When your chicken has a vent prolapse, it can be startling and distressing – for you and the hen.
In this article, I invited Carrissa from Feather And Scale Farm to tell us about her experience treating vent prolapse.
Here’s Carrissa’s first-hand experience with vent prolapse with her hen Oreo, and how she handled it:
We started our farm with a flock of six chickens in our very urban backyard. Oreo, Ziggy, Henny Penny, Duchess and Bean were a gorgeous group of mixed breed hens and we adored them.
When we decided to go away one weekend, our chicken sitter called us in a panic.
She said something was terribly wrong with Oreo, our Silver Laced Wyandotte hen. Her words were something along the lines of “her insides look like they’re coming out”.
We had her put Oreo in a crate separated from the flock and gave her instructions to keep the hen quiet and comfortable.
When we arrived home we looked Oreo over, and our sitter was right – it looked like her insides were coming out of her back end.
There was red exposed tissue that looked raw and completely unsettling to us as relatively new hen owners.
I quickly called my cousin/chicken mentor, and after sending her a photo, she gave me a crash course in vent prolapse.
What is a Vent Prolapse?
A vent prolapse is essentially a chicken’s insides coming out.
[Note from Maat: It’s totally normal for the vent to temporarily prolapse when laying – it’s definitely NOT normal for it to stay that way]
For a variety of reasons, the internal reproductive tract becomes loose and protrudes from the vent, making passing poop and eggs painful, and potentially deadly.
[Note from Maat: Click here to see a photo of a hen with a vent prolapse in the Merck Veterinary Manual]
What Causes a Vent Prolapse?
Vent prolapse can be caused by a variety of factors:
- Diet – a lack of calcium and magnesium has been linked to vent prolapse
- Weight – both being underweight or over weight can contribute to a vent prolapse
- Age – a very young hen trying to pass a very large egg can lead to a vent prolapse. Older hens who have been heavy producers and have lost muscle tone are also prone to vent prolapse
- Infection – often times a vent prolapse can be the result of an undetected abdominal or oviduct infection
- Egg Size – Consistent oversized or misshapen eggs can weaken and damage muscle tissue leading to a vent prolapse
With the variety of causes that can lead a hen to have to a vent prolapse; the chances are good you may deal with at least one instance of this if you keep chickens.
Unfortunately not all of these causes are preventable – some people believe there is a genetic component as well.
That’s why it’s important to recognize when a prolapse is occurring, and be able to treat as soon as possible.
Identifying a Vent Prolapse
If the hen isn’t showing an extensive amount of exposed tissue, sometimes it can be hard to catch a vent prolapse when it’s starting. Know your flock.
Look for any behavioral changes or signs of distress with the hen, including a lack of appetite, lethargy, fluffing out feathers, lack of egg production, bloody eggs or being bullied by the other members of the flock.
If you gently turn the hen in question upside down, a quick visual inspection on her vent area will show you if there is any external tissue exposed. If you see exposed tissue, treat accordingly.
Treating a Vent Prolapse
Early treatment is the key to fixing a vent prolapse and preventing it from reoccurring.
Separate the hen from the rest of the flock. And enclosed dog crate works great for this, as you will want the affected hen to be somewhere dark with limited space for movement.
Wash the effected area. Prepare a nice warm bath for your hen. We add some iodine to help disinfect the area. Hold the hen gently with her back end in the warm bath. This will help to loosen any stuck feces and clean any abrasions to the tissue. It will also help hydrate and soften the loose tissue to help with reinsertion.
Manually push the tissue back into place. Wearing gloves, lubricate your fingers with a water based lubricant and gently push the protruding tissue back into the vent. It’s best to have someone hold the hen for you while you do this so you can have better control and be as slow and gentle as needed.
Treat the tissue. You will need to treat the swollen tissue to help shrink it down so it stays in place. Preparation H works great for this. Honey is also a great holistic way to treat this. I have also heard of sugar being used in a pinch. Whatever you choose, make sure to treat the affected tissue both internally and externally so your hen can recover fully.
Administer Antibiotics. If there is abrasion to the tissue and any chance of internal infection, you may want to administer antibiotics to assist with the healing processes [Note from Maat: consult a vet in your area for the best antibiotic and dose to give your hen.]
Vitamins and Calcium. Adding vitamins and calcium to the affected hen’s water while they’re in quarantine will help to provide good supportive care while they heal.
Prevent Egg Laying. Do your best to slow or stop the egg laying process. The best way to do this is to keep the hen in a dark crate, with minimal room to move around. Keeping them in a dark, quiet, restful place will help with the healing processes all around.
What if it Doesn’t Work?
By the time we had figured out what was wrong with Oreo, the prolapse had been getting worse for a few days. We treated the hen with everything we had.
We pushed the tissue back in place several times and tried to secure it with vet wrap. Unfortunately, nothing worked – the prolapse refused to go back in place.
Rather than allow her to continue suffering , we euthanized the hen ourselves. It was the first time we’d ever had to do something like that, and it’s stuck with us for a long time.
Sometimes there’s just nothing you can do, not matter how hard you try, and that’s difficult to accept.
On a more positive note, during a recent monthly flock inspection and parasite check, I happened to notice two of our Legbar hens had protruding tissue, indicating the start of a prolapse.
Luckily this time around I knew what I was dealing with and was able to take the steps necessary to prevent a major prolapse in each hen.
I am confident these hens will continue to lay and live out full lives in our flock, thanks to lessons we learned with Oreo.
Carrissa Larsen from Feather and Scale Farm is a chicken chasing, goat wrangling, avid homesteader and blogger from southern Maine. When she’s not tamping down the latest homesteading crisis she also enjoys feeding and watering her husband and two teenagers.
I’d like to hear from you!
Have you ever dealt with a vent prolapse? What did you do about it? 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.