I remember the first time we found a weird little rubbery egg in the nestbox. It clearly wasn’t an egg, but it took us a while to identify it as a lash egg and learn what it was. We got a few of them over the years and lately our little Sweetie also produced several.
A lash egg is a coagulated mass of tissue and pus and sometimes contains bits of egg and shell. It is the result of an infected oviduct. Lash eggs may be a variety of shapes and sizes, and although they are laid by a hen, they are not eggs. Actually, the technically correct term is caseous exudate from the Latin word ‘caseus’ meaning cheese, as the rubbery mass is of a yellow cheesy consistency.
The inflammation of the oviduct is known as salpingitis and is often caused by a bacterial infection coming from the vent and cloaca, but can also be connected with respiratory infections. Escherichia coli (E. coli) and Mycoplasma are the most common pathogens responsible for causing the infection. Salpingitis can also be triggered by a virus like Newcastle, Avian influenza, and Infectious bronchitis.
High-producing hens as well as obese and older hens are more susceptible because their egg laying muscles tend to be more relaxed, allowing fecal bacteria to migrate up the oviduct.
The egg material accumulates and festers in the oviduct and becomes a multi layered mass as it travels through the hen’s oviduct. When cut open, the lash egg appears as concentric layers of material.
It’s difficult to detect salpingitis during the early stages of the infection. The hen may lay soft or abnormally shaped eggs. She may appear depressed. Her abdomen may be swollen, and she may be straining as if to lay an egg. Egg binding may actually be the result of an early infection. She will lay fewer eggs and eventually stop laying. Most affected hens die within 6 months of becoming infected.
If the salpingitis is caused by a bacterial infection and caught soon enough, it may be treated with an appropriate antibiotic. But often by the time there is a lash egg, the infection is too advanced to respond to the treatment. A surgery may be required to remove the accumulated egg material and possibly the entire oviduct. Hormone implants can also be used to stop future ovulation and slow the disease.
Salpingitis is not a contagious condition, but the original cause of the oviduct infection may be. Proper biosecurity is the best way to prevent salpingitis as you want to minimize the presence of potentially harmful bacteria in the chicken yard.