Egg binding,

You first generally notice this ailment rather too late, when it is obvious the hen is in some discomfort. The hen often stands or moves in an odd way, usually with her tail held very low and her rear end tucked between her legs. Sometimes they just sit around looking ruffled, but often it is obvious the bird is straining to pass an egg. If you spot it early your chances of helping the hen are greatest.

Egg binding can happen in young hens just starting to lay or in older birds that have become fat.  Lack of exercise can cause fat to build up in the birds body, around the reproductive organs and so cause the egg to get stuck. Lack of calcium in the diet can be a major cause of it.  Sometimes the egg is just too large for the bird to pass, sometimes the shell is rough and not easily expelled.
 In my experience the egg bound hen, (Unless it's a pullet first starting to lay, these seem to respond better) has not got a very good outlook.  If you approach the problem with this in mind then anything you can do to save your bird is a bonus.  Unless the egg gets passed without too much fuss, it frequently seems to cause the bird massive shock, the bird often will die.  Egg binding can also cause a prolapse, which will forever cause problems with that hen afterwards.  However going on the principle that if its going to die without help. You have to try something!

So here are some things you can do to assist the hen, and are always worth trying, especially on a young bird who is just having trouble with her first egg.  These birds are usually the most rewarding to treat, they seem to respond better and often it does not reoccur with them, unlike older birds who have developed internal problems.

The first thing to do is to put the bird somewhere warm for a while,  often, this treatment in itself can help enormously.  As with many bird related ailments, heat can be a wonderful healer.  If the hen is in shock from it is vital.  A comfortable heat will often give the bird enough of a boost to be able to pass the egg herself.  Hopefully this will be the case with your bird.   If after a while she is still straining and no egg has arrived, I would suggest gently introducing some slightly warmed oil (body temp) into the vent, cooking oil is fine.  If the egg is visible hold the hen vent downwards over a bowl of gently steaming water.. (Don't over-heat the poor thing she's going through hell as it is!)

Many people will tell you that if you break the egg the hen will die.  Yes this is very often the case, sometimes the act of breaking the egg may cause the bird to just have a heart attack and drop dead. I've seen it happen, but I have had success on two occasions using this method.  I gently and carefully made a small hole in the visible end of the egg, and emptied the contents.  The contractions of the hen quickly crushed the now empty shell and I pulled it free.  DO NOT leave any egg behind!

If your hen finally lays her egg  she will show immediate and understandable relief!  I always give the hen some electrolytes to drink and a light feed and usually they are happy to go back to the flock after a brief rest.  In the case of an older bird, I usually put her on a light diet for a few days to try to bring her out of lay. Especially if I think it is due to the hen being overweight.

Now for some modern stuff that I have heard about but haven't tried, but I'm absolutely going to ask my vet about! I have recently heard that excellent results can be obtained very quickly with injectable calcium gluconate which is given as an inter muscular injection into the pectoral muscle.
I want to find out more about this as it could be very useful in future.

Preventing egg binding:
I have found that by using a calcium/mineral supplement added to the birds layers rations a couple of times a week that this problem has decreased.  I have a lot of birds and generally used to expect to have a couple of cases of egg binding during the season.  The last couple of years its been very minor, if at all, so I think that the added calcium/minerals may have just given that extra help needed to help prevent this ailment.  As calcium is required for the muscle contractions which push the egg out of the body as well as for the formation of the shell I think extra calcium and minerals are a very good idea during the breeding season. I for one will not rely on breeders pellets and oyster shell alone.

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