successful waterbelly drain


In the Brooder
10 Years
Jan 12, 2010
Oakland, CA
Last month I had an old (3 years +), red star with very serious water-belly. She was so swollen she could hardly walk because of the weight and because her legs were so bow-legged from her swollen abdomen. Apparently there are a couple of different health reasons that can cause it, and I wasn't able to determine which was the root cause, but the condition persisted and got worse for a couple of months, so after reading a number of threads in this forum on the subject, I decided to drain it. It was a very successful and she's doing really well, thanks to the BYCF!!!

Anyways, I just thought I'd give a little report of how it went:

I didn't have a catheter, and I thought the time was nigh so I went with a slightly more barbaric tool, but implemented thoughtfully, and I think it worked very well. I started by using scissors to trim back all the feathers in the area just below and to the side of her vent and cleaned the area thoroughly with alcohol. I chose a spot that seemed far enough from her vent and also not a spot that would hit the ground if she sat down, so that it would stay clean.

For the puncture, I used an awl that I sharpened with a file and cleaned with alcohol, which is about 3/16" around at the shaft. I found a spot without veins so that there wouldn't be much bleeding, and that was very easy to do with her skin so stretched by the swelling. I had to press harder and deeper than i expected to get it to drain, but when it did it came gushing. She hardly flinched at all. She was sooo good! Clear liquid oozed out in a projected stream and for 20 minutes or so I forced it to drain by applying pressure with my hands. She seemed to be feeling better almost immediately and was standing and walking around some, so I let her continue to do so while the puncture continued to drain slowly for the rest of the afternoon. I swear, I'm not embellishing when I say I think a quart and a half of liquid came out of her. When all was said and done, I didn't see any way I could get a bandage to stick so I let the puncture heal on it's own, checking a few times a day to see that the puncture hadn't gotten dirty. It healed very quickly.

Anyways, I know some of the more experienced keepers here would probably have better methods, but the bottom line is I did it and I'm glad I did, and I'm pretty sure I saved her life. I had another chicken that I did not treat who died from the same condition not too long ago. It's nearly a month later, and she's running around and eating well and even fighting some of the other birds.

Thanks everybody, great forum,
Well at least you have prolong her life but some of our members HAD done these type of surgeries. However almost all of them ended up dying or dead, from the same thing.

SpeckledHen can tell you stories of those girls she had, the trials and errors she had to endure to fight to keep her girls alive.

This disease that your hen has, it is genetic for what we believe. Hatcheries are notorious for that and not very many of them live past three to five years old.

Enjoy her while you can but only you will do what you need to do when she is really suffering. It is much more merciful to have her put down rather than trying to prelong her life when she is already down and very very weak.
I did it and think that it turned out successfully. It's only been four months, but my pain has made a full recovery. We noticed she stopped laying eggs, her abdomen was swollen, then falling off of her roost. We took her inside, drained out 250 cc's of green fluid, gave her a week's worth of Tylan 50, and kept her inside for a week.
Here's a before picture with her comb flopped over and looking sickly with a swollen abdomen, the green fluid that drained out of her, and a picture of her from about two weeks ago looking healthy and happy as ever.


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