Hen with swollen abdomen

Question:
Hen with swollen abdomen. I have a Blue Andalusian hen, Blackie, who will be 4 yrs old this March (if she lives that long).

I have her and another 13 hens (mixed breeds) housed in an indoors-only coop. Normally they are on a Layer 18 diet, supplemented with a small amount of daily scratch and Probios in the water.

The problem is that for about 6 months Blackie has been having soft small stools and a slightly enlarged abdomen.

Treatment with Amprolium has been ineffective at improving her condition, but she seemed stable enough till about a month ago, when she started to worsen dramatically; perhaps in part due to an emergency on my part that made me unable to clean the water and give them pro biotic daily.

Within this time, her abdomen has become increasingly swollen and hard and seems tender to the touch.

Her droppings are pasted all over her vent feathers, and while normal in color have the shape (visualize how it comes out of the tube) and consistency of toothpaste, and have a foul odor.

She still eats with the others, but only about half the food she used to consume, and aside from her huge abdomen, is bone-thin.

Her comb is pale and shrunken, and if I hold her to my ear I can hear a slight clicking when she breathes - though I cannot tell if this is because holding her causes her enough pain that she's breathing too hard.

She also seems perpetually cold since when not eating she is always standing under the heat-lamp with her head pulled in.

Unfortunately I am suspecting Lyphoid Leukosis after reading some material on this site, but I am wondering if there are other possibilities? Is there anything at all I can do for her?

Also she has been sick for a long time and since I had at first assumed it was just a stomach upset, I did not quarantine. Isn't it late now?

Answer:
If you highly suspect a particular disease, I would take appropriate action right away. The swollen abdomen may be caused by constipation.

It’s unusual for chicken droppings to be so formed and condensed as you have described. It almost sounds like she isn’t getting enough fiber in her diet.



You might offer some oil orally, about a tbsp of olive oil, or mineral oil. I would offer some form of electrolyte, either Gatorade, Pedialyte, or a poultry product. This can help rehydrate her system and perk her up.

You didn’t mention if she is laying. Dehydration can cause a poorly lubricated oviduct and the large abdomen could be a sign of eggs backing up in her.

Gently feel for egg shaped lumps. If you suspect this could be the problem, injecting some mineral oil into her vent with a needle-less syringe may help.

Taking her to a sink and running very warm water down her chest past her vent for about 5 minutes may relax muscles and allow eggs to pass, if she is egg bound; and you will be able to clean up her vent area. Keep her warm with a covered heating pad on low and see if she tries to lay.

Sometimes quarantine is more stressful than helpful. At this point, her being the only one with these signs, it’s probably not contagious.

I would be cautious not to over medicate and would cease cocciodisis treatment that is not helping.

Pro-biotics are helpful, but probably not needed at all times in the only available water source. Your chickens need the fiber and other nutrients provided by grasses and whole seeds.

It’s unclear why your chickens are indoors all the time. Exposure to fresh air and sunshine is vital for a healthy flock, as well as fresh fruit, some whole seeds and vegetable materials offered with a good layer feed.

Even in cold winter temperatures chickens need the exercise and stimulation of getting out. A heat lamp may provide physical comfort but cannot provide all the health benefits of natural sunlight and fresh air.

I would highly suggest a vitamin supplement for all your chickens, but especially this sick one. I hope this helps give you some ideas that will help her.

Return to Raising Chickens Home Page

Comments for Hen with swollen abdomen

Average Rating starstarstarstarstar

Click here to add your own comments

Mar 16, 2012
Hen with swollen abdomen
by: Kendra

My 2 year old rhode island red hen has all the symptoms of constipation. Now will her breathing be labored too since her abdomen is really swollen.

I mean her stool, her swollen abdomen is all sounding like her symptoms. The only thing she also has is labored breathing when she lays down especially.

She walks around and pecks at the grass but when she lays down she has a hard time with breathing. She breathes real heavy. Please let me know. Thank you.

Jun 24, 2012
Hen with swollen abdomen
by: sharon

Chickens that live indoors all the time are probably lacking fiber, which could lead to constipation.

I think it's more likely that this hen was suffering from egg yolk peritonitis, a disease that usually means the end of a hens life.

I've heard of someone "spaying" a pet hen, removing all her reproductive organs, so that she could continue to have a good life for a while longer. I can imagine finding a vet to do this and the cost are uncommon.

When a hen begins to be layed out she can have multiple egg follicles leaving her ovaries that drift into her abdomen causing an infection and abdominal swelling.

She will waddle as she struggles to balance herself and her increasing body weight. This is egg yolk peritonitis. It is most common in production breeds that lay all year and have layed all the eggs they can in about 2 years.

Short of expensive surgery and treatments this disease is fatal.

Click here to add your own comments

Return to Chicken Disease Questions.