internal layer? now what


7 Years
May 21, 2012
Oakland, CA
Hello all,

First I must say these forums have been extremely helpful over the last few months. Unfortunately one of my girls, Amelia, passed away over the weekend after what I have since diagnosed as a long battle as an internal layer. This post is to help me understand the events of the past few months in order to perhaps eliminate other possibilities. I have seen so many symptoms of several conditions listed on the internet, any feedback/observations from others would be greatly appreciated in hopes that I can help prevent my other two girls from suffering the same fate. Who knows, perhaps this will be helpful to someone in a similar situation. Here goes...

I didn't have the heart to examine Amelia post-mortem and until today I was unaware that chickens could lay internally. I am still unclear as to how to tell the symptoms of internal laying apart from the symptoms of egg binding. I do know that Amelia hasn't laid an egg in quite a while, I suspect she was close to 4 years old and I was under the impression that it was normal for them to stop laying the older they get, so until now I didn't think much of it. When I moved my girls to our new house in November, I did see a few odd eggs that I shrugged off as being "stress" eggs. A few wrinkly, deformed eggs here and there (they all stopped laying for a bit after the move), one tiny egg no bigger than a quarter, but after more research I am nervous that the wrinkly eggs could have been due to a bronchitis/? outbreak (at the old house we did get soft shell or no-shell eggs from time to time but I haven't seen any of these since, this seemed to stop after introducing oyster shell). What are the odds that only one chicken would be affected if it were bronchitis? The other two girls have always seemed fine, I think I have seen Florence gaping once but this has since stopped (see below). I would think they would show signs of sickness by now if it were a viral/bacterial issue?

The last few months Amelia has been slow, seemingly "spaced out," drooping eyes and tail. Towards the end of March she had an amazingly huge diarrhea accident overnight in the coop. I know it was her because her butt had been completely soiled and was irritated. I was washing her behind every day which seemed both helpful and extremely upsetting to her... At this time her crop felt enlarged, hard and full of material. She was also "gasping for air" and I began to suspect gape worms as the culprit. At this time I began diligently cleaning the coop, and dusting everything with diatomaceous earth (the only de-wormer available to me, the thought of using harsh chemicals on only three girls seems like overkill), even in their food and water. She responded to the dio earth almost immediately, she seemed more alert, her crop softened and the diarrhea stopped. According to the poop chart, everything appeared normal after this treatment. The other girls would always pick on poor Amelia, so this is what I attributed the purple on the tips of her comb to. Her feathers came back on her butt, and overall it appeared she had put on weight and seemed bigger to me. Now I realize perhaps this was because her entire abdomen was expanding with the pressure of all that material... When I buried her yesterday she did feel heavier and more solid than I had remembered. Her cloaca and backside in general was swollen and red, and it looked like something was trying to come out of there but was unable. I suspect she died from pushing too hard. So strange because she hadn't seemed different, she had been moving about that morning, and she never stopped eating but was eating less.

There are few differences between this coop and the situation we had at the old house. Now they have an enclosed run, and spend days inside their enclosure. When we are home they have full use of the back yard. There is more sun here than at the old house, but I do not think that they get overheated. One major change, I have been using shredded paper as bedding. Sometimes it can be quite dusty and I have seen all of the hens eat scraps of paper. I wonder if that extra dust can cause the above breathing problems? Previously we used straw bedding (today I went and bought a bale in order to switch back).

For a few months we also struggled with egg breaking. Sometimes they would eat the egg contents, but for weeks I would open the coop and to my dismay I was greeted by a runny mess. Even after cleaning it out day after day, those little ones would continue to break their own eggs (the solution ended up being a bigger, darker crate for them to lay in, and they are very particular to two brooder eggs of a specific size and shape). This has since stopped completely but I wonder if it could have made them sick? What are the consequences to them eating their own eggs? I am pretty confident that Amelia did not lay any eggs while this was going on as I never saw her using the nesting box, but she may well have eaten some.

The only other change I have made recently is I have started them on bird grit since they are in their enclosure so often, and kelp meal to help boost egg production (that stuff works!). Is it possible for these supplements to make for a sick chick? We also had some work done on our house in the last week, some wood was removed from our back door/kitchen which had been dry rotted. Would it be possible she may have ingested some of this nasty wood, which could have made her sick? Though the symptoms have been going on for months as I mentioned... I just keep second guessing myself and a trip to the vet was unfortunately not an option for Amelia.

I am concerned because this is happening now just before I am expecting to add a few more girls to my flock (my mother went out and bought 20 chicks out of jealousy I suppose and she is realizing she may have gotten too many!). So naturally I am concerned because I don't want others to go Amelia's route. She was older and had been rescued by my previous roommate, so if it was viral/bacterial I suspect her to be the "source of infection" and am wondering now that she is gone, what is the risk to my other girls? I have cleaned the coop thoroughly and am still treating with dio earth.

I'm sure some breeds are more prone to internal laying (I believe Amelia was a golden sex link, the other two are barred rock). I guess there is no way to be absolutely sure what happened except to do an autopsy, and after a few youtube videos I think this is not something I am capable of doing. If you've made it all the way to the end of this long post, I would really appreciate any feedback or experience you may have. When I raised chickens as a kid the raccoons always got to them before they could get sick, and though I have lost two girls to pit bulls at the last place Amelia is the first one to go on account of a health condition. From now on I want to be more informed and thanks in part to these forums I will know what to watch for. Like I said I suspect she was an internal layer, but am a bit naive when it comes to symptoms. Thanks for reading!

Last edited by a moderator:
Hi! I'm so sorry for your loss. I know what it's like agonizing over symptoms and then wondering what you should have/could have/might have done. This may sound a little calloused, but sometimes it just happens, and considering the rest of your flock has no problems, I really wouldn't stress out about it too much. Sometimes animals just get sick and die, and we never know why. :(

It sounds like you did all you could, and it also sounds like you're a wonderful chicken owner. I love this site, too. My mom was having problems with her chickens.... I did some research on this site, and we figured out it was bumble foot. Did the surgery on them, and they are doing great.

I hate other people having problems, but I sure do learn a ton from others' experiences!
Thank you for the kind reply... I am doing my best to be a good mother! Its hard sometimes because there are so many things it could be...
I'm so sorry for your loss.

I completely understand how you are feeling. I lost my Trixie yesterday and I am questioning over and over what could have been the cause. Sour crop? Egg binding? Something else entirely? She was only 11 months old. Today, my Sussex, Susie, is acting wrong. No one but me would know that anything is wrong because she looks like her gorgeous self, but she's not eating like a shark in a feeding frenzy like she usually does. She didn't greet me this morning with the others like she usually does. And I keep seeing just a little head shake every so often, which none of them do. And she has now gone into the coop on 3 different days to lay and when I check, nothing is there. So now I'm wondering what the next few days will hold.
If one had bronchitis, they all would have had it so no worries there.

Her crop issues can come from her systems shutting down near death. Crops quit working at that time and can need extra help not to become impacted.

She probably did not have gapeworm as it is not very common and DE will not fix that anyway. She may have been gasping for air because the crop contents were up in her throat and maybe there was fluid building in her lungs as well from the infections raging in her body. I've presided over the deaths of 10-11 hens from internal laying and egg yolk peritonitis as well as ovarian carcinoma, so have seen much of this stuff.

Eating their eggs won't make them sick. They may have just been eating eggs that broke from weak shells, which is technically not egg-eating. Mine will eat an egg that breaks, but won't break one open on purpose.

Her being a hybrid layer and older to boot means she was most likely an internal layer and anything else wrong probably came from all her internal organs being stressed from the poisons in her body.
Last edited:

New posts New threads Active threads

Top Bottom