How To Recognize It and How To Treat It
Probably my favourite hen in my flock goes by the name Loretta.
Please don’t tell any of the others I said she was my favourite.
Because she’s my favourite, she is the one that is frequently on death’s door. Isn’t that the way is always goes?
Loretta is a hatchery stock Rhode Island Red hen who has a problem with egg binding. Egg binding is a serious condition that can kill a hen quickly. You generally have 24 – 48 hours to get the egg out. If you don’t get it out the hen will die.
Signs of An Egg Bound Hen:
- Standing off by herself
- Tail is droopy
- Lack of appetite/thirst
- Puffed up feathers or droopy wings
- Waddling or “walking like a penguin”
- Not pooping, or watery poop
- Pale comb and wattles
The first thing I do when I see a hen standing off by herself is check for an egg. I can usually feel the egg or an egg like lump in her abdomen near her left leg.
Causes of Egg Binding
- Poor diet
- Not enough calcium
- Lack of nesting space
- Premature layer
- Large egg or misshapen egg
- Oviduct infection
What To Do
The first thing is to bring that poor girl in to a warm bath.
If you have a large container or tote box you can use that. I just bring the hen right into my bathroom and plunk her in the tub. You want the water to be up to her tail when she’s standing. Then let her have a nice long soak. The longer the better. I have found most hens quite enjoy being bathed. Just keep her wings pinned to her sides until she gets used to it. I always talk calmly to her too until she’s settled. Ideally you want her to soak for 20 minutes, but Loretta usually decides when she’s had enough. I also gently massage her abdomen while she’s soaking.
After her bath, dry her off well, either with a towel or a blow dryer on the lowest setting. Apply some coconut oil to the vent to help lubricate it for removing the egg then isolate her some place quiet. I usually put Loretta in a dog crate in the back room of the house so I can keep an eye on her. I set up a heat lamp for her on one side of the crate and drape a blanket over the other side. I put towels down inside the crate to create a warm soft environment. You want her warm and relaxed.
I provide water and crushed egg shell in the crate with her. Some people give their hens a calcium supplement during this time, but I’ve only ever used crushed egg shell.
And then, we wait.
I check on her every hour to see if the egg has passed. If after 4 hours it hasn’t passed, repeat the bath. Keep checking on her until she has passed the egg.
Once a hen has become egg bound it is highly possible for it to happen again so be sure to watch for the symptoms.
- Feed your hens a high quality layer feed.
- Make sure they have access to free choice calcium in the form of either egg shells or oyster shell.
- Make sure they have lots of nesting space.
- Avoid supplemental light in your coop.
- Make sure she gets plenty of exercise.
- Don’t over do it with treats.
Egg binding can be scary, especially when it’s your favourite girl, but if you act fast when you notice a hen acting off she should be just fine and back to her sassy self in no time.
Because hens make eggs. And April eats eggs.
Therefore save the hens!