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Laying hens with "water belly" or "ascites"?

post #1 of 43
Thread Starter 

Of the 11 three-year-old laying hens I had butchered today, 3 of them had "ascetis", also called water belly, and had to be thrown out.  It's not a disease, but is heart failure and hypertension, their liver stops functioning properly and goes bad, and their belly fills up with fluid leaking from the liver, which they can eventually die from after a while. 

I want to share this info, since I've been doing some research on it (links below) and it appears to be a common problem with fast-growing meat chickens. Does anyone have info about it in egg-laying hens? 

One other guy I talked to, who's has a business butchering chickens for 29 years, said it's become very common for him to see ascetis in "older" laying hens recently due to years of breeding them for high egg production, and that their bodies just get worn out sooner from that. He said I should butcher an egg-layer at 1.5 years old (!) to avoid them having ascetis.

I'd like to know how to treat it, or if it's unavoidable, like some folks said. My hens free-range every day, all day, so I hardly think they have ventilation problems or over-eating problems. Could they have been stressed by winter cold? The only possibility left is I wonder if their water has too much salt in it and gives them hypertension? Could they be getting salt from some other source I'm not thinking of? they roam all over the cow pasture and corn fields. Would salt cause ascetis?

Here is more info: http://www.merckvetmanual.com/mvm/index.jsp?cfile=htm/bc/204601.htm&hide=1

http://www1.agric.gov.ab.ca/$department/deptdocs.nsf/all/pou3546

Happy owner of 4 Buff Orpingtons, 4 guineas, 3 Black Langshan bantams, 6 Buff crosses, 1 OEG cross, 1 Maine Coon cat, and 4 Bourbon Red turkeys!
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Happy owner of 4 Buff Orpingtons, 4 guineas, 3 Black Langshan bantams, 6 Buff crosses, 1 OEG cross, 1 Maine Coon cat, and 4 Bourbon Red turkeys!
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post #2 of 43

There is an Ascites Syndrome specific to broilers and also Ascites as a symptom occuring in many disease disorders, often reproductive...
http://www.vetcareindia.com/p_bul_ascites.htm

often an underlying metabolic diorder is present:
http://dlhunicorn.conforums.com/index.cgi?board=linksgeneralinfo&action=display&num=1158596537

post #3 of 43
Thread Starter 

Is there any more info on egg-layers specifically?  I'm guessing the metabolism issue is related to the fast-growing aspect of broilers. As far as I know, my hens didn't have reproductive disorders because they were still laying eggs.

Happy owner of 4 Buff Orpingtons, 4 guineas, 3 Black Langshan bantams, 6 Buff crosses, 1 OEG cross, 1 Maine Coon cat, and 4 Bourbon Red turkeys!
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Happy owner of 4 Buff Orpingtons, 4 guineas, 3 Black Langshan bantams, 6 Buff crosses, 1 OEG cross, 1 Maine Coon cat, and 4 Bourbon Red turkeys!
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post #4 of 43

I am currently treating and trying desperately to save one of my one year old Black Sex Link hens who had a severe case of ascites.  She too was still laying eggs but got so bloated and full of water she eventually got to where she could not walk and finally her skin started to tear in spots.  I went to only vet in twon and she refuses to treat chickens.  Left with nothing else to try - I bought penicillin and started her on injections.  I used the needle/syringe to "drain" her.  It worked beautifully.  I inserted it in water-filled balloon area and drew out a cup of water.  She continued leaking water from the needle holes for an hour - she soaked through three folded up towels.  Today (one day later) she is up walking and eating and drinking and pooping - she does have what looks like a giant scrotum bag hanging down.  I have her confined to rest and hoping for the best and to see if she will return to egg laying.  At this point I would just be happy to have her live.

Terrie and Diana were helpful in the thread I posted, and I will post and update there as well - but I too was confused as to what would be causing this when she wasn't a meat bird, she was only one year old, she free ranged, and she was still laying eggs though swollen like a water ballon for one month.

post #5 of 43
Thread Starter 

Ruth, I'm glad to hear you were able to help your hen.  I'm surprised more people aren't aware of this problem, since I'm hearing that's it's pretty common. 

Does penicillin help?  From what I've read, ascites is not an infection of any kind, so I don't think antibiotics would help unless there's a secondary infection.  It's a function of the organs being too weak to support the functioning of the chicken (the heart and liver can't work hard enough and deterioriate).

The processors (chicken butchers) told me that the liver in these hens is completely shot, meaning it's not functioning and is mushy and just kind of falls apart. The fluid in their belly is leaking from the poorly-functioning liver. 

I wonder if this is a congenital defect that is being bred into them? 

Anyone have more info?


Edited by chickenannie - 7/3/08 at 6:32pm
Happy owner of 4 Buff Orpingtons, 4 guineas, 3 Black Langshan bantams, 6 Buff crosses, 1 OEG cross, 1 Maine Coon cat, and 4 Bourbon Red turkeys!
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Happy owner of 4 Buff Orpingtons, 4 guineas, 3 Black Langshan bantams, 6 Buff crosses, 1 OEG cross, 1 Maine Coon cat, and 4 Bourbon Red turkeys!
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post #6 of 43

I'm giving the penicillin because she may still have infection from the bumble foot which might be what started the whole thing.  Plus she had a yellow ooze coming out of vent that turned into cooked egg yolk once on her rear end feathers. (All sounds lovely doesn't it?)  I did get a partial egg and shell out of her after examing vent so it's possible that she had begun laying internally.

She had a swollen foot that I noticed about a month ago.  When examining her for that I discovered how bloated she was.  A week later when I finally operated on her for bumble foot she was still bloated but was laying eggs while in isolation for her foot.  Last week her foot started to swell again and since I had not treated her for the staff infection with penicillin I thought I would start her on that.

At this point, I'm trying everything I can.

post #7 of 43
Thread Starter 

Ruth, I hope your hen is feeling better. Will you have to drain the fluid again? I hope her foot is getting better too.

Happy owner of 4 Buff Orpingtons, 4 guineas, 3 Black Langshan bantams, 6 Buff crosses, 1 OEG cross, 1 Maine Coon cat, and 4 Bourbon Red turkeys!
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Happy owner of 4 Buff Orpingtons, 4 guineas, 3 Black Langshan bantams, 6 Buff crosses, 1 OEG cross, 1 Maine Coon cat, and 4 Bourbon Red turkeys!
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post #8 of 43

Hi I have had my ex-bat to the vets for the second time with ascites. She is a 20 month old ex-bat. The first time i took her to the vets he thought it was eyp and drained her abdomen and gave her antibiotics for 10 days via injection every other day! She was fine for 4 weeks and her abdomen has swollen up again! The vet has drained her abdomen which contained a liquid which can only be described as looking like urine (no smell) and have taken a sample to send of for testing to see what the cause is. I will post when I get the results. My hen is well other than the ascites, she is eating and drinking and scratching around (free range) and her tail is up and comb is a good colour.

post #9 of 43
Quote:
Originally Posted by Ex-batty View Post

Hi I have had my ex-bat to the vets for the second time with ascites. She is a 20 month old ex-bat. The first time i took her to the vets he thought it was eyp and drained her abdomen and gave her antibiotics for 10 days via injection every other day! She was fine for 4 weeks and her abdomen has swollen up again! The vet has drained her abdomen which contained a liquid which can only be described as looking like urine (no smell) and have taken a sample to send of for testing to see what the cause is. I will post when I get the results. My hen is well other than the ascites, she is eating and drinking and scratching around (free range) and her tail is up and comb is a good colour.


I have a four year old red sex link with the same fluid build up I noticed it in October then she went into a molt and stopped laying seemed to feel alright eating and acting normal. now she isn"t looking good started yesterday tail down belly very swollen not eating or drinking today yellow substance on bum and on her beak not sure if she rubbed it from her bottom or if it is coming from nostrils it is dried. I put Duramycin-10 in the water incase it is respiratory. i hope she's not egg bound because of the fluid in the belly. She is sitting on a pet heating pad in the coop looking awful. She answered me when I spoke to her but very softly. I just read that the fluid is due to liver and heart failure.

 

 

Rita
Buff Orpingtons, Silkies, Swedish Flower Hens, Italian Greyhounds

Member ASBC

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Rita
Buff Orpingtons, Silkies, Swedish Flower Hens, Italian Greyhounds

Member ASBC

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post #10 of 43

HI!

I have been doing loads of research in this area, as I have an egg layer with Ascites. After de worming, a round of electrolytes and antibiotics, I finally gave in and belly tapped her. I got 420 cc of fluid from her the first time, and 200 a couple of days later. The last tap confirmed my diagnosis when I could clearly see and feel a fully calcified egg free floating in her abdomen. She has egg yolk peritonitis. This occurs when the egg does not float into the reproductive tract and ends up in the abdomen instead, I am going to a chicken seminar today and hope the vet there can look at her, but short of surgery I am sure that nothing else can be done. It is unfortunate too since she has started eating and pooping again since I drained off the fluid. Her combs and waddles are even pinking up and she is cooing at me when she sees me. Poor girl. It will break my heart to euthanize her but I am afraid I will have to.

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