Chicken prolapsed vent can pop up out of nowhere and is usually traumatic – both for the chicken and keeper. We learned a lot while treating our chicken with a prolapsed vent and will share what we tried to heal her naturally and how it went.
Our Chicken Prolapsed Vent Story
We got home late on a Sunday night after a long, full weekend. Upon going out for evening chores and closing up the chicken coop for the night, I noticed something was not right.
One of our Buff Orpington pullets we raised from a chick that spring was on the bottom rung of the roost, her backend looking wide, and then I saw it.
It was not a pretty sight. There was blood. Something was protruding out her back end. And was that an egg even?
I brought her into our mudroom, called Joelle for help, and with some quick research we were able to determine she had a prolapsed vent. A bad one at that.
What is a Prolapsed Vent?
A chicken prolapsed vent can also be know as cloacal prolapse, prolapsed oviduct, pickout, or blowout. Prolapse occurs when the hen’s reproductive tract inverts and protrudes outside the body without retracting on its own and returning to normal. If caught early, a chicken with a prolapsed vent can recover.
In our case, our hen was simultaneously egg bound, meaning an egg is either stuck inside of her or still attached to her oviduct. When this is the case it’s important to help her release the egg before attempting to treat the inverted vent. Our chickens egg was external at this point and attached to the prolapsed oviduct by the thin membrane.
With the application of some coconut oil as a lubricant we were able to free the egg. Quickly after, we got a surprise that a second egg with an unformed shell slid out once the first egg was released.
We knew this probably wasn’t a good sign – the egg binding had occurred for more than a day. And our fast and furious research was telling us when it came to a prolapsed vent, the sooner the better with treatment.
Chicken Prolapsed Vent Causes
- Premature egg laying from young chickens
- Calcium deficiency (leading to low muscle tone)
- Abnormally large eggs
- Older chickens with too much fat buildup around reproductive organs
Since these were probably our young chickens first eggs, it’s most likely that she began laying too soon when her reproductive system was not fully developed. While calcium deficiency can be an issue for chickens already established in their egg laying, introducing calcium too soon for young hens can play a role in chickens beginning to produce and lay eggs too early.
Our chickens had free-choice oyster shells for calcium available to them on occasion. This was to make sure our older layers had access to the calcium they needed to stay healthy. After this experience, however, we plan to remove the supplemental calcium all together as our pullets near the age of laying and then reintroduce it once they are established layers.
Steps To Take For Recovery
After researching options we wanted to do everything we could to help our chicken recover and rejoin the laying flock. Here are steps you can take.
1. Separate your chicken
Right away! You need to separate your chicken immediately from the rest of the flock. Other chickens will be drawn to peck at the prolapsed vent and can quickly turn aggressive. The sooner you catch the prolapse the better to prevent wounds from other chickens that could make the situation much more severe.
2. Soak and clean the vent
Either running your chickens backside under warm water or placing them in a warm water bath will help clean the vent and relax muscles to give the prolapse the best chance of returning to normal on its own. This may also help a chicken that is egg bound pass an egg. For a water bath fill a tub or utility sink with a few inches of water the same temperature you would take a bath in so the chicken is submerged up to their chest. Keep them in the bath for 30-60 minutes. A towel over the tub to block light can help your chicken relax.
3. Lubricate the vent
Applying a lubricant to your chickens prolapse can aid in both helping the prolapse stay moist and not dry out. This can help the oviduct to properly retract and also help pass future eggs. We used coconut oil since that’s what we had on hand. Petroleum jelly is also commonly used.
4. Dry your chicken
Use a towel or hair dryer to dry her feathers off. We let her roost on the utility sink while using a hair dryer. This is especially necessary before bringing her back outdoors in colder climates.
5. Treat the prolapse
If your chicken is unable to retract the prolapse on her own, you may need to get involved and help return the prolapsed oviduct inside her. Don’t worry! It’s not as scary as it sounds. Apply gentle pressure to the prolapse and slowly and patiently work it back into its proper internal position. You may feel a fair amount of resistance at first and she may continue to push the prolapse back out. We found that trying to keep her calm and holding the prolapse in place for 10-20 minutes seemed to help keep things properly situated.
6. Find a temporary home
You will need to continue to separate your chicken from the flock until the risk of prolapse has passed. We moved our chicken to our brooder which was right next to our coop. A small pet cage will also work or fencing off a section of your coop to keep the prolapsed chicken separated. You’ll want to make sure there is no way of the other chickens getting to your sick gal.
7. Get her hydrated
Keeping her hydrated is crucial to helping her prolapse return to normal. We gave her fresh water with some salt and apple cider vinegar so that she had minerals and electrolytes to keep hydrated. She was downing water like crazy when we first gave it to her.
8. Try to prevent egg production
Chicken are most likely to prolapse again when laying an egg. If you can delay egg laying for a period of time you will give them the best odds of recovery. You will want your chicken to eat to keep her energy up. But cut back on her access to standard feed which promotes egg production. We gave her some fresh kale and chunks of apple. Keeping her in a dark location can also help discourage egg production.
9. Monitor your chicken often
The prolapse may reoccur. The sooner you can catch it and help the prolapse revert the better. A prolapsed vent can dry out quickly so you will want the oviduct spending more time in than out. Check on her often and give her the care and attention she needs to recover.
Chicken Prolapsed Vent FAQ’s
Can my chicken live with a prolapsed vent?
If the prolapse is not able to recover and continues to blowout then sadly, no. The prolapse will dry out over time making it difficult to pass eggs or waste leading to infection. Her quality of life will continue to decline.
Is it necessary to call a Vet?
This depends on your attachment to your chickens. We have about 50 chickens on our homestead, and while losing one is sad, we would not choose to have a vet bill to save one chicken. However, when we had only a few backyard chickens while living in the suburbs, I can understand why someone would want veterinary help. Even so, there may not be much a vet can do unless the prolapse is caught early. Antibiotics can help reduce the risk of infection, but they won’t solve the protruding duct if the problem persists. From what we’ve read, many vets will recommend euthanizing the chicken.
Will Epsom salts or Magnesium Flakes help?
We received a tip that an epsom salt bath might aid in returning the oviduct to normal. We didn’t have epsom salt, but we did have magnesium flakes, which have a similar effect of relaxing muscles and relieving pain. What we did was add a 1/4 cup of magnesium flakes to her warm water bath and let her soak for over 30 minutes. This seemed to soothe and relax her. It can also help a chicken to release a bound egg. This Spa Treatment for Sick Chickens post is worth a read to see what others ways this can help heal sick chickens.
What if my chicken doesn’t recover?
There are many stories out there of chickens recovering from a prolapsed vent and going on to be happy, healthy layers. After going through the steps above to try and help our chicken recover, it was clear her prolapse was severe and was going to be a recurring ailment. This was sad and we tried to give her every chance we could to recover. She was still otherwise healthy, so instead of allowing her to continue to degrade and suffer, we ended her life and turned her into a stew bird. Euthanizing the chicken is recommended if the chicken might have other health issues or you don’t want to go the route we went.
Can chicken prolapsed vent be prevented?
Since prolapse most commonly occurs with young chickens who start laying too young, the best prevention you can do is to help them develop at an appropriate rate. Measures like limiting or removing access to supplemental calcium or not providing additional light when young can help. And keeping a watchful eye on your flock can be the best prevention. The sooner signs of prolapse are noticed the easier it will be to prevent or treat it. But also know that sometimes things just happen regardless of our best efforts.
Hope For Chicken Keepers… and Chickens!
We wish our chickens story ended on a happier note. But through the process we learned so much and feel much more prepared should this ever pop up again.
And we hope our story and lessons learned have been helpful in your situation.
So please, share your story or what you’ve found helpful in helping your sick gals recover! The more information we can share the better we’ll be able to help 🙂