How Do You Cure An Egg Bound Chicken? (symptoms, treatment, prevention)

I have been keeping and breeding chickens for well over 20 years, and during that time I have had more than my fair share of chickens that became egg bound.

When a hen becomes egg-bound, it is not just uncomfortable for her, but can actually put her life at risk.

The good news is if you know what signs to look out for, and you act quickly, the chances are you can help get her egg moving.

In this article, I will share with you some of my experiences dealing with egg bound chickens and help you recognize the symptoms as well as give guidance on how to treat her, plus how we can hopefully prevent our chickens from becoming egg bound in the first place.

OUR LATEST VIDEOS

Buff Orpington Cockerel
Buff Orpington Cockerel

What Causes a Chicken To Become Egg Bound?

Unfortunately, there are many different potential causes of a chicken becoming egg bound. Below I have listed the 5 most common reasons.

  • Extra large or unusually shaped eggs
  • Double yolked eggs
  • Unsuitable nesting place
  • Infection of the reproductive system
  • Parasites

Extra large or unusually shaped eggs

Sometimes, our hens lay eggs that are larger than normal or are for some reason unusually shaped. This is perfectly natural and the majority of the time these eggs don’t cause the chickens any problems.

Occasionally one of these eggs can get stuck in the chicken’s reproductive system.

In my experience, it is extra large eggs that are most likely to cause a chicken to become egg bound.

Double yolked eggs

Whilst you can technically place double-yolked eggs into the category of extra large eggs above, I have listed them separately because most of us see a double-yolker as a prize.

We are always delighted when breaking an egg open to find 2 golden orbs swimming in the egg white rather than just one.

Double yolkers are almost always bigger than regular eggs, and they can be the cause of a chicken becoming egg bound.

Again, double-yolked eggs are a natural part of keeping chickens, and they are usually laid by young hens whose reproductive system is just getting going, so there is little you can do about it.

Unsuitable nesting place

Having a lack of suitable nesting places can cause a chicken to hold her egg in for too long, which can lead to her becoming egg bound.

A lack of suitable nesting places may be a result of not having enough nest boxes for the number of chickens sharing the coop, or it could be because the nestboxes themselves are too small, do not have an appropriate bedding material in them, or because the bedding material has become wet or excessively soiled.

Chickens may also refuse to use the nest box if they are being bullied.

Hens may try and bully each other by denying another chicken access to the food, water, or nest boxes.

Pecking can become extreme and very painful leading to the bird that is being bullied choosing to hold her egg in rather than risk being excessively pecked for entering the nestbox.

Infection of the reproductive system

It is rare for chickens to get infections in their reproductive systems, but it does occasionally happen. These infections can lead to parts of the oviduct becoming red and inflamed.

Such infections may cause the eggs to become stuck, or unable to pass through an especially inflamed section of the oviduct.

Parasites

Parasites such as worms can cause a chicken to retain an egg rather than lay it. If a hen has an especially high load of internal parasites like worms, she may become unable to pass the eggs.

Other Reasons Chickens Become Egg Bound

There are a few other reasons chickens may end up holding on to their eggs rather than laying them.

These include stress, which can be brought on when a chicken is being bullied or has been moved to a new coop, premature laying which is when we try and force our chickens to start laying earlier than their natural body clock is ready, and obesity as a chicken that is overweight may be unable to physically push her eggs out due to excess fat or weak muscles.

What are the symptoms of an egg bound chicken?

If there is one problem with keeping chickens it can be spotting there is something wrong before it is too late.

Chickens know there are dozens of predators out there just waiting to pick off sick or weak members of the flock. They also know their own flock mates will be quick to turn on a weak or injured member.

As such, chickens have become adapted to hiding any issues from their flock mates, and therefore from us too.

Luckily, if you have kept your chickens for a while and had a chance to get to know them, you should be able to spot a change in their behaviors.

It is these changes that will hopefully let us know our chickens may be egg bound.

The symptoms we are looking out for include;

  • Vent straining or squatting – If when you are watching your hens one of them seems to be straining her vent or frequently squatting down, as if trying to push something out, then there is a possibility she has become egg bound. She may have the feeling there is something stuck in her oviduct.
  • Walking strangely – Again, that feeling of having something stuck in her oviduct, especially if the egg is close to her vent, may cause the egg bound chicken to develop a slightly strange walk. It probably won’t be so extreme everyone would notice, but if you know your chickens, you will quickly spot that one of them is walking slightly differently from normal. It is sometimes said an egg bound chicken walks a bit like a penguin!
  • Pumping her rear end – Another classic sign of a chicken suffering from being egg bound is her continually squatting down and pumping her rear end up and down. She does this in an effort to move the egg that is stuck and hopefully pass it through her vent. This technique does sometimes work and she can pass the egg without further issue.
  • Lethargic – Hens that are egg bound often spend a lot of time straining and trying to push the egg out. This can lead to them wasting a lot of energy. Add to that the fact she is likely to eat less as she has that stuffed feeling and you end up with a chicken that is lethargic and reluctant to move around as she normally would.
  • Reduced appetite – It can often be difficult to keep an eye on how much food an individual chicken is eating as they tend to graze throughout the day. However, if one of your hens does not rush to the feeder as soon as the coop door is opened, or seems uninterested in treats when you enter the run, it may be because she is egg bound.
  • No Poop or only liquid poop – As mentioned in previous articles, when a chicken goes to the bathroom, their poop is a mixture of poop and urine in one package. When a hen is egg bound, its vent can essentially be blocked, preventing any solid poop from leaving her body, meaning she either does not poop at all (hard to keep track of) or she is only passing small amounts of very thin liquid.
  • Generally looking unwell – So I appreciate this is not a specific symptom, but if one of your hens is just sitting there, eyes closed, feathers puffed up, not really interested in eating, it may indicate an underlying issue, and being egg bound does make a hen feel very uncomfortable.

The short video below demonstrates perfectly what one of your chickens might look like if she is egg bound and trying to pass the egg that is stuck.



How do You Treat an Egg Bound chicken?

Make no mistake, a chicken being egg bound poses a serious threat to the chicken’s health and can prove to be life-threatening.

When a chicken is egg bound, it will not be able to pass any eggs (clearly!) but it will also not be able to pass any waste. Everything that leaves a chicken’s body has to come out through the chicken’s vent, and if there is an egg blocking that vent, no poop can leave either.

It is essential that you diagnose and treat an egg bound chicken as quickly as possible.

Whenever I have a chicken that has become egg-bound, I always follow the same procedure. It has worked for me each time and I always recommend it to others.

Step 1: Give her some calcium

feeding our chickens extra calcium can introduce a contraction-like state, helping push out an egg that is stuck in the chicken’s oviduct.

The best way to do this is to break up a calcium supplement meant for humans and feed it to your hen. If she is reluctant to eat it, try mixing it with a small amount of crushed dried mealworms or mixed corn.

Step 2: Let her rest for 15 to 30 minutes

Don’t return your egg bound hen to the flock at this point, but rather place her somewhere dark and quiet.

I use a large, sturdy cardboard box or plastic pet carrier. I will line the bottom with a thick layer of chopped straw or shredded paper to create a nestbox feel.

There is a good chance the calcium supplement you have fed her will help her lay the egg whilst she is sitting in the box. I find most times after half an hour or so she has passed the egg. If an hour passes and still no sign of the egg, move to step 3.

Step 3: A nice warm bath

For step 3 you will want to fill a large container (or even your own bath) with warm, but not hot, water. Adding a cup of Epsom Salts for each gallon of warm water will help relax her vent muscles.

Gently lower the chicken into the warm bath and carefully hold her lower body under the water. At first, she will almost certainly struggle and fight to get away, but after a minute or two they normally relax.

Once she relaxes, she will probably be happy to sit in the warm water for a while. I would recommend keeping her there for as long as is reasonably practical. The longer she spends in the warm, Epsom Salt water, the more relaxed her lower body muscles will be.

After around half an hour, remove her and dry her off as much as possible to prevent her from getting a chill.

Return her to her quiet temporary nest box and leave her alone for 2 to 3 hours.

There is a very good chance she will now pass the egg blockage. If she doesn’t, proceed to step 4.

Step 4: Massage her abdomen

If at this point she has still not passed the egg, carefully pick her up and gently rub and massage her abdomen, taking care not to break the egg inside her body. A broken egg will be even harder to pass and can result in infection and long-term complications for the chicken.

I am not a huge fan of massaging my chickens, neither I nor the hens seem to enjoy it, but others swear by it.

After a few minutes of massaging, return her to her nestbox and leave her alone for another hour or two.

Hopefully, once all these steps are completed the egg bound chicken will have passed her blockage, but if she doesn’t you can repeat steps 3 and 4 a couple of times.

If you still have no joy, then you should consider speaking to a veterinary surgeon who deals with poultry.

Some sources suggest you try breaking the egg inside the chicken and extracting it piece by piece. I would highly recommend you do not break the egg inside the chicken.

Broken eggs inside a chicken’s oviduct can lead to some serious infections. If steps 1 to 4 do not solve the problem, seek professional help ASAP.

How to Prevent a chicken from becoming Egg Bound

Needless to say, prevention is better than cure and we can hopefully reduce the chances of one of our hens becoming egg bound in the first place if we put a few simple practices in place.

All of the suggestions listed below would be considered best practice generally when it comes to chicken keeping, and none of them are specifically just about preventing a hen from becoming egg bound.

1. Feed an appropriate diet

To get the very best from your laying hens, you always want to feed them a dedicated layers pellet or layers mash. These foods are designed to provide all the correct nutrients and supplements a chicken of laying age needs.

2. Provide extra calcium

Even though I feed all my laying chickens suitable layers pellets, which will naturally include an element of calcium, I always supplement their diet with additional calcium in the form of crushed oyster shells.

Providing the chickens extra calcium not only ensures their eggs have strong shells but also helps keep their internal laying systems working properly.

3. Provide suitable nestboxes

I recently wrote an entire article dedicated to nestboxes for chickens, and in that article, I essentially recommended that you should have at least 1 nestbox for every 3 chickens you keep. Having too few nestboxes can cause chickens to hold their eggs in, leading to them becoming egg bound.

Having nestboxes that do not contain suitable nestbox bedding material can also be an issue as can nestboxes being heavily soiled and unusable.

Chickens holding in their eggs is one of the main causes of an egg bound chicken.

4. Treat for internal parasites

As discussed earlier in this article, parasites are a major cause of egg binding, and internal worms are a real problem.

Preventing worms can be as simple as adding apple cider vinegar to the chicken’s drinking water.

Apple cider vinegar makes the chicken’s digestive system slightly acidic which kills off the worms, allowing the chickens to expel them from their systems.

5. Reduce Stress

In my experience, stress in chickens is massively underappreciated. Stress can cause illness in chickens and allow diseases and parasites to overwhelm the birds.

It is so important we make sure our chickens are not stressed. Providing them with ideal conditions to live in, sufficient nestboxes and plenty of food and water are the best ways to reduce stress, along with making sure there is no bullying or excessive pecking going on within the flock.

6. Don’t overfeed the hens

As mentioned when discussing the causes of egg binding, an overweight chicken is many times more likely to become egg bound than a chicken of a healthy weight.

Whilst it can be difficult to ration an individual chicken’s feed, not feeding your hens foods high in sugar, salt or fat is a good start.

Generally, processed foods meant for human consumption are not healthy for chickens and should be avoided at all costs.

Ensuring your chickens get sufficient exercise by allowing them to free range as often as possible is also a great way to keep them at the ideal weight.

7. Don’t provide artificial light

There is a small, but dedicated group of chicken keepers that insist their birds must lay continually, all year round. A chicken will naturally lay fewer eggs as the days get shorter, but some keepers like to provide their hens with artificial light to keep the laying rate up.

In my experience, all chickens should be allowed a rest period where their body does not have to work so hard, trying to produce 3 to 5 eggs a week.

Research has shown there is a higher chance of a chicken becoming egg bound when they are forced to lay at a high rate all year round.

8. Always treat infections promptly

One of the main causes of egg binding is when a chicken gets an internal infection in the oviduct. If any part of the oviduct becomes infected or inflamed, there is a good chance the eggs will not be able to pass through as easily as they otherwise could.

Identifying and treating internal infection early can reduce the chances of the infection causing further complications like egg binding.

In Conclusion

If you suspect one of your chickens may be egg bound it is imperative that you act quickly. A chicken with an egg stuck in its oviduct may only survive for a couple of days.

Following the steps listed above should help clear the problem, but if it doesn’t, seek professional medical help quickly.

Always remove an egg bound chicken from her flock because the other birds will quickly realize she is weak or unwell and they may well start to pick on her, pecking her excessively in an attempt to drive her from the flock.

I have had good success over the years treating birds that have become egg bound, and in my experience at least, the blockage can be cleared in the vast majority of cases.

If you found this article helpful, why not check out another one I wrote recently titled ‘How to protect your chickens from hawks’.


Aaron Homewood

Aaron Homewood is HomesteadSavvy.com‘s poultry editor. Arron has spent over 20 years keeping, breeding, and showing different poultry breeds, including chickens, ducks, geese, and quail.​
Poultry Editor

Article Sources:

  1. The Vet’s Corner – Egg-binding watchbird-ojs-tamu.tdl.org
  2. Safely Treating an Egg-Bound Hen Cackle Hatchery