The past week she'd been having trouble jumping up into the chicken coop at night so she's been roosting underneath the barn. I'd pick her up and stuff her in a nesting box for the night because she couldn't keep herself upright on the perches. Then a few nights ago I couldn't find her so figured she just either hunkered down someplace new or just keeled over.
I found her the next morning in the ditch next to the chicken coop. Dead. With her head and leg missing and her abdomen opened up. Not sure if something killed her or some critter just took advantage of the carcass. But regardless, I had an opportunity to verify my diagnosis of her being egg-bound and I didn't even have to open her up myself.
I didn't take a picture of it because 1) it was pretty gross 2) my camera batteries were dead and 3) there are plenty of pictures on the internet and you can click here for a picture if you really want to see what the softball-sized mass looks like when pulled out of the hen (just make sure you've already finished eating breakfast).
There have been three (four?) egg-bound hens here now in about two years time and after seeing what her insides looked like, I think I'd be quicker to put one down the next time I suspect a problem. I know that there are ways you can try to release the egg if you catch the problem right away, and I have done my own exploratory stint with one of them which proved to be more difficult than I had hoped and neither I nor the hen could look each other in the eye afterwards. But I've also read that some hens are pre-disposed to being egg-bound and that it is a continuing problem. I don't particularly want to be giving chicken-enemas, soaking chicken behinds in warm water or end up donning rubber gloves again with a bottle of KY Jelly nearby. And if it's hereditary, I don't need to be hatching any of that hen's eggs anyhow.
The next step would be to look up the possible causes of hens becoming egg-bound and see if there is something I can do to lessen the chances of this happening again. Anyone have any suggestions?