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NON-Emergency: Chronic underweight and soft-shell hen

post #1 of 3
Thread Starter 

Hi folks, thanks for your help as always.


I have a 4 yo Buff Orpington (Myrtle) who has been chronically underweight for quite some time. The previous time we tried to bring her in for special treatment, she reacted so poorly to her indoor situation that we had to put her back in the coop (not eating and constantly trying to escape: at least in the coop she was eating SOMETHING).


She gets organic layer feed and free choice oyster shell every day. None of the other hens have her problems: all fat and happy.

Before Christmas, she began showing weakness in her legs, left esp., and unbalanced easily, was unable to get up on her own. We brought her in and thankfully she's fine with it this go around.
Her appetite is normal -- she LOVES any and all greens and hogs down her chow. She just doesn't put on weight.

I began treating her with vit. B tablets for her leg, with little real results as she's better or worse every day unpredictably. Some nights she'd flop over in her cage and her legs would freeze up and she wouldn't be able to stand for most of the day. I also wormed her to no noticeable effect.

I think a big part of her balance and leg injury is that she is so underweight, no muscle mass to help and support her bones. I also worry that due to her malnutrition, she's been drawing calcium from her bones.


I stopped the vit. B after about a week and a half, as well as the vit. E I'd started when she was critical on her first egg (she'd been off since I think spring, maybe one egg in the summer). Since bringing her in and special attention, some special foods, she began laying eggs again, but they were soft shell.


I was trying to find a chicken-safe long-term calcium supplement that makes sure the calcium is able to be absorbed. Her weight is a long-term issue I'm working at, but the soft shell eggs are dangerous and stressful, so fixing that is the priority.

I found a Poultry Nutri-Drench product at my local feed store and began putting it in her water (on Jan. 26th): it has calcium and vit. D in it, and is made specifically for poultry, so I thought it would be safer than winging it with daily doses of human or canine/feline calcium supplements like I was thinking I'd have to. Her first egg on the stuff had a solid though thin shell (yay!); her next just two days later -- shortest inter period since she began laying again -- was beautiful: solid and more colour than she's ever had. After that, not so good. Soft shells again, and what's also frustrating is that she learned she can eat the soft ones.

In the image: all her eggs up to yesterday since she's been on the Nutri-Drench (no egg with paper = soft shell). When she lays every other day, she does better, but she's laying two days in a row and coming out with soft shells. 


I need to get her consistently laying hard shells! HOW? She's on layer feed, has oyster shell available 24/7, and has a calcium supplement in her water every day. 

Any ideas on what else I can do to get her absorbing calcium better, or what the underlying problem may be?

Thanks in advance for your ideas!



Edited by Twitcherette - 2/9/16 at 11:57am
post #2 of 3

She may have some problem with her reproductive system such as internal laying or egg yolk peritonitis, or other problem. Here is a good article I found that might help:

post #3 of 3
Thread Starter 

Eggsessive -- thanks for the reply!


I appreciate the article -- it was good to see that mis-timed production (good egg with second egg following that's soft) is something that does come up. That certainly describes my Myrtle. It's just what to do about it.


I'm sure it's not internal laying or peritonitis: she's extremely thin and any retained fluids would be very evident.  Her energy and engagement are normal and her poops are fine (not runny and yellowy) and the only struggle she has with the eggs is getting the soft-shelled ones OUT, because there's less to push against. And she's producing eggs often enough right now that she doesn't have time for internal laying! 
We have a Barred Rock (Lark) a little older than Myrtle that's had sterile peritonitis since her first egg: she got egg bound, recovered, and never laid an egg again. Very sadly, she lays internally in some way because in the warm seasons, her abdomen swells with fluid (not septic) so much that her legs are displaced wide. We have to drain her with syringes. She takes it with admirable aplomb.

Thanks again for throwing ideas out there -- it does help me to consider/reconsider various symptoms and possible causes!

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