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What Is Chicken Egg Peritonitis?

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When you own chickens, you learn something new every day. One never-ending topic is diseases and illnesses. You could study every day and still learn something new. One of the scarier conditions that many don’t know about is chicken egg peritonitis. But what is chicken egg peritonitis? And why is it so frightening? Keep reading to learn what it is and how to treat it. 

What Is Chicken Egg Peritonitis? 

This disease is a bacterial infection that occurs in the chest cavity. Some people also call it egg yolk peritonitis in chickens. But this infection isn’t like anything that you have seen before. 

Chicken egg peritonitis only happens when an egg ruptures in the oviduct. Then the egg yolk travels to the peritoneum and causes an infection. Some people also call this internal laying. It is an excruciating process and, if not caught in time, is deadly. 

Egg Peritonitis Symptoms

Now that we answered what is chicken egg peritonitis, what are its symptoms? As mentioned, this disease can be very deadly. You want to catch peritonitis at the earliest signs for the best survival rate. Here are a few symptoms for you to look for in your flock. 

  • Swollen Abdomen: Since the infection is in the chest cavity, you will notice a stiff and swollen breast. It will look off-balance and sit directly below the neck. 
  • Balance: The lump in the chest often causes your chicken to become off-balance. They will stumble and fall forward when doing daily activities. 
  • Sitting A Lot: Because your hen’s center of gravity is off, she will sit often. Most hens choose sitting in a nesting box for comfortability. In severe cases, it’s also impossible for your hens to get onto a roost.
  • Lethargic/Not Eating: The first sign of any illness in chickens is lethargy. With chicken egg peritonitis, the bacteria weakens your hen. She won’t eat as often, which only makes her lethargy worse. 
  • Deformed Eggs: Deformed, weak, and eggs without a shell are signs that something is wrong. Deformed eggs could also be the signs of a nutrient deficiency. But combined with the other symptoms, it points toward reproductive problems. 
  • Diarrhea: Finally, runny yolk colored feces is an indicator of chicken egg peritonitis. 

How Vets Check For Egg Yolk Peritonitis

If you ever suspect peritonitis, you should call an aviary vet immediately. There is no egg peritonitis natural treatment available, and time is of the essence. Once your chicken sees the vet, there are a few things you should expect. 

  1. Your vet will do a physical exam first. They will examine the chest and abdomen to feel the size and firmness of the mass. In severe cases, a physical exam is all that’s needed to diagnose the problem. 
  2. Some vets will perform a complete blood count to check for infection. If your chicken has an infection, the white blood cell count will be high. 
  3. Ultrasounds are another standard tool used to diagnose peritonitis. Depending on the growth’s size and location, your vet may use an ultrasound to diagnose the problem better. It’s also standard procedure to gauge if surgery is needed. 

What Causes Peritonitis 

Unlike other illnesses, peritonitis is usually a secondary illness. If your chicken has another disease, it makes them prone to peritonitis. Illnesses such as:

  • Salpingitis- inflammation of your hen’s fallopian tubes
  • Chicken oviduct infection- usually from impaction
  • Ovarian tumors and cancer
  • Cystic ovarian disease- cysts on the ovaries
  • Egg bound
  • And obesity

It is rare for peritonitis to happen in healthy chickens. So how is peritonitis treated? 

Chicken Egg Peritonitis Treatment

You might have searched the internet for a home remedy for peritonitis. But the truth is that there are no proven treatments for peritonitis at home. In the past, most chickens with it have suffered and died within days of a diagnosis. The good news is, however, that now with science, we can fight it. 

For successful treatment, you must get a diagnosis as soon as possible. Once the infection goes too far, it quickly poisons the blood and kills your chicken. So at the first sniff of illness, talk with your vet. Depending on the severity of peritonitis, there are several treatment options. 

Option #1: Antibiotics And Supportive Care

In mild cases, your vet might treat with antibiotics and supportive care. But this route is only possible in the very early stages. Since E. Coli is the biggest threat to a chicken with peritonitis, antibiotics are needed. If you caught the issue soon enough, this might be the only treatment. But in many cases, it is used along with other therapies. 

You might be wondering what supportive care is. Supportive care is a treatment for the basic needs of your hen. If your hen stops eating, you should syringe feed eater and mash to get your hen’s energy back up. Pain meds to help reduce inflammation and make your chicken more comfortable are also necessary. 

Depending on your chicken’s situation, your vet might also try hormone therapy. These hormones are to keep your hen from laying more eggs during this time. Once the peritonitis has cleared, your hen will be taken off and return to laying eggs again soon. 

Option #2: Surgery

Most cases of chicken egg peritonitis go unnoticed. Chickens are pros at hiding illness and pretending they are ok. And if you find yourself in this position, you shouldn’t feel bad. It is your chicken’s instinct not to appear weak to predators. That means most cases of peritonitis starts to turn septic before owners know. 

Your vet will recommend surgery to remove the infection from your hen’s chest. To do this, they will make a slit in the chicken’s chest to gently remove it. After cleaning the area well, your hen will do well with a round of antibiotics and supportive care. 

Surgery has a high success rate. And with overnight supportive care, your chicken will feel her usual feisty self again. After she heals, you might never notice that she had peritonitis, to begin with. And many hens go back to laying their usual 4-5 eggs a week. 

Option #3: Permanent Hormone Therapy

If your hen is always having reproductive issues, your vet might recommend a hormone implant. These implants last 3-4 months and prevent your hen from laying eggs. If your hen is a family pet, this might be the best option for you. 

You might be wondering, why not just spay your chicken? Fixing a chicken is risky surgery, and most vets won’t perform it. Spaying also doesn’t guarantee that internal laying won’t happen again. That is because only the oviduct is removed and not the ovaries. So your hen could still produce yolks that turn into peritonitis. And that defeats the purpose of the surgery. 

If you are raising hens only for eggs, you might find that hormone therapy is costly. Depending on your location, these implants can cost upwards of a few hundred dollars. In these cases, most owners decide that euthanizing is the kindest way to relieve their hens. These are hard decisions, but sometimes they are the most humane ways to deal with this situation. 

Can You Prevent Peritonitis? 

Preventing egg yolk peritonitis in chickens is a tricky thing. Since another illness generally causes peritonitis, preventing infections in general helps. How do you do that? 

Diet

The key to all hen reproductive health is to keep the diet well rounded. Plenty of calcium and protein keeps the eggs and shells forming in top conditions. Also, letting your flock free-range gives your hens plenty of foraging materials. All health starts with a balanced diet and plenty of calcium. 

Weight

Obesity often causes many illnesses, and peritonitis is one of them. Weighing your hens monthly identifies a problem before it gets out of hand. Trust us; once a hen becomes overweight, it isn’t easy to get the weight off. 

Clean

While keeping a clean coop doesn’t prevent reproductive health problems, it does help prevent infection. If your hen has laying difficulties and lives in a dirty environment, infection risks increase. Cleaning the coop often reduces bacterias like E. Coli from forming and infecting already weak hens. 

Avoid Increasing Egg Production

Some of us get caught up in the joys of having flavorful eggs. And it might tempt you to feed your hens food to increase their egg production. Or you don’t want to lose egg production during the winter, so you install artificial lights. 

Doing any of these things could increase your chances of egg binding and internal laying. We don’t recommend doing anything to improve your hen’s egg production for these reasons. Not to mention, it adds stress to their lives that decreases the quality of the eggs. 

Daily Inspections

And finally, checking your flock’s health daily catches abnormalities faster. Inspecting your hens for growths, eating habits, and overall appearance is your first sign of anything wrong. But you should also check the eggs. If your chicken is sick, their eggs will start to suffer. Looking for weak, deformed, or discolored eggs help keep tabs on your hen’s health. 

Conclusion

What is chicken egg peritonitis? It’s a terrible infection that is quite common. But thanks to medical advancements, your chicken has a greater chance of living. 

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