Avoiding problems in the UK
Almost every spring brings at least one tale of female ducks or
geese suffering from Ďegg bindingí. Often lethal for the birds,
itís also stressful and sometimes expensive for their owner, and it is
best to try to avoid this condition by good management.
Always make sure that the birds have the correct
* Use breeder rations which will have the correct
proportion of calcium, phosphorus and vitamin D;
* give access to mixed poultry grit;
* lime the ground with slaked lime or calcified
seaweed if you live in high rainfall area, especially if the soil is
acid and there is no lime in the ground. It is essential that ducks have
the correct minerals to form a good shell, and that enough calcium is
available for them to use when laying eggs too. Calcium is also needed
for muscle contractions to push the eggs down and out of the oviduct.
Some factors are beyond oneís control. A spell of
cold, wet weather when birds are in-lay, is the most likely time for
them to be affected by oviduct problems. It is beneficial if the birds
are housed at night in a dry, draught-free shed. The warmer environment
helps. But quite often Calls live out in a fox-proof pen or with the
wildfowl, and they are generally better off with this style of life.
They are hardy creatures and, given a choice, prefer to stop out all
night whatever the weather.
Another thing one cannot avoid is the fact that
oviduct problems are more likely to happen in young birds. It can be the
first egg laid in a cold spell which causes the problem, but keeping an
eye on youngsters sometimes enables you to intervene in time.
An egg released from the ovary is fertilised in the first part of
the oviduct, where sperm is stored. As the egg passes down the oviduct,
a layer of albumen is added, and then the outer layer is calcified as it
passes through the shell gland. The egg then passes down to the cloaca
and is laid, the whole process taking about 24-48 hours. Eggs can get
blocked in their passage down the length of the oviduct.
When an egg passes down the oviduct, it can be deposited in the
abdominal cavity. This will become enlarged and inflamed. It is likely
that ducks which have a distended abdomen which feels hot are suffering
from this condition. Such birds cannot be saved and are best put down.
The condition can be chronic, or a bird can die suddenly, with no
obvious external symptoms
Egg binding in the lower oviduct
More frequently, an egg is held up in the lower part of the oviduct,
after the shell has formed in the shell gland. The duck strains to pass
the egg. She will spend a lot of the time sitting down, bobbing her tail
gently up and down. The vent may have mucous around it, and the hard egg
can sometimes even be felt when placing your hand under the abdomen. In
such a case there are several things you can do to help.
* Bring the duck into a warm environment (24-28
degrees C). This helps the bird use its muscles in the oviduct, and the
egg may be passed normally.
* At this point, it is also very useful to have an
oral calcium supplement. Calcivet is a liquid calcium and magnesium
supplement, administered orally, which can quickly bump up the
calcium supply. It is available from The Bird Care Company.
Note that this is a short-term treatment for calcium and is not a remedy
for frequent soft-shelled eggs.
Extract by permission of www.birdcareco.com
The traditional veterinary
treatment for this problem is an injection of calcium. This works
very well though it is expensive, invasive and risky. Oral
treatment, with a highly bio-available liquid
calcium/magnesium/vitaminD3 supplement like Calcivet (called
CalciBoost in America), works equally effectively but is far
cheaper and less stressful for the bird
Perversely providing good
quality calcium every day can actually have the reverse result to that
you desire. If all the birdís' maintenance calcium requirements
are satisfied from the gut then the bones slowly lose the ability to
quickly pump calcium back into the blood (simply because they have not
need to do so for so long). Egg-binding can result from this over
supplementation. So we never use Calcivet (CalciBoost) seven days a
- When the bird has been
warmed up, see if you can help her pass the egg by smearing vegetable
oil or a suitable lubricant in and around the vent. A traditional
treatment is to hold to duck over a bowl of warm water, apply oil to the
vent, and push any egg which can be felt in the lower abdomen outwards
towards the vent.
- If this fails, a calcium
injection (Calciject - calcium borogluconate), given by a vet, may help;
this is usually administered by the vet with oxytocin. Calcium is needed for the
bird to use its muscles to push the egg out. My vet stressed that the
calcium injection used for cattle is all right Ė as long as it does
not contain magnesium as well.
- In a bad case where the
egg will not pass out, but can be seen art the vent, the exposed
shell can be broken with forceps. The contents are then extracted by
syringe, and the shell gently pulled out. This is not the best strategy
as the bird is more likely to suffer from an infection if the egg shell
breaks. It is therefore a last resort at the vetís, and must be
followed up with a course of antibiotic e.g. Baytril, 0.3ml twice a day
for a Call duck for 5 days. This is prescribed by the vet and
advice will be given about withdrawal times for the product (if
appropriate - Call ducks are not usually eaten, or any bird in these
In a bad case of a bird straining to pass an
egg, the oviduct will prolapse i.e. turn outwards. This reduces the
birdís chance of survival.
If the egg is successfully passed without prolapse,
subsequent eggs may be passed normally and the bird never experience
problems again. Do keep an eye on what is happening though, for the next
week. I have known a larger duck have the same problem recur because her
muscles had been strained so much, that the subsequent egg again
collected in the lower oviduct and the bird had to be put down.
If all this worries you Ė donít. It is not that
common. It may not happen to your birds, but itís as well to know how
to avoid problems, and how to get help if it does affect your stock.
THIS INFORMATION WAS ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED IN CDA
PUBLICATION 5 AND BELONGS TO THE CDA. IT SHOULD NOT BE REPRODUCED
WITHOUT PERMISSION FROM THE SECRETARY.
For further information on the use of veterinary
medicines please contact your Vet or visit the website of the Veterinary
Medicines Directorate www.vmd.gov.uk who are the regulatory authority for veterinary medicines in the UK.