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.
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.