Problems with breeding

When breeding in February, we are regularly confronted with problems of various kinds. That starts with not laying on time. This should normally be about 10 days after pairing, but there are many reasons why this doesn’t always happen, for example fat hens, too young or too old hens, or problems with the fallopian tube or the ovary.
The pigeon veterinarian should try to make a probability diagnosis, although this is sometimes not so easy.

Egg binding

Is when there is an egg ready (usually the first egg) in front or half in the cloaca and that, despite hard pushing, does not hatch. This situation should not last too long otherwise damage will occur to the fallopian tube and problems may also occur within the pelvis.
Sometimes the egg is still so deep inside that you can hardly feel it. If in doubt, we would definitely make an ultrasound or an X-ray and that will give a definite answer.
An X-ray usually gives a clearer picture of the situation than an echo

If the hen in question does not show any clear signs of egg binding, in other words no big belly (rump), not distressed, no high back and normal eating and normal droppings, we can wait a few days, in the belief that there is an egg in it (verify with an X-ray, see picture).

If such a fully-formed egg has been in it for some time, it is almost always unfertilized. That leaves only a surgical procedure and that always goes well. Anaesthesia, incision in the skin up to the abdominal cavity, then take out the fallopian tube. That’s easy because the egg is sitting as if it were in a membrane (the Fallopian tube at the point of the egg) and shines white. Open the Fallopian tube and remove the egg with a special instrument. Close everything up neatly again and you’re ready to go. The prognosis is good, but don’t pair the hen for at least a month to let everything heal properly..

If the egg is already partly in the cloaca, we can massage it out using some lubricant, for example salad oil. Taking a drive with the pigeon in a basket can sometimes works wonders, sometimes preceded by an injection with a hormone that makes the fallopian tube contract a bit. It can sometimes happen that a so-called prolapse occurs. The wall of the cloaca is pressed out which you see as a bloody mass coming out. We must then intervene quickly, push it back with an antibiotic ointment and, if it comes back out again, we must set up a so-called purse string suture, which are all routine actions.


A month ago, we had to solve an interesting issue. A top fancier in the Netherlands consulted us with a special problem. Within a few days there were already 4 hens that were found dead on the nest the morning after laying their first eggs. While we were in the clinic section and the investigation had just started, 2 more hens with the same problems arrived. Of course, we found an inflamed Fallopian tube and some roundworms in the intestine. Of course, these worms had nothing to do with it and the diagnosis was obvious. We see this kind of problem every year from time to time, but 6 hens in a row was quite special. The paratyphus probability diagnosis that we made was confirmed by cultures from the fallopian tubes and the intestines. Quick treatment, involving a good antibiotic, sometimes with two antibiotics and the problem was solved quickly, with no more new cases seen.

If the eggs die or if the young cannot hatch, we should always think about paratyphus, although there are several other causes for this problem. When youngsters grow up in the nest, we can distinguish three different problematic cases.  This normally starts with mortality during the first three days.
A number of causes are responsible for this:
1. E.coli infections of the crop milk (parents are in good health)
2. other bacterial infections
3. dark inlay mats treated with a toxic disinfectant, often from China (nowadays rarely used)
4. red blood lice that can cause anaemia and later death
5. poisoning.

When the young come into the Pterylae, after about ten days, death can occur due to paratyphus, which is something we see very regularly.


Also in this period, we often see a metabolic disease associated with poor feeding by the parents, who feed too much water to their young. The youngsters produce watery droppings, the parent pigeons will drink more, they will pick up a lot of grit and minerals and often leave the corn behind. I described that problem in 1981, we called it dysbacteriosis*, i.e. a kind of malfunctioning of the intestine (flora), probably in the anterior part of the small intestine. This is my personal hypothesis. The old pigeons can ‘stagger’ and even fall dead because of dehydration!

If you don’t know its background well, you could think it is PMV, paratyphus, emtryl poisoning etc., but with 5 specific questions the diagnosis can be made with almost 100% certainty. We developed a tool for this in 1981 that still works very well today. Actually, we were the first to introduce specific electrolytes into pigeon racing.

After weaning it is important to vaccinate the young as soon as possible against PMV!

* Science nowadays calls this problem pu/pd which are Latin abbreviations of polyuria and polydipsia, resp. lots of urination and lots of drinking. So these are just the symptom descriptions.

BELGICA DE WEERD B.V. I Postbus 4607 I 4803 EP Breda I Nederland
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