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Ovarian Cancer

Oviductal Adenocarcinoma, Reproductive Tract Tumor

Ovarian cancer occurs frequently in domestic laying hens, especially commercial laying breeds who have been intensely selected for high egg productivity and reduced broodiness instinct. This excessive egg laying does not go without consequence. Hens have such a high rate of ovarian cancer development, that they were even selected as an ‘animal model’ for ovarian cancer research in humans, which led to the development of birth control pills for woman.

Ovarian cancer often goes undetected until advanced stages of the disease, which is when hens may begin to develop signs associated with tumor growth. Ascites may develop and accumulate in the peritoneal cavity, and metastases are often present on other organs, including the intestines and liver. They may also have problems associated with egg laying, such as increased infections, soft-shelled, shell-less and other abnormal eggs, and generalized signs of lethargy/depression.

Treatment of Ovarian Cancer

There is no available cure for ovarian cancer in hens. Treatment options are aimed at stopping egg production, to minimize risk of future egg-related infections (egg yolk peritonitis), which include hormonal implants or, as a last resort, "spaying". There are also a number of different natural herbs which have been documented to have certain anti-cancer properties and have been shown to be beneficial for some patients with ovarian tumors. These include:

Clinical Signs

Ascites (enlarged abdomen)
Reduced appetite
Upright, penguin-like position
Shell-less eggs
Abnormal eggs
Change in behavior


  • History
  • Clinical signs
  • Physical exam
  • Ultrasound
  • Radiographs


Hormone implantsSuprelorin®, Virbac is used 'off-label' to stop ovulation (egg production) in hens.
Salpingohysterectomy (spaying)The surgical removal of the entire oviduct of the chicken.



Feeding birds carotenoid-rich fruits and vegetables has been correlated with protection from some forms of cancer.



Scientific References


Age Range

Occurs usually in mature egg laying hens over 2 years of age

Risk Factors

  • Chronic egg laying
  • Increased age
  • High egg producing breeds

Case Stories

Also Consider