Some info on acites.


In the Brooder
6 Years
Jul 10, 2013
bayford virginia
I had a hen develop a water belly, her comb flopped over and turned blue due to weak heart. She became immobile. I did research on this site reading peoples experiences and saved her. Thank you. I prick her with a 16 gauge needle and gently get water draining remove syringe and let water naturally drain. She knows i help her, when she fills up her come turns blue, once she is drained of water she perks up starts scratching. She comes and knocks on the door I let her in for a snack and send her on her way. Just sharing, they can be saved at least temporarily.
I have recently encountered this problem with two of my hens a BR and RR. I started taking notes from this site and other sources I found on the internet and come up with this in my research on ascities:

Ascites is when you see a chicken’s abdomen filling up with fluids due to usually liver failure but can also be from cancer or other organ failures and even infection from internal egg laying. No cure, just drain with syringe until their time is up. It is often associated with labored breathing due to lungs compressed from fluid pressure. In bad cases and near the end, the comb turns blue/purple due to lack of oxygen. Penicillin and draining will help with infection and breathing temporarily but this is just prolonging the inevitable. Most common in older hens of all breeds (layers and meat) 3-4 years of age.

One person noted a higher incident in extreme heat conditions. I also noticed this true. I’ve never seen a chicken get this during cool months or in the winter. It is always during extreme heat in the summer that it escalates. Suggestions for preventatives or prolonging would be an AC in the shed.

Also noticed that chickens who have suffered a wound or bumble foot developed this condition shortly there after in conjunction with extreme heat. They may have been predisposition to do so anyway and the wound triggered it sooner.

Ascites has been blamed on production facilities selective breeding “types” and/or manipulating early growth conditions via food or light that will produce high yield in meat or eggs at a quicker rate, meaning their hormones and growth rates are genetically engineered to “getting meat or eggs faster and more of.” This compromises the chicken’s longevity and organ functions (particularly reproductive organs for the egg layers). With these “types” early egg laying is impressive and meat chickens put on so much meat in a short span that often times they are crippled by mid-summer. Most people do not care as they are culled at that time and they are quite happy to have lots of meat to eat. Egg producers are happy cause they get there loads of eggs the 1st 2 years then they are culled and simple start over with new ones.

Pet people are the ones who are hurt and left with sick and dying chickens usually over 3 years of age.

Bottom line is today’s chickens at your local feed store are not meant to live over 2 years of age. If you want a pet, get a breed that is not selectively bred to produce meat or eggs and mature at abnormal rates.
Isn't it terrible what they do to the genetics? I would like to find a source of heritage birds fit to last many years. I am an animal lover and see to it my flock receive the best possible care. We are left to suffer the consequences of mass breeding. I will continue draining my pet penny until she naturally passes. She is a buff orphington and so personable and friendly. She "knocks" on my door for a snack almost everyday. To people who wish to save their pets from ascites I recommend a 16 gauge needle and insert needle 2 inches below vent and 2 inches to the right of vent seems to be the perfect spot. Good points chickery chic.
That is a good spot to get it out. Go in slightly to the left or right, not straight in to avoid organs. My two hens I drain every other night and not once have I hit anything but water, so don't be afraid. By not doing anything they will die anyway so just do it without fear.

I will be getting backyard mutts if I get chickens again. I will do my research on the mixes involved ahead of time to best avoid this again.
They should have warning signs above the chicks for sale at the Feed stores to not allow yourself or children to get attached to these types of breeds prone to acities and internal egg laying. Not nice and certainly not humane.
Wow, every other night? I thought penny had it bad. I drain her once a week sometimes every other week. The first symptom she has is her comb, it turns blue starting on tips and in a bad case the whole rear comb is blue and flops over. Within hours after she recovers fast preens herself and happily goes back to scratching and eating. I was a bit squeamish the first draining, now I just go right to the spot and get the flow going, takes about fifteen minutes. She calmly sits and looks at me sometimes even nodding off. I also have not hit organs, seems the right side drains faster on my chicken. I would like to invent a drain for chickens with this problem.
As Chickery said, this is only a temporary fix. The water is a symptom of a much bigger underlying disease. It's not a fun way to live for the poor hen who has to drag around a bowling ball size abdomen or for her when she must be drained. Ascites is not the issue, it's the symptom of the issue. Been there, done that. Look up my own threads on my Olivia and Ivy. Here's one:
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Hey I'm just curious about your experience, why didn't you drain more often? Also my chicken must have a little different form of ascites because the fluid is always clear. What caused green yellow and black color in yours? Thanks
The color was because of infection and egg yolk in the abdomen. As Chickery said, there are several underlying causes. The main reasons I've had bloat in hens was because of Egg Yolk Peritonitis and/or Internal Laying, though a few were due to congestive heart failure at an old age.
Once you see inside the chicken, you'll understand the possible reasons for enlarged abdomin, hardened abdomin, or different colors that come out, and even why one chicken you may be able to drain a whole bunch with one injection and another has to be injected many times.

Internal egg laying picture

and finally this is another picture of what was found in a chicken with internal egg laying. Litterally egg yoke material hardened. This is not going to drain. You can feel the lumps.

Another site with picture of chicken opened up and explaination of the cause acities

Here is a very thourhough site and actually give advise on how to try to avoid it or at least ward it off for longer
How to minimize ascites (water belly)?
  • Keep air quality fresh by moving air regularly and efficiently. In the colder months, it is better to add heat and keep the air moving than to shut down vents or reduce airflow in an effort to conserve heat.
  • Treat litter by "Liiteron" to reduce ammonia production. Litter treatment is important to reduce incidence of water belly.
  • Restricting feed, feeding a mash diet, or using a less energy and protein diet.
  • Checking sodium level of water, if sodium level is high then consider using an alternate source of water that is better quality for the first 3 - 4 weeks.
  • Replace fish meals with other readymade source like amino acid arginine, if it is being used as Sodium level more than 400 ppm could be problem for broiler.
  • Careful attention to brooding temperature is also critical for minimizing water belly.
  • Prevent respiratory disease conditions.
  • Select breeds which are not genetically susceptible to this condition.
I believe that is one of my pictures of the cheesy masses. I've pulled so much of that gunk out of deceased hens, I'm tired of it. This is why I say draining only makes the hen more comfortable for a time. You cannot get that stuff out without surgery by a vet--this is NOT home surgery! By the time it's this bad, they are so depleted anyway, they won't make it through surgery most of the time.

ETA: when I was in the thick of losing all these hens, I consulted a PhD in poultry science. Eventually, his advice was to get my stock elsewhere as they had all come from the same hatchery. But, it's all the common hatchery stock that has sucky genetics. The less common ones, like the Brahmas, suffer from it to a lesser degree and the good breeder stock rarely seems to, at least the ones I've had.
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