Laying Issues: Internal Layers and Peritonitis

Call a veterinarian if you suspect a serious health issue.

Call a veterinarian if you suspect a serious health issue.

Similar to egg binding, Peritonitis (an indicator of internal laying), is a distressing issue that can occur with laying hens

Internal laying is a disorder where the yolk of the egg, rather than being laid in the normal manner, is not taken up by the oviduct and instead is deposited in the abdomen. This can be a genetic issue, but often times it follows an incidence of infection or trauma to the oviduct, such as a thin shelled egg breaking inside the hen.

Internal laying by itself is not always an issue. Occasionally a hen will lay internally for no apparent reason and the yolk will simply be absorbed back into the body without complications if there is no bacteria present. The problem results when bacteria is present and when eggs build up. Egg yolk is a rich medium for bacteria growth, and a build up of eggs internally can provide a playground for infection. This infection is known as peritonitis. If your hen continually lays egg after egg internally, the yolks can not only harbor and grow bacteria, but all the yolk material puts pressure on internal organs, making it difficult for the bird to breathe and causing her to adopt a penguin-like stance.

Symptoms of an internal layer with peritonitis can include:

  • Yolk colored feces
  • Weakness
  • Loss of appetite
  • Lethargy/Depression
  • Swollen & spongy feeling vent area and/or abdomen
  • Respiratory problems
  • Fluffed feathers
  • Penguin stance; abnormal waddle

If an internal layer is identified early on, steps to prevent the laying process can be taken. The bird may be spayed or have a hormone implant placed that stops ovulation. Unfortunately, an internal layer is often in discomfort and pain. Sometimes it may be necessary to euthanize the bird to end her suffering.

If peritonitis is suspected, the choices for treatment are usually limited, due to the amount of time the infection has most likely been brewing before symptoms become evident. Giving antibiotics if caught early enough in the process has had some success.

If you suspect you have an internal layer, with or without peritonitis, contact your avian veterinarian for a full diagnosis and treatment options.

 

Egg Binding – symptoms, prevention and treatment

Chickens are one of the only pets who can also make you breakfast – about once a day they provide you with a nutritious egg that can help feed yourself and your family. But Hen sitting in nest boxwhen a normally healthy hen starts to have problems laying, it can be distressing on many levels. There is an important distinction between an absence of eggs and a sick hen. Eggs may not be found for many reasons, including:

It’s the health issues that we are concerned with for this article. One of the most troubling laying issues is a hen that is egg bound.

A hen that is egg bound has an egg that has become stuck in the oviduct and cannot pass out of the body. Egg binding is a potentially fatal condition, and hens who do not pass the egg within about 24 hours will usually perish. Eggs can become stuck for a variety of reasons, including

  • lack of calcium in the diet (helps with muscle quality)
  • poor body condition (overweight)
  • issues with the egg itself (excessively large)
  • Underdeveloped reproductive tract

If your hen is egg bound, she will most likely exhibit symptoms to tell you there is an issue. These symptoms can include:

  • Lethargy
  • Straining
  • Uncharacteristic sitting/squatting
  • Tail pumping up and down
  • Loss of appetite
  • Change in normal behavior

If you suspect a hen is egg bound, the best course of action is to contact your avian veterinarian.

In absence of a veterinarian’s help, you can try to assist the hen yourself. It is important if you are attempting treatment yourself that you are careful to not break the egg inside the hen, as this almost always leads to infection and further issues.  Separate her from the rest of the flock. Gently palpate the vent area to see if you can feel the offending egg. Use moist heat to try to help relax the vent and allow the egg to pass. Sitting the hen in a warm bath that covers the vent area is a good way to do this. Applying a lubricant to the vent area may also help the hen pass the egg. Keep the hen in a separate, dark area.

To try and prevent episodes of egg binding in the future:

  • Use a commercial layer feed as the main part of the diet, supplementing treats at no more than 10 – 15% of the total ration
  • Offer a free choice calcium supplement (like oyster shell) at all times
  • Do not put pullets under lights to encourage early onset of the lay cycle