Q – One of my hens showed signs of what I thought was egg-binding. She spent a lot of time on the nest and, when outside, she sat with lowered tail and rear end yet she had a bright eye and red comb.

 I tried giving her food mixed with oil, just oil down her throat and warmed her abdomen, with no result. As she got weaker I decided to kill her to end her suffering. When I cut her open lots of liquid came out mixed with what looked like egg yolks. This is the second hen to be affected in this way. The first was a year old, the last three years old. The latter was a good layer with no previous trouble. Can you please tell me if it was egg-binding, what causes it and what is the cure if any?Mark Smith, via email

VR?writes: If it was egg binding, the oil should have gone up the vent, not down the throat – the digestive system and the reproductive system are completely separate! In egg binding, there is an egg stuck at the outer end of the oviduct, almost laid, and is a lack of muscle tone due to stress, a chill, or lack of calcium. Your action of warming the abdomen would have helped if this had been the problem. It is also sensible to introduce a little warm oil into the vent to lubricate the membranes as they dry out very quickly. The egg still may not be passed but, if the shell is showing, a small hole can be made in it, the contents sucked out and the shell then collapsed and removed very carefully. This was not egg binding but egg peritonitis. In egg peritonitis, the yolk misses the top end of the oviduct and lands in the abdomen. This can happen through stress, being chased around, handled roughly or for no reason at all. Sometimes an odd yolk can be scavenged by the hen’s body defences, but if it happens several times in succession, the yolks suppurate and poison the bird. You did the right thing by ending her suffering. Opening her up afterwards is a good way to learn. It always seems to be the best layers that egg peritonitis happens to, whether hybrids or pure breeds. There is, unfortunately, no cure.

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