Difference between Ascites and Eggbound - What is wrong with my hen?


9 Years
Apr 12, 2010
Harpers Ferry, WV
I have a hen I bought about two months ago. She got picked on by the other hens in the kennel from the farm to my house. I separated her and nursed her back to health. She spend a good amount of time with a huge swollen abdomen and waddling like a penguin. I thought the swelling was from her being picked on (they were picking on her butt and abdomen) and didn't do anything with her. She eventually got better and I moved her in to the grow out pen while she recovered.

I have been expecting her to lay any day now (along with two other pullets growing out). When I checked on her yesterday she was squatting and looking uncomfortable. When I checked on her this morning her abdomen was very very swollen and hot to the touch. It is very pink and inflamed. It is not downy or fluffy at all. She is waddling like a penguin.

There is some whitish fluid coming out of the vent and I think I can feel something in her belly. I cannot feel any egg with my finger near her vent.

I gave her a nice warm bath, dosed her with some garlic and apple cider vinegar, and then rubbed olive oil onto, around and in her vent.

However, now I am reading things about Ascites and am a bit confused. Should I be draining her belly? Can I giver her castor oil? I have no clue what I am doing LOL We are sort of attached to her (she is like a second mom to our hatched here chicks) and would like to get her through this if we can.
Does not sound like she is eggbound--that would mean an actual egg is stuck in the oviduct and cannot pass. It will not result in fluid buildup in the abdomen.

She may have fluid and infection in her abdomen as an indicator of egg yolk peritonitis and/or internal laying. Ascites is just fluid, but can be caused by several factors, most of which are fatal, eventually. You can try to drain her for her own comfort as the fluid is a drag on all her internal organs and eventually, it will be in her lungs. If she is laying internally, there is no cure other than complete hysterectomy, which usually they don't survive anyway at her stage of the illness.

Castor oil has no bearing on this at all. It's not intestinal, it's reproductive. Do you have any idea who old she is? This stuff doesn't usually begin until after the age of two, though it can in unusual cases.

These threads may be helpful to you.



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ok! Thanks for the info. I just gave her a bath and massaged her belly. She was passing gas and white fluid but I can't feel any egg so I think she is laying internally. I will get a needle and try draining her tomorrow.
Just know that you may be able to drain fluid, but you cannot drain the solid masses of infection and yolk, if they're in there. If you can get fluid out, it will probably make her feel better for awhile.
If you can do that, yes, sadly. The prognosis is not good, I hate to say. You could try draining her to see if she's more comfortable for awhile. You could give her mega-doses of penicillin to see if you can stave off any infection in there, but the condition always comes back, it seems. It's entirely up to you how you proceed.
That's why I said above "You could give her mega-doses of penicillin", however, that will not entirely fix the issue and will not cure internal laying, if that is part of her problem. It may help any infection that is liquid, but won't dissolve the solid masses. Chickens encapsulate infection into cheesy masses, as you can see in bumblefoot infections. That happens in the body as well.

When EYP and/or internal laying start, it's 9 times out of 10 a chronic thing and will recur again and again and eventually, all the penicillin in the world will not fix it. Sometimes, the symptoms will mimic internal laying or EYP and actually be ovarian carcinoma. No antibiotic will fix that one, but you can't know which it is from the outside of the bird. Bodily fluids build up with that as well.
Well I drained the fluid today. It is still leaking out of her but I can feel the solid mass in her abdomen. She is in my growout pen and mothers my younger birds and keeps them warm at night so I am hoping to give her a bit longer in comfort.

If it is obvious (like it has been the past week) that she is still in pain and very uncomfortable, I will put her down.

Thank you so much for all your advice!

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