Giving her warm baths during the egg binding crisis

We’ve dealt with our fair share of problems & pain – having more animal increases the chance of one running into some illness, injury and even death.  That’s a farm life – nature gives and nature takes away.

Dawn had a leg injury awhile back – with a bit of arnica and daily massages she’s almost as good as new.  Still gimpy at times (when there some cold weather),  but she’s happy as a lark, or as any duck could be.

There was Old Clem (who’s 100 in human years – blimey!) whom we nursed back from the brink of death with a bad case of sour crop (due to her old age).

And Bella, who has a slight heart problem, is prone to a mild case of prolapse. Spent a night in our beds as she once had a small fever.

Not to mention the times we’ve nursed cats thru all sorts of stuff.  The list could go on and on.

Last year’s freak accident with Amy (when, in an excited flurry, she must have pinched, twisted a nerve in her wing) who has  taught us a lot about the tenacity of creatures and how they can pull thru with a bit of help.

For all you new readers (welcome!) You can read about her story here

Now, with this latest incident, we are not sure what the future holds for Amy.   We figured nature would have her lay when she was better.  Since she hadn’t laid an egg for 5 months, we didn’t figure anything bad might happen  in spring time with the body’s natural reproductive cycle and her doing better,  But, she was doing so well that she started, unfortunately for her, laying again.

Right now, she is fine, but what another ordeal!  She’s back with her buds, eating, drinking and being a duck. But as any poultry owner knows egg binding is a serious issue.  A problem all its own for an healthy duck, but what about an “invalid” duck.

She had a really bad case of egg binding because it seems that the nerves haven’t completely healed or something isn’t healed in that little body of hers.  The eggs drop/get to a certain point and she can’t pass them like a normal duck.

In Amy’s case, she had three eggs – one was one inside the other.  The first one, pushed by, the extra huge one behind it was the first one we dealt with.  Soaking her in warm water did the trick but then next morning – there was another egg; but this one didn’t even get to the vent.  That was bad and we knew that if she didn’t pass the egg soon we were looking at 50-50.  No amount of warm water, heat would bring the egg into the vent area – she just wasn’t pushing as she couldn’t feel that she had an egg.  With her still being somewhat unstable in her balance,  while we were giving her a warm bath, we felt the egg just break.   Oh, dear – a broken egg is not good.  Not good at all.  Her chance went from 50-50 to a miserly 2%.

So ,we did what we thought was best – flush and hydrate, flush and hydrate.   With such treatment, she didn’t develop Egg Yolk Peritonitis but there was another problem.  Another egg!   The egg that crushed revealed another smaller egg. Crap!   This was the mother of all egg binding.

Of course, she couldn’t feel or pass this egg either.

After a few days, the situation got critical and we surmised that if the egg didn’t come out – she was a goner and, if we broke the egg, she could also be a goner due to infection, etc., etc.   Nature/she broke the second egg; but this one would be our doing.

What did we have to lose?  So, we (Jordanne did the “honors”) gathered up some courage and one of Justin’s sharp tools and gently pushed it up the vent and broke the third egg.

Dealing with egg binding isn’t very pleasant; but this last and final egg gave us a surprise. When the sharp tool punctured the egg, it made a sound like a balloon had popped.  It was a “wind egg!.”  How bizarre!  The egg shells collapsed and then it was the flush and hydrate routine.  We could tell she was running a slight fever after this ordeal but we managed to get past that.

We are still flushing and hydrating and there’s still a bit of egg shells left.  We are hoping they will pass soon enough.  So she’s not out of the woods yet.  And even if she passes the bit of egg shells – what next?  We now know she can’t lay eggs properly.  She may form them but something’s not right and it could be all because of that pinched nerve.

So how do you stop a duck from laying without spending a fortune for an operation (which I doubt they even do around here)?

There is a contraceptive drug that one can get from vets but it cost a pretty penny for a year (something like $300).  Ouch, not very practical, I am afraid.  I read somewhere, someone saying “livestock as pets, don’t bring to the vet.”

So, now what?  How do you remain purposeful but practical as an urban farmer?

Is a duck the same as a human – would natural herbs that work on humans have the same effect.?  Oh, how we wish there was a James Herriot about ;but, then again, with his being a practical man and her being poultry, how much would he really do?

Of course, it would have been easier if nature took her but it hasn’t – yet.

Amy (middle) at feeding time – she almost looks like a normal duck!

Amy wolfing down greens from the garden

So, until we figure out something, we are limiting her day light hours by keeping her in the house.  But, she’s not pleased; she wants to hang with her girl friends.

She’s a tenacious quacker, she is – a bit of a maniac too!  We’ve dubbed here “Amyac”

And, while she enjoys breakfast in bed in the house (worms, her favorite, to make her feel it’s worthwhile to stay inside those few extra hours a day), we pray for the wisdom to make a rather difficult, practical and, hopefully, not painful, decision.

Since she’s a hen, how can she live a duck’s life without being a duck?   So far, we haven’t come across a “bleeding heart” vet….   Suggestions? Practical ones ,please!


  1. Mindy says:

    Have you checked at your nearest university vet school, just for the heck of it? I’ve lived near two major vet schools: one at NC State in Raleigh, NC and presently LSU vet school in Baton Rouge, LA. I’ve known a lot of vets and student vets. Although there are doctors (particularly specialists) who appear to be in it “for the money” almost every vet I’ve met truly seems to get started because they really love animals – all kinds. I’ve read many of James Herriot’s books, as well as his biography written by his son. I believe he would have understood your love for your duck. I’ve had my cats treated at vet schools: very positive experiences each time. Many times they will work with you on cost. I understand here in Baton Rouge someone has set up a vet school fund for people who lack money for treatment. The vet schools love special cases and challenges, and they view it as good training for their students. You could always go for a consult, and if they suggest something that is too “out there”, you’re not obligated to go through with it.

    A while back there was a long story about a horse that had lost it’s leg due to Katrina. Some folks at the vet school fitted it with a prosthetic leg, and with the dedicated care of it’s owner, it is doing well.

    I still remember the story of my friend Jenny, in North Carolina, who was witnessing heart surgery on a small dog at the vet school. (She has a friend who is a veterinary cardiologist). Something went wrong, and they lost the pup, but Jenny said she was so incredibly moved to see several adults standing around this table working furiously, all in a desperate effort to save this little dog. I had a neighbor, already a vet, working on a masters at the vet school in NC. She talked about staying in surgery so long she literally peed in her own pants, as she couldn’t leave the table.

    You never know who you will meet at a vet school, or what ideas they might have. The information can’t hurt you, so I say go for it if you haven’t checked into it already. You and Amy are on my mind and in my thoughts.

  2. Nancy Pihera says:

    How about checking with wildlife refuge folks? They know the helpful vets and those who are good with avian critters. I know a couple of people in AL and FL who are fonts of local creature info…I bet they have peers in your area. I love ducks…best to you, and Amy!

  3. SEE YOU AT THE PARK! | Little Homestead in the City says:

    […] An update on Amy – thank you all those who  have written us with words of encouragement and cared e… […]

  4. Dan Courtois says:

    I am glad to hear that your duck is getting better. We have lost several of our hens due to egg peritonitis which we were unable to spot until it was too late. At one point we lost several hens within the span of about 72 hours and I thought that we might have a serious disease in our flock. These sudden deaths caused me to call the California Department of Food and Agriculture to see if there might be a serious poultry disease on our place. The verdict said that my birds, for the most part, died of yolk peritonitis. There were some birds that had some viral illness though as well. I wrote more about this on my blog; BIRD FLU ? Again, I am happy to hear of the recovery of your Amy. P.S. I really like your blog.

  5. Hethir says:

    Thanks for the update, I am glad to hear she is doing better. My husband was making fun of me for constantly giving him Amy updates. He also hears a lot about Blackberry, who is just the cutest goat ever 😉

  6. sue says:

    There is a cool woman in MA who does a hen blog and in her FAQs she talks about egg-bound hens. She doses them with olive oil, and also with epsom salts and water—to get things moving, so to speak. You might want to check it out.

  7. theherbalkitty says:

    Hi, Anais,
    I don’t know if this will help with Amy but I have a book called “The Herbal Handbook for the Farm and Stable” by Juliette de Bairacli Levy. (She also has “The Herbal Handbook for the Farm and Stable”; both have been goldmines!). I looked up “egg bound” in her book. Here is what she recommends:
    Egg Bound. This is generally caused through glandular deficiencies, the best safeguard against which is the daily provision of seaweed and plenty of free exercise in sunny pastures. Feed also chopped up goose-grass (cleavers) in bran mash. Treatment: Inject some olive oil into the vent. Then apply hot cloths, and after several minutes endeavor to manipulate the blocked egg with the finger tips. Break up the egg to help with its removal (Juliette often recommends things that most vets or other holistic methods advise against; scary thing is, I’ve never known her books to be false) Also, give an internal dose of castor oil, a small teaspoonful with a pinch of ground ginger added.
    If you don’t have a copy of these books, I would highly recommend investing in them. They truly are a goldmine. My Cindy Lou rabbit wouldn’t be here today without the farm and stable book. While there’s nothing in it about rabbits (except as food for border collies…lol!), horses and rabbits have similar digestive tracts. I simply decreased the dosage dramatically. Cindy had a serious kidney infection and bloat. I didn’t think she’d accept some of the treatments as she tends to be a skittish rabbit but she did and there was a marked improvement within 48 hours.
    Best of luck to you and Amy!

  8. Tina in Los Angeles says:

    I appreciate so your candid explanation of the dilemma Amy your ducks needs place on individuals and the entire family unit. Thank you. I have struggled at times with the question is there a time to humanely assist a chicken at our home to die when they are suffering and treatment has failed. I would not know how to even do this, but the realities of taking on the responsibility of these lovely creatures are complex. As is real life when you get your hands dirty. Sending positive thoughts your way, a prayer for your many animals. And a little something special for your duck Amy. Thank you again for sharing. I would be interested in jordanne’s thoughts after the crisis has passed and she has time .

  9. Laurie says:

    Have you contacted any local chiropractors? I’m a vet myself, and remember a cat patient of mine that had some spinal trauma, and couldn’t urinate or walk correctly. All the regular treatments I could think of did not help, and after 2 weeks the owner was ready to euthanize the cat. In desparation, I phoned a local chiropractor who came right over to help. A few adjustments and the cat was urinating on his own again. A few more adjustments and he was walking again! I was amazed, and that chiropractor got much good “word of mouth” advertising from me. He hadn’t asked for any money! You have a large number of people following Amy and her troubles… this could be a good opportunity for a chiropractor AND you. (by the way, I agree with your assessment of possible pinched nerve) Best of luck with this.

  10. AROUND THE URBAN HOMESTEAD | Little Homestead in the City says:

    […] revitalization (compost teas, re-mineralizing, manure, etc) summer plantings, canning, brewing, caring for Amy, our duck, who’s doing OK after the egg binding.  Thanks to all those who wrote offering concern and suggestions.  In her case, because of the […]

  11. m says:

    Would readers maybe be willing to donate a bit for the $300 bill for the medicine or other vet care? That would last her a year at least right? It doesn’t take much per person if many chip in. I know I would. Could you put up a donate button in case people want to help?

  12. Rachel says:

    My guess on the issue here is that perhaps she was accidentally stepped on by a goat or something and that caused her spinal injury. Her situation seems a little extreme for a freak nerve pinching from moving a wing the wrong way.
    A forced molt might be too stressful for her, but could work. Otherwise restricting daylight hours… but I don’t think this would have as much effect on a khaki campbell as a chicken, either way it wouldn’t work immediately.
    I’m sorry for Amy’s pain.

  13. caroline says:

    I really feel for you all (and amy) and I have been thinking (and researching) long and hard. I have an idea but I don’t know how practical it is with your set up.

    Could Amy be a foster mum? In the wild wouldn’t ducks lay a certain number of eggs then stop laying and incubate them? Could Amy hatch out someone elses eggs (even hens eggs?) and raise some ducklings (or chicks?) as a way of slowing down the biological clock?

    I know that with cockatiels they suggest leaving unfertilised eggs in the cage or dummy eggs for them to incubate to stop them constantly trying to lay eggs and risk their health.

    You might have thought of all this already but I thought I would post it just in case. My prayers and thoughts are with you and your little duck.

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