Egg Binding in Poultry
By Dr Rob Marshall
This term describes a life threatening condition where an egg is wedged in the cloaca and cannot be laid. This condition commonly affects a young hen when laying her first egg, but can affect any hen at any time.
The causes of egg binding include any condition (e.g. dietary deficiencies, aflatoxins, bowel infections, inflammation of the oviduct related to viral infections etc.) or circumstance (cold spell, laying out of season, a large egg etc.) that weaken the vaginal muscles and prevent the egg from being expelled.
Symptoms associated with egg binding appear suddenly and include lethargy, distended abdomen, swollen and pasted vent. These symptoms mimic other conditions such as egg peritonitis, cystic ovary, uterus infection, internal layer (ectopic eggs), ascites from liver or heart failure.
X-rays are needed to confirm a diagnosis of egg binding. With egg binding an x-ray will show a distinctly formed and calcified egg. When the x-ray does not reveal a distinct eggshell, then the problem is far more complex. If there is no shell visible then these same X-ray will reveal whether the bird has a shell-less egg in the uterus, be an internal layer or have fluid in the abdomen related to a problem in another organ.
Egg binding is a serious disorder that requires immediate care. An emergency treatment administers 25mls (bantam) - 50mls (large breed) of a heated (30 -35 degrees Celsius) formula of energy calcium and protein (Quikgel/Hical and ER formula) using a 20cm (8 inch) long 12 gauge crop needle. The bird is then placed into a heated (30 degrees celsius) cage for 10 minutes before attempting to remove the egg. This treatment re-hydrates and lubricates the vaginal tissues and restores normal muscular function in the vagina within a short time allowing the removal of the egg by gentle but firm digital pressure. Repeat treatments administered with the crop needle may be required each half hour to remove the egg when egg binding has been long standing. Antibiotics are recommended in most cases of egg binding due to the damage to and likely faecal contamination of the oviduct.
Vaginal lacerations and prolapse of the vagina may occur when removing eggs that are too large or when egg binding has been present for more than a day.
Our Egg Laying Programme will prevent future egg binding.
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