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Internal Layer

Other Names: Ectopic Ovulation

Internal layer refers to a hen who lays eggs internally instead of how they are normally laid--which is externally. The condition can occur as a result of a genetic defect preset since birth, or it can be acquired as a secondary result of an infection, or trauma to her oviduct.

Normally, when a hen with a healthy functioning reproductive system deposits a yolk, it moves through her oviduct, creating a shell coating around it and then ejecting it from her body and into her nest. When a hen is an internal layer, instead of the yolk getting taken into the oviduct, it is released into her body. A single incidence of internal laying isn't necessarily a problem, however if it occurs on a frequently on a continuing basis, all the egg material will start to accumulate inside of the hen. The accumulated egg material presents two significant problems:
  • Eventually, all the rotting egg material inside of the hen's body will begin to exert pressure on her internal organs, as well as restricting her ability to breath properly. This is why affected hens often assume a penguin-like stance, as all the built up internal pressure in her body makes her extremely uncomfortable, and often restricts her ability to breath normally.
  • Because egg yolk material is a rich medium for bacteria to grow, it increases the hen's risk of infection, leading to a life threatening condition called Egg yolk peritonitis.

Clinical Signs

No eggs produced
Penguin-like stance
Reluctant to move
Abnormal waddle
Swollen vent and/or abdomen
Respiratory problems
Fluffed up feathers
Yolk colored feces
Squishy vent and/or abdomen
Loss of appetite
Soft-shelled or thin eggs


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


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


Scientific References

Age Range

Mature hens are at risk.

Risk Factors

  • History of infection

Case Stories