Monday, November 26, 2012

Unintentional Autopsy

There's been a black hen in our flock that has been pretty mopey for the last six months or more.  I know she wasn't laying for like ever and she was heavy in the abdomen so I figured I had yet another egg-bound hen.  But she'd have her good weeks and her bad days so I didn't put her down, although I probably should have.

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?


  1. Does it occur with one particular type/breed of chicken, could be genetics? Or has it varied on the breed?
    Carolyn it maybe the feed. I mentioned your post to a neighbor friend, and they said try changing their feed to see if this makes a difference.
    Sorry Sweetie, I don't know enough about chickens.

  2. We had that happen to a group of reds. There is only 2 of them left. I'm not sure why either.

  3. Dang, that is one chicken keeping experience I don't want to ever encounter. Sorry about losing another hen. :(

  4. This happened to us for the first time this year. It took me longer to make a proper diagnosis of Egg Bound Syndrome than it should have and she suffered, which I always try to avoid with any animal anywhere. The next time I suspect this, I will euthanize the hen. Low calcium levels are associated with this phenomenon. Without adequate calcium, the musculature which propels the egg through the reproductive system does not function properly and egg retention syndrome can occur. So I now supplement calcium for them all. It also can happen with underweight hens. Experienced breeders also say that hens without a male nearby also have a higher incidence of retained eggs than otherwise. This said, some breeds and some groups of breeds are more prone to this than others. Here is some authoritative information:

    Best wishes,

  5. Sorry about your hen :( I thought one of my girls was bound and kept messing with her butt, she didn't like me for awhile. She had just quit laying from the stress of losing her b.f. to a fox, and it took a grown rooster's attention to get her back into the swing of things. Do you have a rooster? They are little pains in the butts but they protect the girls and I think they stimulate egg production, others may argue that point but around here it works. Do you still have your silkie chickens? They are soo cute!
    I sent you an email, I noticed the subject line was supposed to be a smiley face but turned into a question mark which is weird, but it's supposed to be a smiley face LOL!!
    I totally forgot about the homemade presents, so I'm going to work double time or just make a batch of soap and mail that out. I'm excited to gift some blog buddies ☺

  6. Knock on wood, but I have never had an egg bound hen in about 30 years of raising chickens..... I had never even heard of it until last year sometime.
    If it is a calcium shortage, we have never had that either since I regularly feed my hens left over milk and any cheese failures from all the goat and cow milking....