for symptoms like unusual posture, visible distress, changes in droppings, loss of appetite, abdominal swelling, straining, vent discharge, and decreased egg production.

You should also be able to feel the egg on their abdomen region, which indicates that it is lodged between their cloaca and uterus.

How Long Can an Egg Bound Chicken Live?

The situation for an egg bound chicken is critical. Unfortunately, if left untreated, the hen can die within just 48 hours.

Therefore, quick identification of symptoms and immediate action is vital to help your hen survive and recover from experiencing egg bound.

Can You Save an Egg Bound Hen?

You can save an egg bound hen with proper care and immediate action. Methods such as giving it an Epsom salt bath or gently massaging the abdomen can help move the egg.

To add to that, you can carefully extract or get the egg that’s causing the blockage.

However, note that these home treatments require caution to avoid breaking the egg inside. Accordingly, you should just bring the egg bound hen to a poultry expert or veterinarian for professional help.

If anyone has had experience dealing with an egg bound chicken, or perhaps you’ve found an effective prevention method, feel free to share it in the comments!

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