Help! Is this water belly?

Susie Seagrave

Songster
6 Years
Jul 29, 2015
42
41
104
Aegina, Greece
I think my 4-year old hen may have water belly, but I'd never heard of it before I started researching her symptoms. I thought she had coccidiosis a few months ago and I thought I'd lose her. However, I treated her and she seemed to recover well but has not laid eggs since.

About 4 weeks ago, she exhibited similar symptom again, so I repeated the treatment but she didn't perk up. She has appetite but is less interested in food than she was. She walks slowly and 'stiffly' now and her droppings, which are small, an odd colour and often watery, smell of ammonia. Although she still preens herself, she has a problem keeping clean so I bathe the area under the vent to keep her clean. While doing this, I recently noticed her abdomen seemed swollen on one side, felt 'squishy' to the touch and was a blue colour beneath the skin. She has lost loads of weight and is very bony, apart from this swollen abdomen. The past few days, this area seems even more swollen, and this morning, it was very warm to the touch; much hotter than the other side of her abdomen. Her skin seems stretched tight.

Please help! Is this water belly? I've read the posts about this condition and will try and drain the fluid if necessary. Some guidance and advice would be much appreciated. Poor Valencia walks with a waddle and is very down. Can I save her?

IMG_20210720_120628 (Medium).jpg IMG_20210720_120908 (Medium).jpg IMG_20210720_121005 (Medium).jpg IMG_20210720_121014 (Medium).jpg
 

Susie Seagrave

Songster
6 Years
Jul 29, 2015
42
41
104
Aegina, Greece
Thank you so much! Your video was so helpful. I've just bought some 18 gauge needles and will try this today. Because it looks so 'blue' under her skin on her right side, I feel quite anxious about where to insert the needle but I'm going to do my best. I know that the final outcome is probably going to go one way, but if there's any chance, or even if I can make her last days more comfortable, it's worth a try. Thank you again.
 

Swbertrand1

Crowing
Apr 21, 2018
1,130
1,550
271
Wilmington, NC
Here's a video that will help you with draining water off the abdomen. There are others out there, but this one is pretty good. I didn't see any mention of sterilizing the site of needle injection or the needle itself, but we do that with rubbing alcohol before a fluid drain.

It's helpful to have a second person on hand to help keep the chicken from moving while you have a needle inserted into her abdomen too. The hen will usually crouch down and stay still, but it's good to have a second set of hands on her just in case she suddenly tries to move.

When draining, be careful that you don't drain the abdomen too quickly or try to take too much fluid out at once; it can send them into shock. How much is too much? That's subjective, but we tried to drain about 1/2 the fluid from a full-size hen on the first day, then drained about 1/2 of what was left the second day, then most of the remaining fluid the third day.

Many of the "ascites" related information you'll find out there refers to prevention of the conditions that lead to ascites, namely diet, coop management, and exercise among others. Be sure to take a look at that information. Hope your hen gets better!

 

Susie Seagrave

Songster
6 Years
Jul 29, 2015
42
41
104
Aegina, Greece
To WonkierZulu and Swbertrand 1, thank you both for your guidance and helpful videos. Unfortunately, although the drainage started well yesterday, the news is not good and poor Valencia went into shock and died in my arms.

Although it was only me, as my husband cannot bear the sight of needles, it seemed to be going well. I used alcohol to clean the area on her right side and used an 18 gauge needle but could only get a 30ml syringe chamber. I held Valencia firmly and she didn't struggle. I inserted the needle and slowly extracted the straw-coloured fluid, exactly as I saw on the first video. When that was full, (so 30ml had been drained) I left the needle inserted and removed the chamber to empty it into the container underneath. I could feel the pressure of the liquid inside her was quite considerable and it continued to drip quite quickly. As I didn't want to drain too much at one time, I carefully re-attached the syringe so that I could monitor how much was being drained and slowly began to repeat the process. It was then that she gave a huge kick and a squawk, and that was it. She was gone. I was so sad and disappointed, even though WonkierZulu, you warned me that it was probably going to end like that.

As I picked her body up, a lot of liquid poured from her mouth, which was a shock, and when I laid her body on her back to have a really close look, she was just skin and bone but her abdomen was still full of fluid. It was sloshing around and the weight of it was still considerable. I had never heard of 'water belly' before, and feel awful that I hadn't spotted what it was sooner, so I might have been able to save her. I wanted to get further practice so I continued to drain the fluid from her body. I must have drained about 60ml more before I stopped.

Although I couldn't save Valencia, I learnt a lot with your help. I know what to look for should this happen again. Thank you both very much.
 
Last edited:

Swbertrand1

Crowing
Apr 21, 2018
1,130
1,550
271
Wilmington, NC
I'm so sorry to hear that! It makes me cry :-( You did what you could, and that's all we can expect of ourselves when keeping these amazing birds.

We have come to learn that we will lose some; it just comes with the territory, but learning what to look for and spotting it early is a learning curve in and of itself. We surely don't have all the answers, but we've learned a TON in the 10 years or so of chicken keeping.
I wish you all the best with your remaining birds! Here's a tip too:

If you ever see your birds walking like they're almost bowlegged, that's a sure sign that ascites might be at issue. Pick up and handle your birds about once per week or more often if you can. Check their feathers, skin, beaks, eyes, legs, toes, vents, wings - look them over and be vigilant for signs of trouble like mites, water-belly, scaly legs (mites), crop issues, and on and on...

We watch ours carefully each and every day during their evening free-range time in the back yard too. Most of the time we can spot things out of the ordinary, but sometimes not. With each "emergency", we learn more and more about what to look for...
 

WonkierZulu

Songster
Dec 29, 2020
510
735
171
Washington State
To WonkierZulu and Swbertrand 1, thank you both for your guidance and helpful videos. Unfortunately, although the drainage started well yesterday, the news is not good and poor Valencia went into shock and died in my arms.

Although it was only me, as my husband cannot bear the sight of needles, it seemed to be going well. I used alcohol to clean the area on her right side and used an 18 gauge needle but could only get a 30ml syringe chamber. I held Valencia firmly and she didn't struggle. I inserted the needle and slowly extracted the straw-coloured fluid, exactly as I saw on the first video. When that was full, (so 30ml had been drained) I left the needle inserted and removed the chamber to empty it into the container underneath. I could feel the pressure of the liquid inside her was quite considerable and it continued to drip quite quickly. As I didn't want to drain too much at one time, I carefully re-attached the syringe so that I could monitor how much was being drained and slowly began to repeat the process. It was then that she gave a huge kick and a squawk, and that was it. She was gone. I was so sad and disappointed, even though WonkierZulu, you warned me that it was probably going to end like that.

As I picked her body up, a lot of liquid poured from her mouth, which was a shock, and when I laid her body on her back to have a really close look, she was just skin and bone but her abdomen was still full of fluid. It was sloshing around and the weight of it was still considerable. I had never heard of 'water belly' before, and feel awful that I hadn't spotted what it was sooner, so I might have been able to save her. I wanted to get further practice so I continued to drain the fluid from her body. I must have drained about 60ml more before I stopped.

Although I couldn't save Valencia, I learnt a lot with your help. I know what to look for should this happen again. Thank you both very much.
Sad to hear but it's an unfortunate thing that happens. The time is usually extremely limited even of the drainage is successful. The only thing that matters you cared enough to try and at least ease her pain.
 
Last edited:

Susie Seagrave

Songster
6 Years
Jul 29, 2015
42
41
104
Aegina, Greece
Thank you both for your kind words. Over the years, I've come to understand that no matter how much I care and how good my animal husbandry might be, I have come to accept that I will lose some of my beautiful birds, but it's never easy to bear! Especially when you have a small number of birds, as I do. I know each one of them so well.

As I live on a small Greek island, access to a range of food, medicines and vet's care is extremely limited, so I rely on BYC a lot! As it's so hot here in the summer even at night, my birds don't like to go in the hen house at night. As we're in the countryside and there are foxes around, I always have to put them inside myself, so it's a good opportunity to examine everyone as I put them to bed. This is also useful as it's when the mites are most active and easier to spot. It's been a bad year for mites, as we had an early heatwave and then a bit of warm, damp weather, but I think we're over the worst of the mites now.

When I remember my beautiful Valencia, I remember the vocal, energetic, affectionate bird she was and at least she's out of pain now. And you're right - she was walking bow-legged. I'll watch out for that in the future. Thank you both once again :)
 

New posts New threads Active threads

Top Bottom