Swollen abdomen: Drain or not? no tumor, not eggbound


14 Years
Sep 23, 2008
Austin TX
I had my sick hen x-rayed today, and she has no signs of tumors or internal eggs. Etta is a 3-1/2-year-old Sicilian Buttercup, small for her breed, and her breast is downright bony. She's been waddling for about a week with a distended abdomen. She has laid eggs only rarely for the last year or so.

Thinking she might be egg-bound, I let her sit in warm baths daily for the last 5 days, which she happily sat in for about 45 minutes or more. She eagerly eats meal worms and grubs, takes a little yogurt, sometimes nibbles minced garlic, scratch, and feed. She poops, but not often, so I don't think she's eating enough. There is nothing unusual in her stool that I can see.

The vet checked her for worms and said there nothing abnormal in her stool.

I took her to a vet (lucky to get in on a Saturday!) and splurged on x-rays. The mass in her abdomen--that I thought might be an egg--turned out to be her gizzard which showed up on the x-ray like a bag of rocks. I asked the vet about draining her, but she strongly advised against it. She was concerned that the bird was too stressed. (The travel plus the exam left her panting and tired).

The vet suggested some mineral oil might help if there was issue with the gizzard causing the fluid in the belly. I gave her large handful of mealworms in a pool of mineral oil, which she gobbled up.

I'm interested in your opinions about whether I should try to drain out some of the fluid. I have on hand a 22-gauge needle and a syringe. I am armed with instructions on draining from this link, http://www.thepoultrysite.com/forums/showthread.php?t=4340.

However, I don't understand how to use the syringe.

--Do I leave the plunger in when I insert the needle and then pull it out to suck out the fluid?
--Can I then sterilize the needle again, reinsert it, and draw out more ? This sounds like a painful repeat for the hen.
--How deep should the need go in? (it's a 1.5" needle)
--Can I take the plunger all the way out and then let the fluid run out of her, like in the you-tube video ?

Anything you all can add would be much appreciated. If I go forward with the draining, I'll be doing it on Sunday 5/20. She's still a good garden buddy even when she isn't contributing eggs.


You are correct, that thread was very helpful. I had read this and several other threads before deciding to take her to the vet. However, I'm not finding answers to the questions listed in my post. If this topic hasn't been discussed to death, I could still use some guidance.

Draining will relieve some pressure on her internal organs, though it may not fix the actual cause of the fluid buildup, which may also contain infection.

There are several reasons this could happen, including ovarian carcinoma, heart issues, etc.
I did something wrong and I killed my chicken. I wasn't able to separate the syringe from the needle so I removed the plunger and let the fluid drain. About 1/2 cup came out of her, but she started to act distressed. I removed the needle and syringe. She started trying to vomit and then pulled her head down and started gasping. It looked like she was vomiting fluid, although not much came out of her mouth. It took about a minute and half for her to die.

I feel awful. The vet feared the stress of drainage would kill her, but she was feeling a little better this morning. Obviously, I damaged something.

Thanks to all who tried to help and who contributed the useful threads.

Hang in there!! Those of us that have had chickens a long time just know that these are learning experiences and it helps us to be prepared for the next thing that comes up. You do the best that you could! I would have done the same thing to try and make her better. My girls are all pets and we want to give them the best care we can! One of my girls had a tumor and that was the reason for the fluid. My vet actually tried to drain it and lost her on the table. So sorry for your loss!
Thanks for your thoughtful note, my head knows that everything you said is true; my heart will just have to catch up.

Wow, your vet must have been disappointed, too! Even training can't save 'em all. Like you say, we all have to hang in there.
Sorry for your loss. Please don't feel bad for trying to help your chicken. I know this was not the outcome you were hoping for but maybe she was too far gone before you tried to drain the fluid. If you didn't try you would always be second guessing your self. Now you know you did all that you could do to help her.

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