Hen with Swollen Abdomen

Discussion in 'Emergencies / Diseases / Injuries and Cures' started by DraigAthar, Nov 19, 2011.

  1. DraigAthar

    DraigAthar Chillin' With My Peeps

    Jan 1, 2011
    Plainfield, NH
    Hi all,

    Why is is ALWAYS my favorite hen that gets sick? I've been reading other threads that sound similar to this, but I thought I'd post anyway in case anyone can help.

    Magrat is my Dominique hen, 7 1/2 months old. I got her as a day old chick from MyPetChicken.com. I haven't weighed her, but when I pick her up she doesn't feel any lighter or heavier than normal. She has a swollen area beneath her vent. I only just noticed it today, so I am not sure how long she's had it but I do interact with the chickens daily so it has to be fairly recent. The area seems to be free of feathers, but I cannot tell if that's because someone else has picked at the swollen area or if it's just the fact that the swelling is spreading the existing feathers farther apart. There are no red or bloody areas, so I doubt she's been picked at much. The skin is her normal yellowish color and the swollen area doesn't seem to be any hotter than the rest of her body, but it's hard to tell since my hands are fairly cold outdoors these days. I went around and poked and prodded the other girls and no one else seems to have the same problem. When I press on the swollen area, it seems soft. There is a small spot that is slightly firmer, but it doesn't really feel like she's got a solid mass in there, like a bound egg would. There are no signs of trauma and she has been behaving normally as far as I can tell. I've seen her eat, drink, and scratch around today all like normal. I need to follow her around to witness a poop to know it's hers, but I have not noticed any bloody or icky poo lying around. I have not tried to treat her in any way yet, I only just noticed it this morning. I keep 8 hens in a 6x6 coop with shavings for bedding, and an attached run of about 14x7, with daily access to a fenced pasture (between 1 and 8 hours a day, depending on how much time we are outdoors - they only get to be in the pasture when we can supervise them). I can go take a photo of Magrat's behind if it would help. I guess I really just want to know what different thin gs it COULD be, and how to narrow it down. If it's something infectious, I need to know if the other hens are at risk. If Magrat is doomed, I'll be sad but have to deal with it. But if I can help her, I will.

  2. teach1rusl

    teach1rusl Love My Chickens

    Based on your description of her behaviors, I would certainly not assume she is doomed. So she's not waddling at all?? As if eggbound? Are the rest of your chickens the same breed? (Just wondering if you're comparing apples to apples in your touch/feel test)
    I will say that my BO had a swollen abdomen once and I freaked - I did the same as you - cupped all my other girls to see if they felt the same (they didn't, but they were other breeds). I don't know if an egg was temporarily stuck or what, but since she displayed no ill effects I didn't treat her. That was over a year ago and she's perfectly healthy today.
    I'm not helping you, I know. But I've learned (probably to protect my sanity - because I'm a worrier) to not pay too much attention to "off" things unless a hen is actually acting sick, not eating, puffed up, etc. I interact with my birds daily, so I do notice "off" things...
  3. southerndesert

    southerndesert B & M Chicken Ranch

    Jun 17, 2011
    Morristown, AZ
    Could she be egg bound?

    Some info for
    Egg bound hens

    A hen is said to be egg bound when she fails to lay her egg
    This is a common condition, and may result from inflammation of the oviduct, malformed or double yolker egg, or a too large egg in a young pullet

    The bird seems very restless
    She will drink little and eat little
    She will tend to stand all hunched up
    She visits the nest regularly in an attempt to lay her egg
    Hew oviduct may end up protrude due to excessive pushing by her to eject the egg; internal haemorrhage or exhaustion may occur and the fowl may die
    She may smell badly
    Her vent will look quite red and protrude
    She may have faecal matter that has built up behind the egg, if you see white liquid that will be her urates trying to pass (urine in chickens)

    Sit her in a tub of warm soapy water
    Make sure the vent is submerged for about 30 minutes, this may seem like a long time, but you have to relax the vent area and make is subtle for the egg to pass through, it really does help the hen, 85% of the time this will be all that you will need to do for her and the egg will pass out with a little push from her
    You can rub some lubricant around the vent area if you think that may help too, KY jelly, petroleum jelly, Vaseline or Olive Oil all work fine.
    Make sure you isolate her from the other hens, or they will peck at her vent causing more damage

    Put her into an isolation cage, put plenty of news paper down first and then put heated towels down they will act like a heat pad for her, no drafts when she is wet or she will catch a chill
    You can heat up towels in your microwave, works a treat
    If you have a heat pad that would be even better, put plenty of towels over it or it will get messy
    Leave her for a little while to see if she passes the egg, if not, repeat the warm water and soap again

    Some people just use the heating pads, this sometimes seems to relax the muscles and allow the egg to slip out

    If this doesn’t work, you may have to resort to removing the egg manually, not a nice task, and she will complain about what you are doing bitterly, you will need two people to do this task

    Using KY jelly, Petroleum jelly or Vaseline, insert your finger in the vent
    With your other hand you can press gently on her abdomen moving the egg down the oviduct towards the cloaca
    Once you can see the egg, if it won’t pass, then rupture the egg and gently remove all the shell
    Some have suggested you use a sharp instrument, I would not recommend this at all it could result in causing the hen internal injuries
    The shell of the egg will be very sharp when broken and could also damage the chicken internally
    Once you have broken the shell, make sure you remove every particle carefully
    The cloaca should then be washed with a weak warm water/salt solution, this is to make sure all the egg contents and shell has been removed from inside the hen, if it isn’t it could cause bacteria to start growing inside her, and then you’ve got an even bigger problem to solve

    Once the egg has ejected you will want to keep an eye on her for a while
    There may be another egg backed up in her oviduct system, especially if she lays an egg every day or every other day

    Sometimes they absorb the egg, but this is very unlikely and very unusual
    If you can’t find the egg and it has gone from the hen, more than likely she has eaten it shell and all

    If it has ruptured inside her, you should look for small pieces of shell, or evidence of any cuts around the vent area
    Just remember while your looking and sticking your finger in places she would prefer you didn’t, the egg shells can be quite sharp and may cut you and her
    If you do find any cuts around her cloaca, rinse with hydrogen peroxide
    Watch her for listlessness, dull eyes, and signs of fever
    Infection can come on pretty quick

    Keep a close eye on her, this could happen again to her and she will need immediate action to fix the problem

    How to help prevent the hen from laying any more eggs
    If there is any small prolapse gently push it back into the chicken with your fingers.
    The chicken should then be put on a maintenance diet of wheat and water and put in a dark cage.
    Leave the hen there for a week.

    However, it is important to restrict the chickens diet to maintenance only for possibly a couple of months. This does work!! Alternative to maintenance diet is feeding the chicken enough to keep it alive, moving and keeping warm plus enough extra feed for it to produce eggs.

    You may find that by reducing the feed it brings on a forced molt

    By reducing feed intake so that the bird has just enough feed to keep it alive, moving and keeping warm you are feeding for maintenance only. The chicken will not lay eggs and so give it the best chance of recovery.
  4. Happy Chooks

    Happy Chooks Moderator Staff Member

    Jul 9, 2009
    Northern CA
    My Coop
  5. DraigAthar

    DraigAthar Chillin' With My Peeps

    Jan 1, 2011
    Plainfield, NH
    Thanks for all the replies. I'll answer questions:

    She's not waddling, no. The flock is mixed, so Magrat is the only Dominique. The other girls I poked and prodded for comparison were buff orpington, speckled sussex, wyandotte, plymouth rock. So yeah, not a perfect comparison. But I've picked Magrat up plenty of times before so I know this is very different from her normal state. Her abdomen has never been this big before.

    After writing my initial post, I went outside to see if I could take a photo of her problem and found her in the nest box. So I am currently waiting to see if she will actually lay an egg. If she does, I think I can safely rule out egg binding, correct? I made sure there were no eggs already in the next box (or in any of the others!) and then closed the pop door to the coop, locking the other girls outside in the run temporarily. This way Magrat has the whole coop to herself and if an egg is laid I know for sure it was her. She's been in there about an hour already, though. I'll go check on her again in a few to see if there's any progress.

  6. DraigAthar

    DraigAthar Chillin' With My Peeps

    Jan 1, 2011
    Plainfield, NH
    She laid an egg! Went back out to check on her and she was off the nest box. The egg she laid was perfectly normal. She's out in the run with the rest of the girls now, scratching around. I felt her abdomen again, the swelling is still there and it feels the same as it did earlier this morning.

  7. DraigAthar

    DraigAthar Chillin' With My Peeps

    Jan 1, 2011
    Plainfield, NH
    So, an update for anyone still reading. I am lucky to have a veterinarian as a next door neighbor, I sent her an email to ask about Magrat. She (Meg is her name) replied that she hasn't really had a lot of experience treating chickens (I think she's mainly a pet vet, dogs & cats mostly) but that she'd be happy to stop by and have a look. Meg poked around at Magrat's swollen backside and said it didn't really feel like just fluid in there. There was a solid (or semi-solid) mass in her abdomen. Because Magrat had just laid an egg, Meg agreed it wasn't an egg binding problem. But she got the gloves out and felt around inside the vent to verify that there was nothing blocking it. And the swollen area isn't red or hot, so we're left wondering if Magrat has a tumor. Meg pulled out a reference book, and we both had a look; things like Marek's and lymphoid leukosis can cause abdominal swelling, but Meg pointed out that those also cause other serious symptoms and Magrat is walking around happy as a clam, eating and scratching and acting perfectly normal. Plus Magrat was vaccinated against Marek's anyway. Meg's suggestion is that unless Magrat starts to act sick, there's really no point in trying to do anything. If she has a tumor, it could be benign or it could grow and kill her, but there's really no way to tell.

    So I guess I just have to keep an eye on Magrat and hope for the best. Cross your fingers for her, please?

  8. teach1rusl

    teach1rusl Love My Chickens

    [​IMG] Hopefully she'll be like the hen I mentioned - nothing will come of it and she'll still be happily pecking about a year from now [​IMG]
  9. DraigAthar

    DraigAthar Chillin' With My Peeps

    Jan 1, 2011
    Plainfield, NH
    Quote:Yes, I am very much hoping for exactly that!

  10. EmmyGirl

    EmmyGirl Out Of The Brooder

    Aug 2, 2008
    Skippack, PA
    Yay--That's awesome! I love a happy ending [​IMG]
    Last edited: Nov 19, 2011

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