It's alarming to see a chicken hunched up, tail down, and acting strange.
If you do see one of your chickens in this position, without alarming you, it's often a sign that the hen is egg bound.
Here is a look at what it means when a hen is egg bound, other signs a chicken is sick, and the things you can do to help!
Chicken Hunched Up Tail Down
There are two key indicators that something is wrong with a hen, and in particular, that the hen is egg bound or having an issue laying an egg.
These are; seeing your hen with its tail pointing down, and seeing a hen hunched up.
That's why, if a chicken is hunched up with their tail down as well, one of the first things you should check is if your hen is egg-bound.
Related - More on why chickens lay soft-shelled eggs and liquid eggs sometimes.
What Does It Mean When a Hen Is Egg Bound?
Egg binding is when a chicken is unable to lay its egg.
This can be due to the egg being too large, the hen's pelvic region being too small, or an issue with the oviduct.
The oviduct is the tube through which the egg travels from the ovary to be laid.
In some cases, an egg can become stuck in the oviduct, which is known as a retained egg.
It's a serious condition, a retained egg can rupture the oviduct, leading to infection and even death.
Other Symptoms That Indicate a Hen Is Egg-Bound
In addition to a chicken being hunched up with its tail down, there are other signs that your hen is egg-bound or sick.
- Your hen is lethargic and not moving around much
- Your hen is not eating or drinking
- Your hen has not produced an egg for longer than expected
- Your hen is visibly straining
- You can see the egg protruding from the vent
What Should I Do if My Hen Is Egg Bound?
If you think your hen is egg-bound you need to act quickly. If taking her to the vet is an option, you should always do that first.
They will be able to give her a check-up and confirm whether or not she is egg-bound.
If she is, they will be able to provide treatment to help her lay the egg.
If you want to help your hen yourself as no professional support is available, the best course of action is to:
- Place your hen in a bath with warm water high enough to cover her vent
- Add some Epsom salt and leave her to soak for about 15 minutes
- Remove her from the water and gently towel dry her
- Apply some lubricant like Vaseline or vegetable oil around her vent
- You can massage your hen's abdomen gently
- Place her in a cage on her own so she will not be stressed or harassed by her flockmates
- A vet would likely administer a dose of liquid calcium, if you happen to have this you should look into this
How Dangerous Is Being Egg-Bound?
If a hen is not treated, being egg-bound can be fatal.
Most hens have 48 hours at a maximum to lay the egg or have some help, it's very likely they will not make it.
The longer the egg is stuck, the greater the risk of infection and damage to the oviduct.
Egg binding is a serious condition that needs to be addressed as soon as possible.
While it may seem daunting to deal with, with some patience and care, you can help your hen through it!
Related - More on how to tell if a chicken has a broken leg and what a droopy wing means.
Is My Chicken Egg Bound or Constipated?
There is always a chance that your hen is not egg-bound, and I certainly hope she is not!
If your chicken is constipated, they will likely be hunched up as well.
But, there are some key differences between the two that can help you figure out which one it is.
With egg binding, you will likely see the egg protruding from the vent and your hen straining.
Egg-bound hens also usually have a warm abdomen and will be a lot more lethargic than a constipated hen.
If your hen is constipated, her stomach will be hard if you give it a feel.
Being constipated never feels good, but it's a lot less dangerous than being egg-bound.
As the first port of call, you can try giving your chicken some mashed pumpkin or prunes to help her go, it's not just us that works for!
You can also add some olive oil or coconut oil to her food.
If your chicken is still constipated after a few days, it's best to take her to the vet for some professional help.
Seeing one of your chickens sick is always distressing, but it's important that you keep calm and provide the help they need.
If your hen is egg-bound, this is a potentially serious and even fatal condition, but it's not hard to treat if you act quickly.
Hopefully, the advice in this article will prove useful, but keep in mind that this is not intended to replace the professional care a veterinarian or avian vet will provide tailored to your hen.