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Egg Binding

Eggbound, Egg Retention, Dystocia, Obstructing Cloaca

Egg binding is a serious reproductive tract emergency where a laying hen's egg fails to pass through the oviduct to be laid within a normal period of time. It occurs more commonly in hens on a poor diet, laying eggs for the first time, or prolific layers. Other reasons for egg binding include vitamin E and selenium deficiencies, inadequate exercise, poor muscle strength, oviduct infections, trauma, systemic disease, genetic predisposition, and malformed eggs.

Egg-bound hens may frequently show straining, ruffled feathers, paralysis of one or both legs, wide-based stance, loss of appetite, blood in feces or matted around the vent, dyspnea, or on occasion, sudden death. In most cases, the presence of an egg can be verified through palpation , however if it is a soft-shelled egg or has no shell then it might not be as easy to recognize through palpation, and a radiograph or ultrasound might be needed.

Usually, although it may take 12 hours or longer, supportive care alone is often adequate to result in expulsion of an egg. However, egg binding needs to be taken seriously and quickly addressed as resulting complications can include prolapse of the oviduct or death if the egg is not passed or surgically removed. Other treatment options that can be used to encourage egg expulsion include prostaglandin and hormone therapies.

Example cases


Hen has not yet laid an egg
Change in behavior
Sluggish, dull (lethargic) behavior
Soft (bloated) abdomen and/or vent
Sudden onset
Sitting/squatting abnormally
Tail pumping
Loss of appetite


  • History
  • Clinical signs
  • Physical exam
  • Radiographs


Supportive carePlace hen in a lukewarm bath in shallow water for 5 to 10 minutes; she should be secluded from other birds to try to get her to relax
Dinoprostone (Prostaglandin E)0.2 mg/kg applied to the chicken's vent areaK Marx
Message therapyMessage the hen's abdomen very gently with olive oil. (Be careful not to rub too hard as if the egg breaks inside the hen it can be life-threatening)
KY jellyApply topically to the hen's vent
Chicken saunaRun the shower in the bathroom until the mirror and windows steam up, then place the hen inside on a warm, wet towel
SurgeryThe egg is surgically removed through various techniques by your veterinarian


  • Ensure laying hens receive a quality, mold-free, fresh commercial layer feed as the main portion of their diet.
  • Offer a free choice calcium supplement such as oyster shells, at all times in the coop
  • Do not use additional lighting

Scientific References


Age Range

Occurs in egg laying hens

Risk Factors

  • Excessive egg laying
  • Extreme temperature fluctuations such as very cold or very hot weather conditions
  • A calcium-deficient diet
  • Hen starts laying eggs at an early age
  • Excessively large egg
  • Poor body condition
  • Underdeveloped reproductive tract