Egg bound chicken can be a life-threatening situation.
Whether the bird is a family pet with an instinctual desire to achieve motherhood or an experienced breeding hen, the emergency must be recognized by the bird keeper and immediate action taken to rectify the problem. Knowing the causes, the symptoms, and the treatment for egg bound chicken may save a bird's life. Also, taking preventive measures to reduce the likelihood of occurrence is an important step in maintaining the health of your bird.
When an egg is formed, all of the elements contained within are drawn from the body and bloodstream of the hen. The bird maintains the balance of calcium in the body through her diet. A large amount of free calcium is necessary for the creation of the solid shell of a single egg, and most birds lay clutches of at least two. This high calcium demand can result in the depletion of calcium from the bones as well. The problem arises when the free calcium present in the bloodstream falls below the levels necessary to supply the muscles of the oviduct with the elements necessary to allow contraction. Without the required amount of calcium, the contractions are ineffective or absent, and the egg remains bound within the body. The hen will strain, trying to force the egg along, but without contraction of the muscle, there will be no progression. Eventually, the bird will become fatigued, and if swift action is not taken on the part of the bird owner, the animal will die.
Most bird keepers are aware of the behavior changes evident when a hen wants to nest. The wood chewing, the nasty territoriality, and the shredded paper all indicate that laying will commence soon. It is essential that the animal is monitored several times daily to ensure that the hen is not in distress. If she becomes reclusive in the nest box, you must still try to keep an eye on her. Parrots will lay eggs approximately every 48 hours. If an egg is conspicuously absent when expected, watch her closely for any indication of discomfort. Don't rush in too quickly to intervene, but don't wait until the situation has become drastic to decide to take action. If the hen is in trouble she will appear tired and in obvious discomfort, huddled over on the porch or on the floor of the cage. The tail often bobs due to labored breathing, and the muscles around the vent may convulse as she strains to pass the egg. Action must be taken within a few hours.
There are several techniques to try to correct the problem. The first is to offer a source of calcium, such as a cuttlebone or mineral block, and hope that the animal is strong enough to ingest it on her own. If not, you may need to force her to swallow liquid calcium (available at any drugstore) with an eyedropper, but be careful not to cause aspiration or damage the egg inside her with rough handling. In addition, a small amount of warmed mineral oil may be smeared around and within the vent and cloaca in order to add lubrication, and ease the passage of the egg once contractions commence.
Following these approaches, the hen should be put into a small cage covered with a towel, and placed in the bathroom with the shower spraying hot water to give steam and warmth. The heat and humidity should act to relax the tightened muscles and stimulate contractions. Alternatively, the bird can be repeatedly wrapped loosely in a hot, wet towel, changing the towel as it cools. Ensure that the bird is not wrapped so tightly that she cannot breathe. If the egg appears just at the opening of the cloaca, and the bird is straining, you might try to assist the passage by gently feeling for the egg and pushing it along. But be very careful to push only when the bird pushes herself, otherwise, the muscles will be working against each other, and injury may result.
If several hours of application of these techniques have not resulted in the passing of an egg, it is time for a call to a veterinarian. Subcutaneous injection of calcium will quickly pass into the bloodstream, and the egg should appear within a couple of hours. Make sure the veterinarian finds the correct dosage per weight for birds. If all of these efforts appear in vain, the only other course of action is to have the veterinarian try to surgically remove the egg. This is only a last resort measure to save the life of the hen and is only an option if the veterinarian is a knowledgeable avian specialist.
Of course, the easiest way to deal with this situation is to ensure that proper preventive measures are taken to decrease the likelihood of occurrence. Make sure that the bird always has a source of calcium and minerals such as cuttlebone and mineral blocks, and that vitamin supplementation is supplied in food or water. The greater the variety of the diet, including fruits, veggies, seeds, nuts, and specialized pellet mixtures, the healthier the bird. Also, a hen that produces eggs more often or has a chronic laying problem is at greater risk and therefore needs more constant monitoring and diet supplementation.
Never take it for granted that egg-laying is a "natural" cycle and that the bird will be fine without intervention. Seek the advice and professional assistance of a veterinarian at the earliest possible moment when it appears that the bird is in difficultly. The life of the bird may depend on you.