Prolapse Vent in Chickens: Symptoms, Causes & Treatment

Chicken with a prolapsed vent in grass

A vent prolapse in chickens, also known as a ‘blowout,’ is a serious health issue where the cloaca, an important body part used for reproduction and waste elimination, protrudes outside the body. 

This condition often happens in overweight chickens or those who have experienced stress or trauma. It’s crucial to spot this problem early because it can lead to severe infections and difficulty in waste removal.

Chickens with vent prolapse are at risk of more than just infection. This condition can lead to unhealthy behaviors in a flock, like pecking at the affected chicken, which can escalate to more harmful forms of cannibalism. 

Causes of Prolapse Vent in Chickens

Chicken with prolapse vent in a grassy outdoor area

Prolapse vent in chickens is a complex issue with multiple causes. Understanding these causes is crucial for chicken keepers to prevent and manage this condition effectively.

Key causes of prolapse vent in chickens include:

  • Dietary issues: Lack of calcium and magnesium can lead to muscle weakness, contributing to vent prolapse.
  • Weight problems: Both underweight and overweight chickens are at higher risk.
  • Age factor: Young hens with large eggs and older hens with reduced muscle tone are more susceptible.
  • Egg size, shape, and consistency: Oversized or oddly shaped eggs can strain and damage the muscles around the vent. Similarly, a soft-shelled egg may lead to excessive straining and weak local muscles around the vent.
  • Infections: Undetected infections in the abdomen or oviduct can lead to prolapse.
  • Genetic factors: Some breeds may be genetically predisposed to this condition. Even individual chickens within a certain breed may be more prone compared to others.
  • Environmental stress: Factors like overpopulation and excessive lighting in coops can increase the risk.
  • Behavioral issues: Cannibalism among chickens can exacerbate the problem.
  • Oviductal and cloacal diseases: Illnesses affecting the oviduct and cloaca of chickens, such as egg binding, salpingitis, inclusion body disease, and cloacitis, may lead to a prolapsed vent.
  • Constipation and dehydration: Going hand in hand, these two often create a more strained vent and a prolapse to occur.

The variety of causes means that chicken keepers must be vigilant and proactive in their care. If prolapse does occur, early detection and treatment are essential for the chicken’s recovery and well-being.

Signs and Symptoms of Prolapse Vent in Chickens

Recognizing the signs and symptoms of a prolapsed vent in chickens is crucial for timely and effective treatment. 

Key symptoms of a prolapsed vent in chickens include:

  • Visible protrusion: The most obvious sign is the internal reproductive tract extending outside the vent.
  • Physical changes: Look for bloody or torn tissue around the cloaca, swollen and inflamed tissue, or a red or purple protrusion from the vent area.
  • Behavioral shifts: Chickens might show lethargy, loss of appetite, increased aggression, or difficulty laying eggs.
  • Egg changes: Eggs laid with blood streaks or excessive straining during egg-laying.
  • Social withdrawal: Chickens with a prolapsed vent often isolate themselves and show reluctance to socialize.
  • General distress: Symptoms like ruffled feathers, lethargy, and huddling while puffing out feathers indicate pain or discomfort.

These symptoms can vary in severity, but any combination of them warrants immediate attention. A prolapsed vent is not only painful but can lead to serious health complications if left untreated, even causing death. 

Pro Tip: If you observe any of these signs, separate the affected chicken from the flock to prevent further injury and seek veterinary care immediately.

How to Treat Prolapse Vent in Chickens

Chicken with prolapsed vent during treatment
Image credit: stoneappleacres / Instagram

Treating a prolapsed vent in chickens is a multi-step process requiring careful attention and prompt action. Each step below is crucial in ensuring the health and recovery of the affected chicken.

1. Isolation and Confinement

Isolating the chicken is the first critical step. Move the affected bird to a separate, calm environment to prevent pecking and further injury by other chickens. 

An ideal setup is an enclosed dog crate, providing a dark, quiet space with limited room for movement. This isolation not only protects the chicken from further stress and injury but also allows for closer monitoring and easier treatment.

2. Cleaning the Affected Area

The prolapsed area needs to be cleaned gently but thoroughly. Use warm water mixed with a mild antiseptic solution to cleanse the area. This step is vital to remove any debris and minimize infection risk.

It’s crucial to be as gentle as possible to avoid causing additional pain or pushing the prolapse further out.

3. Administering a Warm Bath

A warm bath can be soothing and beneficial for the affected chicken. Add some iodine to the bathwater to help disinfect the area. Carefully hold the chicken with its rear end submerged in the warm water. 

This helps loosen any stuck feces and clean any abrasions, hydrating and softening the tissue for easier reinsertion.

In our journey of chicken care, we once faced a situation where our hen suffered from vet prolapse. Remembering a tip about the benefits of an Epsom salt bath, we opted to try this method. 

These flakes are known for their muscle-relaxing and pain-relieving properties. We added a quarter cup of Epsom salt to her warm bath and allowed her to soak for over 30 minutes. This gave her soothing relief.

4. Manual Repositioning of the Prolapse

Repositioning the prolapse requires patience and gentleness. Wearing gloves, apply a water-based lubricant to your fingers and gently push the protruding tissue back into the vent. 

Note: Never attempt to do this alone. It’s advisable to have assistance during this process to hold the chicken still, allowing for more controlled and gentle repositioning.

5. Treatment of Swelling and Damage

Reducing swelling and treating any damage is crucial. Apply anti-inflammatory treatments such as Preparation H, honey, or similar products to the affected tissue, both inside and out. 

These treatments help shrink the tissue, aiding in keeping it in place and promoting healing.

6. Veterinary Intervention: Stitching the Vent

In cases of recurrent prolapse, a veterinarian may need to perform surgery. This procedure involves stitching the vent to keep it in place while ensuring it’s large enough for normal bodily functions.

It’s a delicate balance to maintain the functionality of the vent while preventing future prolapses.

7. Administration of Antibiotics

Administering antibiotics is necessary in cases where there’s a risk of infection. Medicated sprays or veterinarian-prescribed antibiotics can be effective against potential infections. 

These antibiotics target bacteria that might infect the prolapsed vent, such as E. coli and Salmonella spp.

8. Nutritional Supplementation

Providing nutritional support is essential for recovery. Adding vitamins and calcium to the chicken’s diet helps strengthen muscles and overall health.

This is particularly important for chickens that are underweight or have been laying large eggs, as they are more prone to prolapses.

9. Adjusting Light Intensity

Adjusting the coop’s light intensity can help reduce the chicken’s stress and control its egg-laying frequency. 

Overexposure to light can add to stress and health issues, so appropriate lighting is crucial for recovery and overall well-being.

10. Addressing Underlying Conditions

Identifying and treating any underlying conditions that may have led to the prolapse is key to preventing recurrence. Conditions such as egg binding or cloacitis, if left untreated, can lead to repeated prolapse incidents.

11. Using a Prolapse Harness

In some situations, a prolapse harness can be used to keep the vent in place. These harnesses, which can be purchased or homemade, support the chicken during healing and prevent the prolapse from reoccurring.

Meanwhile, check this video to get an idea of how to treat an egg-bound chicken suffering from a prolapsed vent:

What we did to help our chicken that was egg bound with a prolapsed vent | Backyard Chickens

How to Prevent Prolapse Vent in Your Flock

Preventing a prolapsed vent in chickens is far preferable to treating it, especially since not all birds respond well to treatment. 

Therefore, it’s essential for chicken owners to take proactive steps to prevent this condition in their flock.

Here are key steps to prevent prolapsed vent in chickens:

  • Regular supplements: Provide minerals and vitamins regularly to adult chickens to ensure overall health and proper nutrition.
  • Proper flock management: Maintain the correct number of chickens in your flock to avoid overcrowding and potential injuries.
  • Natural light cycles: Avoid using additional artificial light, especially during winter months.
  • Weight management: Prevent chickens from becoming overweight, as obesity significantly increases the risk of prolapse. Offer low-calorie treats, particularly for overweight birds.
  • Proper nesting material and space: Provide ample clean, dry nesting material and ensure sufficient space in nesting boxes to make egg-laying comfortable.
  • Balanced diet: Feed a well-balanced diet rich in calcium and other essential nutrients for healthy egg production.
  • Regular health checks: Regularly inspect your chickens for any signs of illness or injury and maintain cleanliness in the coop and nesting areas.
  • Reduce stress: Observe and handle your chickens gently to minimize stress and separate aggressive birds from the flock.
  • Adequate exercise: Ensure hens have enough space for physical activity, particularly if using a tractor-style coop that’s moved daily.

Since young chicks are also susceptible to prolapse, here are ways to help these young ones avoid this condition:

  • Clean pasty vents: Regularly check and clean pasty vents with care.
  • Proper temperature and space: Maintain the correct temperature under heaters and provide sufficient space to prevent crowding and overheating.
  • Supervised handling: Ensure young children are supervised when handling chicks to avoid injury.

While these precautions can significantly reduce the risk of prolapsed vents, it’s important to remain vigilant. Regular observation and good husbandry practices are key to maintaining a healthy and happy flock.

When to Seek Veterinary Help

Red hen with a prolapsed vent
Image credit: chickens_and_books / Instagram

More serious situations of vent prolapse, especially where the chicken is in significant pain, distress, or bleeding heavily, necessitate immediate veterinary care.

Veterinarians are equipped to handle severe cases, such as large prolapses or when the vent is damaged. They can perform necessary repairs, prescribe antibiotics to prevent infections, and manage pain. 

In fact, a 2021 study even highlighted the effective use of technology for the treatment of prolapses, leading to a higher survival rate for this condition in chickens.

On the other hand, the decision to call a vet also depends on individual circumstances and the value placed on each chicken. 

In some cases, vets might recommend euthanasia, particularly if the condition is severe and the chicken’s quality of life is compromised.

Frequently Asked Questions

Hen showing signs of a prolapsed vent
Image credit: mercurygirl68 / Instagram

Can a Chicken Live With a Prolapsed Vent?

A chicken cannot live with an untreated prolapsed vent; in such cases, humane euthanasia is often necessary. However, early detection and treatment can lead to full recovery. 

Untreated, the condition worsens, significantly diminishing the hen’s quality of life and leading to eventual death. This condition is specific to chickens and is not contagious.

Can a Chicken Recover From a Prolapsed Vent?

Yes, a chicken can recover from a prolapsed vent with proper care. Early intervention is crucial, involving isolating the chicken, gently cleaning the prolapse, reducing inflammation, and carefully repositioning the prolapse. 

Monitoring the chicken’s condition and consulting a veterinarian if necessary are essential steps in recovery.

How Long Does It Take for a Prolapsed Vent to Heal?

It may take 2 to 3 weeks for the tissues in a prolapsed vent to heal. However, this can vary. 

This timeline may be affected by the severity of the prolapse, the type and urgency of treatment given, and the kind of environment the prolapsed chicken has. 

Smaller prolapses may heal quickly and naturally with isolation and care, but severe cases may require veterinary attention.

What to Feed a Chicken With a Prolapse?

For a chicken with a prolapsed vent, a balanced diet is crucial. Continue feeding its normal diet to maintain nutrition. Include treats like grapes and scrambled eggs for extra nutrients. 

Add fruits and vegetables for variety, but avoid calcium supplements to prevent stimulating egg laying. Always consult a vet for specific dietary advice.

Can Vent Gleet Cause Prolapse?

Vent gleet and prolapse are different conditions in chickens. Vent gleet is a fungal infection causing swelling but not tissue protrusion. 

In contrast, vent prolapse involves the internal reproductive tract protruding, which can be painful and dangerous. There’s no evidence linking vent gleet directly to prolapse. 

It’s important to seek expert advice for correct diagnosis and treatment.

Scientific References

Espinosa, R. (2019). Prolapse of the oviduct in poultry. Merck Veterinary Manual. Retrieved from

Gonzalez, M., & Carrasco, D. (2016). Emergencies and critical care of commonly kept fowl. National Center for Biotechnology Information, National Library of Medicine. 

Greenacre, C. (2015). Reproductive diseases of the backyard hen. National Center for Biotechnology Information, National Library of Medicine.

Joy, B., & Tr, D. (2014). Egg bound and vent prolapse in chicken – A review of two cases. 

Ray, S., Swain, P., Nahak, A., & Ul Amin, R. (2013). Prolapse in laying hens: Its pathophysiology and management: A review.

Zanten, F., Lenters, E., Broeders, I., & Koops, S. (2021). Robot-assisted sacrocolpopexy: Not only for vaginal vault suspension? An observational cohort study. 

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