Prolapse in laying hens is one, among the common diseases, affecting laying chicken in the poultry farm that gives – sometimes – concern to the poultry farmers.

During the process of laying egg, the lower part of the chicken’s (layer’s) reproductive track is temporarily turn inside out which lets the hen to lay a very clean egg. Sometimes the tissue does not retract after the egg has been laid and this condition is referred to as a prolapse. If other hens notice the prolapse, they are attracted to the moist, glistering texture of the oviduct. They will start picking at the material. The first indication of a prolapse problem is the presence of blood-streaked eggs.

Early detection of such eggs may help to prevent further damage

Prolapse during production is usually related to poor skeleton development during rearing, even if body weight during production is at target. Therefore – try to achieve upper limit of target weight already from 4 to 8 weeks of age.

What causes prolapse in chicken?

Following is a summary of conditions where prolapse related problems are most likely to occur.

  • Overweight or underweight birds: Overweight birds are more susceptible to prolapse as a result of general muscle weakness and larger eggs laying tendency. Too much deposition of fat around reproductive organs exposes birds to prolapse.
  • Unbalanced feed rations: Insufficient calcium in the diet will bring challenges with eggshell formation but can also lead to muscle tone. Calcium is important for proper muscle tone, and weak muscles may take it hard to bring the oviduct back into the body, increasing the amount of time the oviduct is exposed
  • Wrong application of pre-lay-management and the nutritional changes during two weeks before start of egg production
  • Reproductive age of the flock of birds: prolapse occurs likely at the peak of birds’ production and period of peak egg mass, as a result of large demand placed on the birds’ metabolism.
  • Double-yolked eggs laying hens: the excessive size of these eggs will stretch and possibly weaken cloacal muscles.
  • High light intensity: Under high light intensity conditions, birds are more likely to see and be attracted to the everted oviduct and thus pecking occurs and cause damage.

Apart from this – the problem of oviduct prolapse in layer originated or start from growing and development stage, when the chicken/layer pelvic girdle is not well developed at rearing stage it results in prolapse, at times if the energy level in the feed is high more than required energy in feed, which results in high carbohydrate, it will cause prolapse in layer. Too high fat content in feed will result in prolapse because, the accumulation of fat in the chicken abdominal region will narrow the egg passage and in the process of birds straining to push the egg out, it will results in prolapse.

How to prevent prolapse in chickens?

  • The key to preventing prolapse is good management; and if good management is promptly applied, the effect of prolapse will be minimized, especially when syndrome begins to appear.
  • Major percentage of death recorded during the incidence of pick-out/prolapse as ascribed to prolapse is not true.
  • The death is as a result of cannibalism among pullets through picking/pecking at the slightly inverted vent of another pullet when laying, till she loses blood or when the intestines have been damaged.
  • The sign observed during prolapse problem is the presence of blood-streaked eggs. As stated above, careful and serious management will reduce the rate of prolapse as well as most other health problems in the flock.

Note the following:

  • Photo-stimulation should occur when the birds reach the weight and age recommended by the breeder.
  • Balanced feed rations are required to sustain egg production and maintain body weight at recommended levels.
  • Ensure that light intensity in the pen house is at the breeder recommended level. Look into reducing the light intensity by covering windows, or replacing bulbs with lower watt bulbs.
  • Birds should be watched to observe vent-pecking behaviour, and isolate such from the flock (if possible).
  • Pray the prolapsed vent with medicated spray such as “Oxytetravet” spray (if possible).

The following tips may help to reduce losses in this flock:

  • Do not exceed 16 hours light duration (better 15 hours). Also reduce light intensity (maximum 40 lux in open house, 20-30 lux in environment control house).
  • Adjust ME in feed to lower limit of recommendations in developer phase.
  • Supplement Vitamin C @ 1 g/l drinking water in morning hours.

Thereafter resume normal practices.

Several management problems in the rearing or laying period of hens can be involved:

  • Hens being overweight.
  • Starting to increase the number of hours of light per day (photo-stimulation) before the pullet has reached the correct weight.
  • Feeding unbalanced diets.
  • Providing the hens with high-intensity light.
  • Hens that lay large double-yolked eggs are more prone to prolapse. Prolapse is also likely to occur at peak production.
  • There is no effective treatment for prolapse. Prevention is the best method of control.
  • Only photo-stimulate your pullets when they have reached the right body weight and age. This will vary from breed to breed but is typically around 17 weeks of age.
  • Feed only balanced feed rations specifically formulated for pullets and then layers.
  • Do not use high-intensity light. Chickens are more sensitive to light than humans, and excessive light can result in aggressive behavior.

Mr. Robert Pottgueter

With reference to:

  • Dr. Jacquie Jacob, University of Kentucky; extension
  • Dr. Martin Zuidhof, University of Alberta, Edmomton – July 18, 2002