What Does it Mean When a Chicken Lays a Lash Egg?

A Good Egg Fact to Know in Case a Lash Egg is Spotted in your Flock

lash-egg

Photo Courtesy of Michelle Zummo.

Ever heard of a lash egg? Odds are you probably haven’t. It can be a one-time occurrence or it can be an uncommon symptom of an illness that is actually the number one killer of laying hens. And it’s a symptom that’s good to know if you’re raising chickens for eggs in case you spot a lash egg in your flock.

At Backyard Poultry magazine, we get reader questions and from time to time and like to share the information we’ve found. The pictures in this post were sent to us by a reader who was wondering about an abnormal mass found in her nesting boxes. She described the mass as about the same size as regular chicken egg, but with a rubbery feel. Her flock consists multiple breeds including Barred Rocks, Golden Laced Wyandottes, Welsummers, Rhode Island Reds and Australorps. When she took the egg inside and cut it in half, it had a lot of layers that could be peeled apart and were about the consistency of cooked yolks. We diagnosed it as a lash egg.

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What Causes a Lash Egg?

Although known as a lash egg and having the appearance of an egg, it really isn’t an egg at all. These masses are produced when a hen sheds part of the lining of her oviduct along with pus and other materials. Lash eggs travel through the reproductive system, so they are often egg-shaped. The cause of a lash egg is salpingitis; an inflammation and infection of the oviduct. Salpingitis is caused by a bacterial infection that travels to the oviduct.

lash-egg

Photo Courtesy of Michelle Zummo.

Is My Chicken Sick?

When we humans are sick, we’ll usually tell someone, head to the doctor and try to rest and recuperate as our schedule allows. But, we’re a little different than chickens. Chickens are prey animals and they’re flock animals. To show weakness makes you vulnerable to predators and can knock down your place in the pecking order. So, chickens will hide their illness as long as they can. The problem with this is that you often don’t notice a chicken is sick until it’s way past the point of being saved. That’s why it’s good to give your flock a daily once-over just to see how things are going.

There are telltale signs that your chickens may be sick. You may wonder why are my chickens laying soft eggs or why have my chickens stopped laying eggs? In many cases, there are other causes besides illness. Like a chicken laying an egg inside an egg is just a laying abnormality. But, consistent laying abnormalities along with lethargy, not eating, excessive thirst, droopy and less colorful combs can be a sign of a larger illness.

As for salpingitis, it is not always a death sentence for your hen. Many hens have a strong enough immune system to beat the illness on their own. It can be a one-time occurrence. Others can recover with the help of antibiotics. When a hen does recover from salpingitis, her productivity can be compromised. She may never lay again or may lay fewer eggs going forward. For a backyard flock, this is normally not a problem as fresh eggs are a benefit of having chickens but aren’t a requirement as many have names and take on pet status.

Some chickens with salpingitis will not make it and won’t exhibit the symptom of a lash egg. In those cases, the infection spreads and grows inside their bodies resulting in death. A sign of salpingitis is a chicken walking with a penguin-like stance with a swollen abdomen. This is caused because the inflamed oviduct and resulting mass are inside the hen and festering. Eventually, the inflammation will push on the chicken’s internal organs causing the chicken to have a hard time breathing and ultimately death.

If you’re unsure of what’s happening with your chicken, it’s a good idea to take it to the vet. Sometimes the vet can remove the infected mass, but this is risky, costly and not a viable option for many backyard chicken keepers. A vet can advise you on the best course of action.

In a commercial chicken operation, a chicken that lays a lash egg is culled. When egg production is the goal and makes your bottom line, a reduction or stoppage in laying can’t be tolerated.

How Can I Keep My Chickens Healthy?

Salpingitis can be very hard to prevent. It is most common in birds that are two to three years old. Make sure your chickens are getting a healthy diet and free range exercise time each day. Practicing good animal husbandry is helpful in preventing the spread of bacteria and viruses that result in salpingitis. Keep the chicken coop and run as clean as possible by changing dirty bedding and cleaning nest boxes frequently. Many chicken keepers will dose their chicken’s water with Apple Cider Vinegar (the kind with the mother) to keep waterers clean and boost their chicken’s immune systems. You can also add garlic to your chicken’s diet either in the water or as garlic powder in their feed. A quick tip; if you add fresh garlic cloves to your chicken’s water, be sure to change it daily because the garlic can get quite strong if you don’t. This results in chickens who aren’t drinking enough water daily.

In the end, a lash egg isn’t always a death sentence. Many chicken keepers have hens that lay lash eggs and live long and happy lives. But it is a symptom that you’ll want to monitor and treat if necessary.

Have you ever had a chicken pass a lash egg? Did your chicken recover and resume egg laying? Let us know in the comments below.

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Comments
  • I was wanting to know if a lash egg can also be caused by a chicken breaking an egg inside her. I found a lash egg in the floor of my coop this evening. None of my chickens are showing any sign of symptoms you talk about above. I did have a Blue Andalusian start acting funny a few weeks ago and she had a messy bottom. I gave her a couple of spa treatments and dosed her with vitamins and she seemed to make a full recovery. The stuff coming out of her was a yellowish white so I assumed I could have been a broken egg. Can a lash egg be an infection working it’s way out due to that? A few months back we had to put a girl down. She started gaining weight fast. She got so big that her leg dislocated and turned sideways. She could hardly walk. That’s when we decided to put her down. It was hard but I couldn’t stand to see her like that. That leg had to hurt. Some of the symptoms you mentioned above sounds like what she had. Also how much apple cider vinegar should I use in a gallon size waterer. Thanks.

    Reply
  • I am wondering if a chicken lays one lash egg, but otherwise seems healthy….can you eat the eggs if any are produced after this. My hen laid a lash egg, then didn’t lay any eggs for a few weeks. She never looked or acted sick. This past week, she started laying again and have been getting healthy looking eggs every day since. Thanks!

    Reply
  • I have a hen that hasn’t been laying for about 3 months, then I watched her lay a lash egg. She has not had any symptoms that would suggest she is sick, however, when she stopped laying a few months ago, I could tell she was being picked on by the other hens and was spending a lot of time alone. Should I be culling her if she seems outwardly healthy? Is this a contagious condition? I’m most concerned as I read these lash eggs are often caused by E. Coli and other pathogens. Any advice would be greatly appreciated!

    Reply
  • I am the reader that sent in the photos. That was a couple years ago. Oct 2014. Then had a smaller lash egg in Dec 2014. Then another in June 2015 that was like a rubber shell, and when I opened it, it had the whites inside but then a chunky lash egg inside of it instead of a yolk. Still have photos of them. I never did figure out which chicken did it. I still have four of that flock, along with five newer ones and a rooster from a neighbor that decided to make my girls his own. Have not had any weird eggs since.

    Reply
  • Great article! I think it is a well explained and excited exploration of a common issue seen in back yard layers. Amother concern and risk to your hens is over conditioning (over weight). This can cause cause the hen to strain when she is laying an egg and lead to her vent being exposed to the environment longer leading to am increase incident of salpingitis. As mentioned above going to your vet is a necessary step to identify a specific etiology (cause) to your hens symptoms.

    Reply
  • I had a hen who had this but I never saw any signs of it until one night when she set on the ground instead of going in to roost. I brought her in the house and felt a mass i thought might be an egg she was having trouble laying. I gave her a warm bath but she died an hour later. I did an autopsy and found a huge amount of the “lash egg” substance backed up in her. Poor thing must have been sick quite some time but never showed any signs.

    Reply
  • All my hens that had laid a lash egg passed away sooner or later. My vet and some research revealed the following:
    If a hen has had a respiratory infection (sneezing, snotty beak)and if remains untreated will cause sneaky infections in internal organs, reproductive organs to be precise. Because birds airways are located in various places in their little bodies like a ventilation system, if infection spreads it will continue infecting other organs. One of these silent killers is a condition called Salpengitis, an inflammation of Fallopian tubes (the birthplace of eggs). First sign is lash eggs, next come symptoms such as slow food processing, yellow mucus and watery droppings, bird becomes weak and listless, death.
    Best course of action: as soon as you get a new bird, vaccinate for the following conditions:
    Mareks Disease
    Infectious Bronchitis (IB)
    Avian RhinoTracheitis (ART)
    Mycoplasma gallisepticum (MG)
    Salmonella
    if can’t have the lot at least vaccinate for Respiratory condition.

    DO Not give cider vinegar to a poorly bird! It burns their already delicate insides, if you do not believe me try it yourself on an empty stomach and feel it burn. Humans can tolerate such acidity but our little friends not so much (I would not risk it in any case if I were you).

    If you discover a lash egg layer the best course of action is:
    Course of antibiotics + antibiotic resistant probiotics + Harrison’s bird food for convalescing and maintaining of body weight during recovery.

    Aftercare: always add some form of probiotic to their daily feed and worm your birds at least once a month (Panacur or something similar) is easily administered, available over the counter and treats all sorts of internal parasites.

    I hope this information will help keep your girls happy and healthy!

    Reply

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