What causes rock hard abdomens in chickens?

Asked July 16, 2014, 10:15 AM EDT

I have had 4 hens in the last 18 months suffer from a rock hard abdomen and wasting in the breast area. What is causing this? How can I prevent this? I am feeding quality laying pellets, Feather Fixer, and scratch. They also forage outside the coop during the day. Thank you for any help with this problem.

Natrona County Wyoming

7 Responses

I suspect that they are egg bound and become internal layers but I need more information.

Are these birds dying or recovering?

Are they from the same flock or some of them new? What kind io chickens?

At what age to they start have the problem?

When you say "rock hard", is this the entire abdomen, or localized?

When suffering from this symptom, are they eating, drinking, walking, laying eggs?

We have had to put these chickens down-they don't show improvement, and their condition gets worse as they huddle up and don't move around much. They live in the same flock, but they came from different sources- some were 3-4 year old Rhode Island Reds, and the latest is a year old White Leghorn. The entire abdomen is rock hard- and the breast bone is painfully thin-just a bone with skin over it. They appear to drink, but I haven't seen them eating, except to pick at some Scratch. They don't walk around much, and I don't think they are laying, which I would think would relieve this some. Thank you for any information which would be helpful to end this problem.


From your description here are some possibilities.

They could be egg bound, but that would not account for several birds with similar symptoms. Becoming egg bound which often leads to internal laying, producing yolks with out laying eggs, it is not a disease is is a physical problem, not contagious.

Another possibility is worms. Being full of worms in an extreme case, could distend the abdomen.

Finally, being skinny (leghorns would be thin compared to the RIRs) it could be the feed. Feather Fixer is a feed formulated for molting birds, I would change to a layer diet (~16% protein, and 3-4% Calcium). Feed them free choice with only a little scratch, what the birds will clean up in 5 minutes, and cut out any table scraps or garden waste. The feed is a complete ration, they don't need anything else.

If they are foraging and eating grass, they could be impacted. Keep any pasture mowed or run sheep or cattle first to expose insects and seeds, grass has little feed value for chickens.

A poultry veterinarian (pathologist) would be helpful to identify the exact problems; all I can do is provide an educated guess.

Thank you very much for this information. I am already making some changes to our little flock's management as a result of your helpful ideas. Debra De Witt

I hope this issue is resolved.

Thank you again for your advice; as you suggested, I have taken the Feather Fixer away (it did have an 18% protein content) and am feeding a pelleted dewormer to my hens. I will be very interested to see how the next few months go. Thanks again! Debra