Egg Binding: Symptoms, Treatment and Prevention

Egg Binding refers to a very serious condition in any female bird that has an egg stuck in the oviduct that she is unable to pass.
By TwoCrows · Jul 31, 2014 · Updated Feb 7, 2015 · ·
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  1. TwoCrows
    Egg Binding In Hens

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    What is Egg Binding

    Egg Binding refers to a very serious condition in any female bird that has an egg stuck in the oviduct that she is unable to pass. This can be a life threatening issue and can cause serious damage to internal tissue, infection, bleeding, and can lead to prolapse and even death. Quick action needs to be taken when you find an egg bound hen.

    Hens release a yolk into the funnel of the oviduct approximately every 25 to 27 hours where it spends about 5 hours traveling toward the Uterus or "Shell Gland", as it is also called. If there is sperm present, the area between the Ovaries and the Uterus is where the egg will become fertilized. The egg then enters the Uterus. Encasing the egg with a shell takes around 20 hours within the Shell Gland. When the egg is properly formed, it then takes about an hour to travel from the Uterus out thru the Cloaca. When the egg passes out through the vent the passage to the intestines is blocked off so as not to contaminate the oviduct.


    However, sometimes eggs get stuck between the Uterus and the Cloaca and this is when a hen is considered Egg Bound. Since the entrance to the intestines is shut off when the egg is nearing the end of the oviduct, quick action must be taken when a hen is suffering from egg binding. If she cannot defecate she can die within 24 to 48 hours.


    Symptoms of Egg Binding


    Just because a hen has not laid an egg today or even for a few days she is not necessarily egg bound. Many times hens will take breaks from laying, a hot spell during the summer, a cold snap in the winter or molting can cause hens to take time off from laying. However, if you do see signs of being egg bound the quicker you take action the better chances you will be able to save your hen and get her back on her feet to good health. Here are some symptoms to look for:


    Possible Symptoms Include:


    No interest in eating or drinking


    Walking like a penguin


    Abdominal straining


    Going in and out of the nest box repeatedly


    Watery diarrhea or no feces at all along with a full crop


    Droopy and depressed


    Pale face, comb and wattles


    Hard abdomen


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    Suspected Causes of Egg Binding

    Many things can cause a hen to loose the ability to pass and egg. Here are some possible reasons why a hen may become egg bound:


    Low Calcium Levels: If a hen is low or lacking in calcium she will not be able to put on a hard shell. The shell needs to be nice and hard so when the muscles contract, the egg is easier moved through the oviduct. If it is soft, these types of eggs are not able to move as easy. Calcium also plays a role in the contractions of the entire Oviduct and Shell Gland. So, if she is low on calcium, the muscles will not contract well enough to expel the egg.


    Malnutrition or a bad diet: A hen that is deficient in many nutrients and vitamins can become egg bound very easily. Vitamin D3, magnesium and phosphorus need to be in the right proportions for the hen to break down and make the calcium usable inside her body. If she is not eating right, this will contribute to the lack of calcium in the shell or the contractions to expel the egg.


    Dehydration: Water is very important for the process of pushing the egg out. If she is dehydrated the oviduct can become dry, hence the egg is not going to move out properly.


    Being sedentary or fat: Hens that do not get enough exercise, have not developed or lost good muscle tone or have too much fat in their abdomen will have trouble passing eggs properly.


    Large or misshapen eggs: If the hen is producing unusually large eggs or oddly shaped eggs, these types can become stuck easily if they are unable to pass through the pelvis. Many times overly large eggs are genetic in origin. Misshapen eggs can be caused from something having gone wrong in the reproductive system, eggs backing in on each other, or a defective shell gland. Of course, if the hen just can't seem to put a shell on the egg, the Shell Gland could be deemed defective.


    Illness: Any illness that causes weakness, lack of appetite, low consumption of water or other reactions to being ill can cause the hen to be unable to pass an egg.


    Treatment


    Any hen that you suspect is egg bound needs to be looked at immediately. If you conclude she is not egg bound you can at least rule this out as to why she maybe sick.


    You will need to start with an internal exam. It is not difficult to do and you will know immediately if she is indeed egg bound.


    Get yourself a latex glove and some personal lubricant like K-Y Jelly or even Vaseline. Apply a tiny bit of lubricant on the index finger and gently insert your index finger into her vent. Don't go down with your finger, but straight back. If there is a stuck egg it is usually right there within the first 1 to 2 inches inside her oviduct. The Shell Gland is about 2 inches in and many times you will feel them that far back. The egg normally doesn't get stuck in the Shell Gland, but most often closer to the cloaca or vent area. If you don't feel an egg by completely sticking your finger inside her than she is not egg bound. And if there is no egg present you would be feeling into her intestinal tract and not her oviduct. The passage to the oviduct is only open when an egg is presently moving out of the Shell Gland.


    If you do feel and egg close to the cloaca then you need to take action. First thing you want to do is put more lubricant on your index finger and really lube up the area around and in front of the egg. Sometimes this is all it takes to get the egg to slide out. Using Preparation H inside the vent can also help to reduce swelling. Sometimes if the hen has been pushing for a long time the tissues have become swollen and this swelling can stop the egg from passing as well.


    If you can feel the egg from underneath at the abdomen, sometimes gentle manipulation along with lubrication inside and around the egg can help to move the egg out.


    If this does not help her pass the egg, there are a couple other things you can do to help her move the stuck egg. She needs calcium. Calcium works fast and will help to get those contractions going. You can give her a couple of broken up Tums/Rolaids (calcium carbonate) tablets or even human calcium pills. You will have to break these into tiny pieces so she can eat them. If she does not readily eat them, you can break them into very tiny pieces and open her beak and one by one get her to swallow them. You can put the pieces in raisins or even a bit of Gerber Baby Food. I like to powder medications and mix them with baby food and syringe them down the throat. Whatever it takes to get calcium in the hen will help.


    Next you will want to soak her lower half in warm water. It is easiest to bring the bird inside the house and fill up your kitchen sink with warm water. Place her into the warm water, and you may need to press her down in a bit. I have found that they enjoy a warm bath and will settle in and nearly fall asleep from the warmth. But you may need to hold them in if this is not the case. Just make sure their back half is soaking well in the warm water. Leave them in this water for 10 to 15 mins. I like to go 15 mins to make sure. The warmth of the water can help to relax the abdomen if it is tight from straining and many times this warmth, along with the calcium tablets, will get that stuck egg to move out within 30 mins of this soaking. After 15 mins, get her out, towel her off and use a blow drier to get her all dry. Let her rest in a quiet area for an hour to see if that egg finally decides to pass. Before putting her back into the flock watch that she is eating and drinking well.


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    Should it still not pass after one hour you will want to repeat this procedure again to see if you can get the egg to pass out. It is never advised to break the egg INSIDE the hen. The shards of egg shell can cut the inside of the oviduct and cause bleeding and infection. Even sometime when the hen strains she can break the egg shell inside of her. Breaking the shell is the last avenue to take if you cannot get the egg to move. At this point I would recommend you take her to a veterinarian for more medical help. If she has broken the egg inside her body you will want to delicately remove these shards with a gloved finger, gently working them out without scraping her insides. This may take a while to dig all these out, but you need to get as much of these shards out as you can. You can use a turkey baster with water and gently flush the oviduct as you feel for these tiny pieces of shell. Use a salty saline solution to help keep bacteria and infection from setting in.


    If the egg has not passed after a few hours, you can see the egg near the vent and it has not broken, gently make a hole in the shell just large enough to get the tip of a syringe (no needle) inside the egg and such the contents out. (You don't want egg yolk inside her) You will then need to gently collapse the shell and remove the shards. Sometimes you can remove the entire egg shell at one time. Be careful not to cut the tissue with the sharp egg shell.


    After you have gotten all of the shell out, put her somewhere quiet for a few hours. If her vent is swollen, apply Preparation H to the vent area to reduce swelling. She is no doubt tired so keep her away from the flock until she has been seen eating and drinking and is back to normal. Never put a hen back into the flock with a swollen or prolapsed vent.

    Prevention

    Hopefully at this point you have gotten the egg out or all the shell matter and she is not prolapsed. (This is another topic that needs a whole other article written). If she is not suffering from an illness that has caused her to become egg bound or she has genetic issues with large eggs, there are some things you can do to help prevent this from happening again.


    Avoid supplemental lighting for young pullets to avoid premature laying. Many young layers are already prone to egg binding before they have their egg laying machines in gear.


    Always provide oyster shell on the side in a separate bowl or feeder. Keep it right there next to the water and feed. Chickens will not go looking for it, but as they eat and drink, if the calcium is in their faces they are more inclined to dig in.


    Make sure to keep the treats down to a minimum, especially during those hot summer months when chickens tend to eat less to begin with. They need to be eating a proper diet full of nutrition and calcium enriched food at all times. Filling up on other things will cause them to not eat enough of their layer feed.


    Always provide fresh clean water every day. Some chickens can refuse dirty water so change it daily. They can also refuse to drink warm water as well. So if on those hot summer days the water has gotten too warm, cool it down with some ice. Make sure to put out plenty of water fonts so that there is no competition for water. Dehydration is one of the causes for egg binding.


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    Closing Thoughts


    We as keepers of poultry hope we never have to encounter any illness within our flock, especially egg binding. But, it can happen to our hens. Knowing how to help prevent it, being able to spot an egg bound hen early on, and acting quickly enough can help get our hens through this situation and back to good health soon.


    For more help with egg binding you can post questions in our emergency section here on BYC...
    https://www.backyardchickens.com/f/10/emergencies-diseases-injuries-and-cures

    You can also ask questions about eggs and laying in our Chicken Behaviors and Egglaying section here on BYC...https://www.backyardchickens.com/f/18/chicken-behaviors-and-egglaying

    More suggested reading on egg binding:
    https://www.backyardchickens.com/a/a-couple-chicken-problems-and-how-to-fix-them




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Recent User Reviews

  1. Shadrach
    "The best article on egg binding on BYC."
    5/5, 5 out of 5, reviewed Oct 3, 2018
    I’ve had to deal with egg binding and a broken egg in the oviduct on three occasions.
    This as near to the advice I received from my vet as anything else I’ve read.
    A particularly good point about making a small hole in the stuck egg and syringing out the contents.
    A little more detail about flushing out any remnants of egg would have been useful.
    I prefer to use coconut oil to Vaseline’ it’s less viscous.
    If you use bookmarks then add this article.
    Well written informative and intelligent advice. There aren’t many articles this good.
  2. imneva
    "Very informative"
    5/5, 5 out of 5, reviewed Sep 15, 2018
    very well put together. Very easy to follow
    TwoCrows likes this.
  3. DobieLover
    "This is a very informative article on egg binding."
    5/5, 5 out of 5, reviewed Sep 15, 2018
    I'm really glad I read this article. Nice preventive tips along with what to look out for and how to help your hen if she becomes egg bound. Thank you for writing this!

Comments

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  1. Shannonmeans
    Another trick I've used is instead of KY to get the pieces out if the egg has busted is to use triple antibiotic ointment as my lubricant. It works and stops the infection at the same time.
      rodneyh350 and TwoCrows like this.
  2. Jennifer Cappi Williams
    How do you tell the difference between eggbound and has gone broody? My goose has just done either one or the other just now...
      rodneyh350 and TwoCrows like this.
    1. View previous replies...
    2. TwoCrows
      Great job on the exam! She is not egg bound. If you feel she is sick or just not right, definitely post in our Emergency Section. Good luck with her! :)
    3. Jennifer Cappi Williams
      I lost her mate, Silly, (another female) to a blocked intestine two Springs ago. She was acting broody and just dropped dead. A necropsy proved it was from eating a metal washer. I am as scared of that happening again as being eggbound. I will keep her in the bathroom tonight until I can call a vet. I am so scared of losing my girl...
      rodneyh350 and TwoCrows like this.
    4. TwoCrows
      I am so sorry. *HUGS* I know exactly just how difficult it is to lose them. I hope your girl is ok. *HUGS*
      rodneyh350 likes this.
  3. mama peggy
    Catch your hen, lay her on a towel or blanket
    Have a plate of a 1/2 cup of cut up coconut oil into small pieces.
    As you hold her put the plate in front of her and be patient, she will nibble it.. then gobble it up!!
    My hens did.
    Then I let then down and walk with the other hens in 5 days they were back to normal.

    make sure they have warm water to drink and let them walk around.
    walking helps everything pass through.

    Its like a horse with colic!! You have to put mineral oil in them, then keep them up and walking so they don't twist a gut.

    Coconut oil softens everything inside so it passes through and letting them walk around..it helps eggs to start moving and exiting.

    Their tummys go down to normal and they get back to normal in 4 to 5 days!!
    My three hens just lived through it!!
      LaughingOwl and Ohana Nena like this.
  4. mama peggy
    Please read this!!
    when you find your hen egg bound.. feed her coconut oil right away!!!
    I'm telling you it works and the hen lives!!!!
    My 3 hens just lived through it!!
    please read my other threads explain this miracle!!
      Ohana Nena and TwoCrows like this.
  5. BarbaraN3
    Can I give my laying duck at tums if she is low in calcium ?
      TwoCrows likes this.
    1. TwoCrows
      Yes you can give Tums. Human Caltrate works well too as it has the proper ratio of minerals to calcium so it becomes more usable in the body. :)
      BarbaraN3 likes this.
  6. BonDEEroo
    Practical and thorough article! Thanks!
      TwoCrows likes this.
  7. N F C
    I don't know how I managed to miss this article until now, but excellent write up Leyla! Hopefully, I don't find myself in the position of having to deal with an egg bound bird, but if it happens, I now know where to get some great help. Thank you so much!
      TwoCrows likes this.
  8. coop2cupcakes
    We have a Rhode Island red that is about 2years old. The last couple of months she has only layed a hand full of eggs and feathers around her vent always have poop on them. sometimes she does stand on 1 leg and her comb is slightly pale. Could she be egg bound?
  9. Amiga
    Is Pebbles a duck or a chicken?
  10. HaHaFarms
    Great article! We think our Pebbles is egg bound and we now have a better plan of action! Latex gloves, here we come! Wish us luck!
  11. ClaireDL
    I had a 6 yo hen you was egg bound once. She went into the nest box late afternoon, and I still found her there the next morning.So I took her home. She had a warm bath and some petroleum jelly. After another our and a half, still nothing. I could feel the egg below the cloaca ( Almost between both leg but more on the left side). I tried massaging it ..didn't work. Gave her another bath...Her comb started to turn blue. I went with a glove inside..Definitively the egg was down and on the left...not straight back. I could also feel some sort of tumors inside..As I could not get the egg to come out, and she was deteriorating ( more and more blue) I decided to break the egg and aspirate it. As I did that, she started to vomit and died within few seconds. It went really quick. I didn't even had time to aspirate with the syringe. When I talked to my vet about it, she said she certainly had a cancer,,,Tumors can block the eggs from coming out.
  12. rebeccah
    Thank you for your great article. At least I know I did what I could for poor Arwen. She laid the egg but didn't recover. She may have had fly eggs, too. Funny, I didn't notice anything peculiar until this morning. I love my ladies. At least I didn't lose her to a dog.
  13. chickenlover47
    Okay i think my chicken has this problem going on the third day. I've given her three baths, mineral oil up there and also Vaseline . I have also given her Orally mineral oil to drink . but it feel soft and swollen but i cannot see or feel the egg what should i do than.
  14. mymilliefleur
    Great article!!
  15. MyPetNugget
    Great article! :D I've never had this problem before but will know what to do If I do!
  16. Chicken Royalty
    Irish, so sorry for your loss ,my wife and I consider our flock our family. I would hate to lose one..Take care and have a great and safe day....
  17. goodag2
    Are there any breeds that are more inclined toward egg binding?
  18. Amiga
    Thank you!
  19. Llamaranch
    Great job! Really informative article. Our new flock is still a while from laying but great info to hang on to. Thanks!
  20. TwoCrows
    Thanks everyone for the great comments! :)
  21. TwoCrows
    Hello Ihamid! Feel free to post it! I hope that I have been thorough enough in this article to help as many birds as possible. :)
  22. lhamid
    Leyla, would you object if I posted your article on my web page?It is the best write up on egg binding I have read. www.sweeth2o.us
  23. pelicanchook
    Terrific article - really easy to understand and follow - I haven't had this problems with my girls, but I am printing out this article and keeping it in my chicken file for the day when I need it. Gives me much more confidence to deal with egg binding instead of racing to the (expensive) vet. Thanks so much
  24. Clucks2Ducks
    Our girls just started to lay eggs. This is a concern of mine. Thanks so much for this article! I have saved it in my files. Happy to have a great reference so handy. Being in a panic and trying to search how to deal with it (should it occur) would probably not go over smoothly! This newbie is most grateful!! :)
  25. TwoCrows
    Chris King, thanks for all the help here! :)
  26. TwoCrows
    Irish Luck, I am so sorry you lost her. (hugs)
  27. Chris King
    Re: "I might have been of more use to her."

    Maybe, but sometimes animals die despite our best efforts.

    We none of us get out of here alive :)
  28. Irish Luck
    I was up all night with an egg bound chicken. I had her in a tub in the bathroom with warm water. In between I slept on the bathroom floor. She passed away despite all my efforts. I wish I had this article before hand. I might have been of more use to her.
  29. CandaceID
    Well, my son wasn't too thrilled to have this conversation with mom, but the article was so interesting (never heard the term "binding" before), and since he's the one usually doing feeding/collecting, it had to be shared.
  30. Chris King
    Meant to add that one ought to be very careful picking up an egg-bound hen, to avoid putting too much pressure on her undercarriage. For one, it hurts; for another, it increases the risk of rupture of her reproductive tract. I do believe I lost one of my lovely chickens to sepsis because she ruptured. Lesson learned: act at the first signs that a chicken is unwell (off on her own, standing or sitting hunched and fluffed up, etc.).

    Also useful to avoid stressing the hen wherever possible, although I doubt being picked up is quite as stressful as being egg-bound, even in hens unused to human hands. Best thing for her: get rid of that dang egg!

    -Chris-
    (horse vet turned chicken enthusiast :)
  31. DDRanch
    Excellent article. Thank you so much for the thorough and detailed descriptions and cures. I especially appreciated the prevention section but even with all that, we need to know how to successfully treat our flock when needed.
    LOVE LOVE LOVE BYC
  32. autumnhearth
    Excellent article, very glad to have read it and be prepared! Our 18 week old girls haven't laid yet, but I think our Red Star and Marans are getting close.
  33. miwin1000
    Sticking my face in a chickens...twat, to suck out anything, is not my idea of good care. I ain't stickin' my face there for any reason or any price. If my fingers can't do the necessary job, my face ain't gonna do any better. I used the butt end of a butter knife to break the egg inside her. and then pulled the still full egg out with my finger. The egg was still soft enough that it did not shatter and came out very easily. That Hen was so grateful! One thing you did not mention about symptoms....a shrill, desperate cluck and cry. Very unusual and definitely a sure sign the bird is trying to tell you something. the warm baths and slicking things up did not work for my hen...she was swollen and irritated, so my taking those steps proved the correct answer. She never had a problem again. It took her a couple weeks to get back to normal and laying every day, but she was such a faithful hen after that....and one of my best friends. She would come sit on my lap when I went out to feed them.
      Ohana Nena likes this.
  34. TwoCrows
    Thanks so much!! :)
  35. Chris King
    Nicely done. I think it's important for chicken owners to know that, despite everything we're doing right, our hens can still get egg-bound. (Nature of the beast, and all that.) Mine are on a well-formulated organic layer ration, with supplemental oyster shell right by their feed bowl, filtered water that's changed daily, and they have the run of the garden and pastures all day long, yet still I've had 3 or 4 of my little flock become egg-bound since they started laying last summer. It happens. (Horses go lame, chickens get egg-bound, dogs get fleas, humans get acne right before a big social event :) Important to do all we can to minimise the risk, and pay close attention to our hens, but not sweat it when we find that one of our hens is egg-bound. This article is a lovely review of the topic: simple, concise, practical - a keeper!
      Ohana Nena likes this.
  36. TwoCrows
    Thanks Sarah! :)
  37. Mountain Peeps
    Wow! That is a good article. Great job Leyla!!!

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