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Prolapse vent in chickens, also known as prolapsed oviduct, blow-out, cloacal prolapse, or pickout, … “is a condition in which the lower part of a hen’s oviduct turns inside out and protrudes through the vent.”1 Prolapse is a very serious condition that can be treated if caught early, but is likely to recur.
COMMON CAUSES OF PROLAPSE
- chickens that begin laying too young and are underweight
- eggs that are too large
- older chickens that are obese
- a calcium deficiency
- holding droppings for a long period of time, causing stress and stretching of the cloaca
- separate from flock
- clean protruding tissue well (I use Vetericyn after a bath)
- replace the tissue manually
- apply an anti-inflammatory cream such as hydrocortisone (hemorrhoid ointment was once the treatment of choice, but is no longer considered appropriate) or continue spraying with Vetericyn 2-3 times per day until healed.
- provide vitamins and electrolytes or liquid calcium to restore the ability of the uterus muscle to contract properly
- if tissue is compromised by pecking or is especially dirty, antibiotics may be indicated, which will require a vet visit
- monitor vigilantly for the lifetime of the chicken
- If the tissue does not remain in place, surgical intervention by a veterinarian is required. A hen cannot live with a prolapse. Humane euthanasia is the only option.
Many sources of information on prolapse indicate that chickens with prolapse should be culled. I suspect this recommendation is made for large poultry operations, not backyard chicken-keepers since prolapse is often manageable. The biggest initial danger to a chicken with prolapse is other chickens picking at the reddened area; picking can result in hemorrhage and/or the chicken’s oviduct and/or intestines being pulled out and eventual death from cannibalism. If the prolapsed tissue does not remain in place, surgical intervention by a vet is necessary.
My plans for today did not include finding a hen with a prolapsed vent. My brother, who was visiting with his daughter, was shoveling his annual load of chicken manure into his truck while I snapped photos of my adorable niece interacting with the chickens. It was then that I caught a glimpse of droppings stuck to Anna’s vent in the distance. Upon closer inspection, the prolapse was obvious. My brother, who is a nurse practitioner in an emergency room, was surprised to see me, the lawyer in the family, spring into action upon discovery of the prolapse and I was surprised to see him, shocked at the condition of my hen. Fortunately I discovered the prolapse before any of her flockmates and my chicken first-aid kit was stocked.
Anna was unable to pass the droppings stuck in her vent due to swelling, so I applied gentle pressure to the sides of the prolapsed tissue to remove it. The prolapse immediately receded, but only momentarily.
I next put her into the sink, filling it with warm water to clean the droppings off her feathers and cleaned the protruding tissue with Vetericyn. I then wrapped her in a large towel, covering her head and eyes loosely to keep her calm. She sat still the entire time I worked on her.
I then gently guided the prolapsed tissue into its proper location. The concern now is in keeping the tissue in place. So far, so good. I added vitamins & electrolytes to her water for the added calcium and stress. She will be kept isolated from the rest of the flock and her access to light limited to less than 12 hours per day to discourage egg-laying, giving her oviduct time to rest.
Anna’s vent returned to normal. While Anna was relaxed and calm, it was easy to inspect her feet, both of which had early signs of bumblefoot. There was minor swelling and redness of the right foot pad with a small, telltale scab and the left foot had an even smaller scab with no swelling.
This is a very early case of bumblefoot and the plan is to apply Vetericyn to her feet at least twice daily, place a non-stick gauze pad on top of it and wrap her feet in Vetrap to keep the product in place. Worst case scenario, it doesn’t work and I perform bumblefoot surgery on her.
Anna and I are going to spend some quality time together this week as I keep her inside, clean and safe from her curious flockmates. I will treat both of her feet and continue to monitor her prolapse. (Stay tuned for status updates on Anna’s progress.)
UPDATE as of 10/24/12: Anna has had no recurrence of the prolapse.
UPDATE: 5/27/12 Anna healed brilliantly from her bumblefoot infection, which did require surgical removal.
1 Damerow, Gail (1994). The Chicken Health Handbook. page 53: Storey Publishing.
2 Anatomical illustrations and photo reproduced for educational purposes, courtesy of Jacquie Jacob, Tony Pescatore and Austin Cantor, University of Kentucky College of Agriculture. Copyright 2011. Educational programs of Kentucky Cooperative Extension serve all people regardless of race, color, age, sex, religion, disability, or national origin. Issued in furtherance of Cooperative Extension work, Acts of May 8 and June 30, 1914, in cooperation with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, M. Scott Smith, Director, Land Grant Programs, University of Kentucky College of Agriculture, Lexington,and Kentucky State University, Frankfort. Copyright 2011 for materials developed by University of Kentucky Cooperative Extension. This publication may be reproduced in portions or its entirety for educational and nonprofit purposes only. Permitted users shall give credit to the author(s) and include this copyright notice. Publications are also available on the World Wide Web at www.ca.uky.edu. Issued 02-2011