Based on 2 conversations I had with 2 different people. I kinda fused their replies and tried to make it as short as possible, but it came out a bit too long in the end. I'll try to make a shorter version in the future, but for now you'll have to do it with this.NOTE: The artist description below is unfinished. I have to go to work now, but I'll finish writing it later and type out all sources.
Part 1: fav.me/dcilswhPart 2: fav.me/dcj31jeThe process of making and passing an egg requires so much energy and labor that in nature, wild hens lay only 10 to 15 eggs per year.
The Red Jungle Fowl
- the wild relatives from whom domestic layer hens are descended - lay one to two clutches of eggs annually, with 4 to 6 eggs per clutch on average. Their bodies could never sustain the physical depletion of laying the hundreds of eggs that domestic chickens have been forced to produce through genetic manipulation.
It is a common misconception that chickens are always just naturally “giving” eggs, because modern egg hens have been intensively bred to lay between 250 to 300 eggs a year.
This is more than 20 times as much as their wild counterparts, since in the wild, chickens, like all birds, lay only during breeding season - primarily in the spring - and only enough eggs to assure the survival of their genes.
Whenever I’m talking about other birds, like a great tit or a blackbird, people seem to find it normal that they only lay eggs in spring for reproductive purposes. But when it comes to chickens, the same people - even many vegans - seem to find it normal that they lay eggs every day. It’s what we’ve all been taught since we were little. Most people are so far removed from the process of “their” omelette, that they don’t even know there exist companies who breed the animals to be this way. All branches of the egg industry buy the same types of chickens. So yes, even the “free-range” chickens and organic chickens lay an extremely high amount of eggs and are far from natural. The only difference is their living conditions. And even most hobbyists starting a backyard flock mail-order their chicks from the same hatcheries that supply factory farms (a bird that’s not genetically manipulated to lay many eggs is useless to them after all). Today, chickens used for eggs - from factory farms to backyard flock - are the products of centuries of human control over their mating process. Reproductive issues
The most prevalent health issues that laying hens face are reproductive issues. About 90% of the (rescued) ex laying hens die from these issues. Industry birds are bred to lay over 300 eggs a year and their reproductive tract is under enormous strain because of this. Several illnesses occur, for example infected oviducts, egg yolk peritonitis (EYP), oviduct tumors, oviducts fused together with other internal tissue, impacted oviducts etc. We will discuss a few of these issues below. It is very important to observe your hen well on a daily basis and especially how her eggs look, whether she lays eggs at all, or if she spends time in the nestbox every day. Prevalent diseases are
Egg Yolk Peritonitis
Adhesions of the oviduct (or adhesions of internally laid eggs)
Deformed eggs and lashes
The diagnoses mentioned above can usually only be made by experienced (avian) vets who regularly treat chickens. Many (dutch) vets don’t even know about the possibility to implant a chicken with a Deslorelin implant (this method has been used for about 10 years in the UK now with great succes). A vet who works for the poultry industry generally can’t help with reproductive issues (because hens in the egg industry who have reproductive issues are worthless for this industry and will never be treated), so please ask further questions when your vet says he or she has experience with chickens.Egg Yolk Peritonitis
After release, the egg yolk is supposed to go directly into the oviduct. The oviduct is a funnel shaped tube and it does happen that the yolk misses the oviduct entrance. The more eggs a hen lays, the greater this chance. The hen may be okay when this happens just once, but in laying hens this usually happens many times and is often a permanent issue. The undeveloped eggs, or yolks, end up in the belly of the hen, where they can form a mass and start infecting. This is called Egg Yolk Peritonitis (EYP).
When your hen spends a lot of time in her nestbox but no eggs come out, then it is important to act immediately: it is very likely she already has a build-up of yolks in her belly. It is also important to often feel your hens belly: if her belly grows and fluid builds up inside, she needs medical attention as soon as possible. An infection has probably started already then. Hens who suffer from EYP need Deslorelin implants. These implants stop the production of reproductive hormones and this stops ovulation and the release of egg yolks. Egg production stops within 2 weeks of administering the implant. Because it can take 2 weeks to work, the sooner EYP is diagnosed, the better the chances for the hen with this disease.
An implant works temporarily. The duration of its efficacy is very different though: it takes between 2 to 9 months before an implant wears off. Hens who have suffered from EYP absolutely need to be implanted in time again. The looks and behaviour of the hen shows whether the implant still works or not. When you see signs of the implant wearing off you need to re-implant as soon as possible.
Hens with EYP often get large bellies because of fluid build up inside the hen. This can cause the hen to get trouble breathing. Chickens do not have a diaphragm and therefore her organs and excessive fluid can press on her lungs, making it hard for her to breathe. A symprom of these breathing issues can be a blue comb due to oxygen deprivation (by this time it is a real emergency!). A hen with EYP probably looks sick and doesn’t do as much as she used to. In the cases of these huge fluid build-up it can be necessary to drain the belly (besides treating the infection and using implants!), or by using diuretics. Please make sure to only let an experienced vet do this: removing too much fluids can cause the hen to go into shock and die). Deslorelin implants
These implants are very important to treat (and prevent) diseases in ex laying hens. Unfortunately the knowledge regarding these implants isn’t wide spread yet and because of the importance of these implants for hens we want to give as much information as possible. Keep in mind though we are not vets and it is important to find a good (avian) vet for your chicken(s).What is a Deslorelin implant?
We usually just call it “implant”. This implant is a little rod that is placed under the skin of the animal. The active ingredient in the imlant is deslorelin. Deslorelin is a GnRH agonist: this substance stops the production of reproductive hormones (testosterone and estrogen). This way ovulation stops.
Years ago people in the UK started using implants to stop hens from laying eggs for health reasons. Now implants have been used in the UK for over a decade and are being used in many other countries as well. The implant stops ovulation and therefore the hen stops laying eggs.
Many issues and diseases that are caused by egg laying can be prevented or cured by these implants. Laying hens / industry hens have been bred to lay a huge amount of eggs, egg production needs to be maximised by the industry, which puts an enourmous strain on the hen’s body. Laying this many eggs is the cause of many diseases in (rescued) laying hens. Does my hen need an implant?
When your hen is a (rescued) laying hen, the chances are – approximately – about 90% that she will (eventually) need an implant to stay healthy and/or alive. However, often the symptoms of reproductive disease are not recognised by either owner or (inexperienced) vet. When a rescued laying hen becomes ill, it is important to first check her reproductive health. The following issues need immediate implanting of the hen:Egg Yolk Peritonitis (infections in the belly of the hen).
These infection often develop unnoticed. The belly becomes larger, the hen’s walking is affected and the hen shows general symptoms of being unwell. In an advanced stage the infection in the belly can press on the other organs in her body and the chicken can start having breathing problems when the lungs become compressed. Often, by inexperienced people, advanced EYP isn’t recognised as such but mistaken for a lung infection, due to the bad breathing of the hen. Treatment with antibiotics does deal with (a part of) the infection, but doesn’t remove the cause. EYP often comes back when the hen keeps ovulating and egg material will keep accumulating in the hen’s belly. An implant is the best way to stop EYP from coming back. Hens who have suffered from EYP will need to be implanted regularly for the rest of their lives. Oviduct infections and adhesions
Because eggs pass through the oviduct every day, the oviduct is prone to infections. When this happens, it is important the hen stops laying as soon as possible. Additional treatment may be needed as well. When the oviduct has been impacted or adhesions have formed, it is very important that the hen never lays again, because an egg simply cannot pass through the oviduct anymore. Surgery may be necessary to remove the impacted matter. Do keep in mind though that even when the oviduct is removed, the hen can still ovulate (ovaries cannot be removed!). So even after a salpingectomy (removal of oviduct) the hen will need implants for the rest of her life. Cloaca prolaps
When part of the intestines come out of the hen’s cloaca, this is called a prolaps. Eggs are often the cause of this. It can be treated by suturing the cloaca, but sometimes the prolaps comes back again. If this doesn’t help, it is helpful to implant the hen to stop her from laying eggs. Her oviduct and cloaca will not be stretched out daily and her body will get some rest.Deformed eggs
When eggs start to look weird (with scratches on them, or without shells etc) it is helpful to have the hen stop laying. Her oviduct isn’t functioning properly anymore by then and even though she may keep laying for a while, it is better to stop her laying before it will become an emergency. Where can I get implants and how does this work?
Implants are always placed by vets. The size of the implant is comparable with a microchip for cats and dogs. The implant is inserted under the skin with a hollow needle. Usually it is placed between the shoulder blades on the back. Some vets place them in the breast muscle, but this should only be done by and experienced (avian) vet. We advise going to a vet who is experienced in implanting chickens, especially with your first implant. If there is no avian vet available we still recommend going to a regular vet and requesting the implant. Basically every vet has the implants on stock, because they are often used for chemical castration in dogs and ferrets. (there is a list of avian vets or experienced vets all over the world on the vegans with chickens
page on facebook)
An implant can give side effects. Whether these occur or not differ greatly per chicken, but we want to mention them all here. Our hens don’t get the side effects (anymore). The side effects – if they occur – are strongest on the first implant, but they gradually decrease over time. If you re-implant in time, there will hardly be any side effects after a while. Side effects can be: loss of apetite, or not eating at all (this usually lasts a few days, in severe cases it is smart to tube feed your hen as well as giving her her favourite food to stimulate apetite), the hen can start moulting and the hen may be less lively (this can take a few weeks). How long does an implant last and is one single implant sufficient?
The implant works only temporary. When the implant wears off, the reproductive system of the hen becomes active again and she will start making eggs again. In many cases it is crucial for the hen’s health never to lay eggs again, so you will need to re-implant her again in time. It takes between one to 14 days for the implant to start working.
Deslorelin implants are available in two different strenghts: 4,7mg and 9,4mg. The difference is the duration time. We nowadays only use the 9,4mg implant: we do not have to re-implant as often as with the 4,7mg, which decreases the risk of diseases occuring between implants. A rough indication of the time the implant is active: the 4,7mg implant lasts usually between 2 to 5 months and the 9,4mg implant lasts usually twice as long. We however have had implants last one month and also over one year. The duration differs per hen and also each time, so a prediction is hard to give: most important is to observe your hens for signs of the implant wearing off and as soon as you see those signs, re-implant. What are the signs of an implant wearing off?
Usually it is easy to see when a chicken has a working implant or not. When implanted, her looks and behaviour change from a laying hen to a hen who isn’t laying eggs. A table of the signs can be found here: www.exlegkipjes.nl/kippen-ziek…
But I have an English version of this table in my Pupa Vegan YELLOW book. Unfortunately I can't share it in the DA comments section because they don't have a table option. Addition: if you have a rooster: he is your best help in deciding whose implant has (almost) worn off! When you see a hen getting more attention from the rooster(s), you can be certain her implant is about to wear off.
When one or more symptoms from the chart and images above changes, this can be an indication the hen’s implant is wearing off. When your hen is looking and behaving more like a hen who is actively laying , please consider re-implanting as soon as possible. Do not wait for her to start laying eggs again, especially hens with a past of EYP will not lay actual eggs, but will likely start accumulating yolks or egg material in their bellies again. It is of vital importance to act quickly.
(addition: Billy is a good example of this. Billy died last week. She had EYP in the past but she wasn’t implanted regularly enough before she came to us, and between implants egg material had accumulated in her belly and adhesed itself to her intestines. This has caused her death now, her intestines couldn’t function anymore because of the old egg material and it had all grown together so she couldn’t have surgery anymore)The costs of an implant
Please be aware that chickens need medical care too, before you decide to adopt a chicken. Just like cats and dogs, they are sentient beings too and deserve to be taken to a vet when they are ill.
Implant prices vary a lot depending on which country you live in and which vet you go to. We firmly believe though that the price of an implant should never be a reason not to implant: this is life saving medical care which should not be denied to anyone. Be aware that when you adopt a laying hen, you will almost certainly need this medical care to keep her healthy. Keep this in mind before you adopt them, so they will not be deprived of help because of the costs.
Studies were done in which was shown that Deslorelin implants can prevent or slow down ovarian cancer. Especially in laying hens (which have been bred to lay an extreme amount of eggs) the prevalence of ovarian cancer is huge. However when these hens are implanted the occurence of ovarian cancer decreases significantly. Sources:
Will type them out soon. Too busy right now. Please check back later.