If you’ve never heard of lash eggs, then it’s something you should know about as a backyard chicken owner.
Although lash eggs are not very common, they do happen, and they are an indicator that your chicken probably has an infection and you might want to take her to a vet.
Lash eggs can turn into a big problem eventually, so if you do find one in your coop, you will want to pay attention to whether your hen seems healthy, is eating and acting normal, or whether she seems in pain or just “off.”
So, what are lash eggs anyway?
If you’re wondering causes lash eggs, then the first thing you should know is despite their name, lash eggs aren’t really eggs at all.
A good lash egg definition starts with their cause: Lash eggs are the result of Salpingitis—an infection and inflammation of the oviduct, which causes a hen to slough off pus and other material accumulated in her body because of the infection. As the material accumulates, it passes through the oviduct and is laid by the hen.
Humans can get Salpingitis, too, and in humans, it’s an inflammation of a woman’s Fallopian tubes.
As of the time of this post, the reasons why Salpingitis occurs in chickens are not known (the exact parthenogenesis), although identified risk factors might be the fact that industrial farms keep chickens so close together. Another potential cause are hormones.
According to the Merck Veterinary Manual, Salpingitis and the resulting lash eggs can be caused by different bacteria, including Mycoplasma gallisepticum, E. coli, Salmonella, or Pasteurella multocida. The Merck Veterinary Manual does not recommend a specific treatment, although studies suggest antibiotics might work to cure salpingitis. Because several different bacteria can cause salpingitis, the antibiotic to prescribe depends on the cause. You should consult a qualified poultry vet.
Lash eggs are pretty gross – they’re comprised of a few things, including pus from the infection, and sometimes egg material or possibly tissue. It is comprised of layers of this material that’s accumulated in the oviduct.
Lash eggs laid by your backyard chickens can be soft or hard, and you might find just a small bit of pus-like material or it might be a large object that closely resembles an egg.
When you cut it open, you might be able to see the layers of material. I’ve seen lash eggs of all sorts, from ones that look simply like a broken soft shell egg, to one that’s a large hunk of disgusting, compressed pus.
Lash eggs are generally shaped something like eggs, and the reason for that is because they travel through the oviduct. So, lash eggs can take a few different forms, but the underlying commonality is lash eggs are laid like normal eggs, and you might even find them in your flock’s nesting boxes.
What to do if your chickens lay lash eggs
Now, there’s a bit of controversy about what to do if your backyard chickens lay lash eggs, and you might see some advice on Facebook or social media that’s conflicting.
One resolution I see doled out is to cull the hen that lays lash eggs. The reasoning behind this idea is that if she lays a lash egg once, she will do it again, making her an unproductive member of your flock.
I don’t necessarily agree with this advice. Largely, this advice is intended for the egg industry, which values the eggs a hen lays more than her life.
For a large egg farm, from a financial perspective, it makes sense to dispose of a hen who might be sick or not perform, since the bottom line reigns supreme.
For a backyard chicken keeper, however, this advice might not be necessary, and you might not necessarily want to dispose of a hen that lays lash eggs. If your chickens are acting normal and seemingly otherwise healthy, then culling her is not your only option.
For a hen that lays lash eggs, treatment can be sought from a qualified poultry vet, who might suggest putting her on antibiotics to see if they clear up the infection.
The bottom line is lash eggs are the result of an infection – consult your vet to see if the infection and your chickens can be treated.
Now, the thing with backyard chickens is they often hide how sick they are until it’s too late to help them – but that does not mean if your hen lays a lash egg that you shouldn’t at least get her seen by a qualified poultry vet.
While some hens do die from Salpingitis, many don’t, and are able to return to a normal laying life after the event. I’ve seen hens return to a perfectly productive life after laying lash eggs. She might never do it again, or she might lay regular eggs or a while then lay another lash egg. It’s hard to know what each individual hen will do.
Can you prevent lash eggs?
Unfortunately, there’s not much you can do to prevent your hens from laying lash eggs. Even if your hens are healthy and eat an ideal diet, they can still develop Salpingitis.
If you don’t know which hens in your flock are laying lash eggs, then your best bet is to observe your flock to see if anyone looks “off” or sick. If everyone looks healthy, then just continue to keep an eye on them. If you think your hens might have laid a lash egg, and you’re worried, then your best bet is to bring her to a qualified vet.
Now, if you’re wondering can you eat a lash egg, then the answer is no. A lash egg is an accumulation of pus for the most part, and you definitely don’t want to be eating it. I would toss it in the trash or hold onto it if you want to take your hen to the vet.
Is Salpingitis Contagious?
Since publishing this article, I’ve had a few people ask if it’s contagious. I’m not a vet, so I recommend consulting one for a definitive answer, but since salpingitis is an inflammation of the oviduct caused by an infection from E. coli, Salmonella, and the like, I personally wouldn’t be concerned about it being contagious.
Think of it like this—if a human woman had salpingitis (inflammation of her Fallopian tubes), would you be worried?
Since chickens naturally carry a bacteria load in their bodies, they’re already at risk for the infection. If they get a laceration or some small tear in their oviduct (or some other way for the bacteria to enter), it’s possible salpingitis might develop.
I’d like to hear from you!
Have any of your hens laid lash eggs? Leave a comment below!
Maat van Uitert is a backyard chicken and sustainable living expert. She is also the author of Chickens: Naturally Raising A Sustainable Flock, which was a best seller in it’s Amazon category. Maat has been featured on NBC, CBS, AOL Finance, Community Chickens, the Huffington Post, Chickens magazine, Backyard Poultry, and Countryside Magazine. She lives on her farm in Southeast Missouri with her husband, two children, and about a million chickens and ducks. You can follow Maat on Facebook here and Instagram here.