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How to drain a hen

solarbatssolarbats Senior Member
How to drain a hen

This procedure should only be attempted if you are absolutely confident about your hen's condition and anatomy. If in any doubt then get a bird vet to show you first. Obviously everything needs to be sterile; otherwise you will be doing more harm than good.

Here are some basic guidelines to help you diagnose if there is fluid build up. Remember this is based on my limited experience of keeping hybrid hens with fluid build-up and/or EYP over the years, and then doing their autopsies.

Usually, hens with a "penguin" stance (see next pic.) have an egg mass and no, or hardly any fluid. They will still have a good appetite and will be carrying on as normally as possible. It is best to leave them to it.


Sometimes a hen can have a massive egg mass in her oviduct - this will not always hang down and give her a "penguin" stance, in fact, sometimes it will be hardly noticeable from the outside.

Hens with a wide-legged stance (see next pic.) have usually got a build up of fluid. Their appetite will gradually decrease as the stance gets wider - this is a good indication that fluid is building up - the hen feels really bloated and this stops her eating. She will look interested in food but when she tries to bend forward to eat she changes her mind. These hens will probably benefit from draining.
If she is eating and coping then best leave her as she is.
Another good indication is the comb; red is normal, purple coloured means her system is under strain. <div>Strangely enough, fluid feels more solid, like a drum, whereas egg matter feels looser/wobblier. https://picasaweb.google.com/114501061619967420546/WideStance?authkey=Gv1sRgCJ6Utbqgtq6iTQ&feat=email#

You will need:

Sterile needles (at least 23 gauge or larger) OR use a catheter (such as Jelco 14g x 2.25"sng)

A good sized sterile syringe - minimum 35ml

Sterile swabs or cotton wool & surgical spirit for cleaning the hen's skin before & after.

Sterile disposable gloves

A tub for emptying the full syringes/draining the catheter into..

A willing helper - DO NOT try it on your own.

1. Ensure the hen is held firmly by your helper, and make sure you have everything to hand and your gloves on. Cleanliness is crucial!

2. Now clean the hens skin with the sterile swab see pic for approximately where, but it will depend upon where you can feel the pockets of fluid.


3. Insert the needle and gently try to draw off fluid. If you are in the right place fluid will come through fairly easily, otherwise you will get suction and you will need to try again with a fresh needle in a slightly different spot. If you can't get fluid out after two or three tries then you should not continue, since this usually means that she has just solid matter inside.

4. Gently draw off fluid. When the syringe is full you'll need to remove it and empty it, leaving the needle in the hen, then re-insert the syringe gently into the needle sleeve and repeat the process.

5. Do not be tempted to draw off every last drop of fluid - this could be too much of a shock to the system. Stop at around 200ml if it's the first time you've tried it.

6. Swab the hen's skin as you remove the needle.

If you can get catheters then I recommend 14g. Your vet may be able to supply these. The advantage with these is that you are removing the risk of the needle piercing anything inside if the hen moves suddenly, also you can move the tip around to find the best fluid pocket.

Here is 'Coco' being drained using a catheter:

Don't worry if your hen continues to leak fluid - just keep monitoring her and keep her in a quiet place for a while, and pat her dry with clean paper towels.
She will probably want to eat straight away so let her have some nourishing food such as scrambled egg.

If the fluid is almost clear and yellow (pic 1. - a bit like human urine) then it is unlikely to be infected, but it is likely that your hen will have inflammation caused by cancer or organ failure, so you may only be buying her a little time. You may hear the term 'ascites' used. This is usually a build up of fluid caused by organ failure, typically liver.
Occasionally clear fluid can be as a result of an infection of (for example) the oviduct, or some trauma to the abdomen.

In any case - sadly clear fluid is not usually good news.

If the fluid is cloudy/yolky (pic. 2) then this is usually an indication of egg yolks in the abdomen, or EYP (egg yolk peritonitis).
If this fluid is tinged with black (and probably smelly), then it means there is infection present, and antibiotics could help her (vet visit required for these).


Either way if she responds really well then it is worth doing, even if you need to repeat the draining every few days. If she is still miserable and not eating, or refilling almost immediately, then you have done all you can and should have her put to sleep. Hens with a lot of fluid in the system can suffer quite a nasty death as they almost literally choke on their own fluid.

Remember this is NOT a miracle cure, but it may buy your hen some time. There is no point cheating death if the quality of life is absent.

Here is a short clip of the hen from the above "wide stance" pic, taken a few days after draining - note how close her legs are, and she is back to her old self for now at least.


For more info see the following threads:




And a good read if you have rescue hens:http://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B00IGVVZH2?*Version*=1&*entries*=0</div>


  • janey bjaney b Senior Member
    edited March 2012
    this is what i love about this site, the information given to help our little feathery friends. just a thought SB i find turning my dolly forward to get rid of fluid (sour crop) really distresses her she is a little better, but is it possible to get rid of some fluid in the same way? bet i am being really thick here !!!!:confused:
  • elvieelvie Senior Member
    edited March 2012
    Hello Solar,

    That is very interesting and helpful. Can you feel the fluid build up when you hold then hen?? I can remember feeling Britneys abdomen and if felt like a hot water bottle (without the heat) . Peaches on the other hand felt quite hard but she still had the wide legged stance.
    I havent really felt Pikachou's tummy yet but her legs dont look as far apart as the ones on your picture.

    How long would you say this takes to do and sorry to sound a little thick but as long as the needle points inwards towards the vent, does it matter where in the abdomen you go??

    Thank you,

    Love Elvie xxx
  • solarbatssolarbats Senior Member
    edited March 2012
    Hi Janey - for sourcrop I would not try needles. Just stick to purging if required, but mainly give Avipro several times a day.

    Elvie - the "hot water bottle" feel sounds like a good description of how an egg mass can feel. Fluid tends to feel very solid somehow - I suppose it's stretching the skin to it's limits. The needle needs to stay quite near the surface, which is why I recommend not to push it into the adbomen. If there is fluid it will be easily found. Any doubts then I would get a vet to show you first. We only tried this because Sunny was at the "kill or cure" stage and we have a reasonable level of knowledge about the anatomy from doing autopsies. Also - we were prepared to "do the deed" if we failed horribly (we would have had to anyway within a couple of days at most).

    The procedure takes just a few minutes but you need two very calm people, and you need to be there to keep an eye on her for the rest of the day ideally.

    We know that Sunny won't have long but we have given her ten good bonus days so far. I wouldn't say no to that;)
  • solarbatssolarbats Senior Member
    edited March 2012
    Since posting this thread I have also found this very informative video, and tried it myself (with a helper).
    It works very well.

    Here we see an Australian vet performing the procedure on his own, with the hen on her back.
    Don't try it like this at home - use a helper!


  • solarbatssolarbats Senior Member
    edited March 2012
    I am so glad we gave it a try - it may not work for every hen, but if you can lay her down without any respiratory distress then it can even cause a slight hypnosis!
  • HenzillaHenzilla Member
    edited April 2012
    Hiya, I do have one question about draining, having had one of mine done by an 'exotic' pet vet, when my other girlie is now starting to show the same problem but this time I took it to another vet who said they don't recommend doing it as its litterally take too much of her energy away as her body will try work harder to fill again, not wanting to put people off but it just goes to show there are different opions about it.
    Plus I'd do anything & I'm sure everyone on here, to make their lives as comfortable as possible.
  • solarbatssolarbats Senior Member
    edited April 2012
    I only decided to give it a try because Sunny was at the "kill or cure" stage. I am so glad we did it, because it gave her two good weeks of being "Sunny" again. During the third week we decided to stop because she stopped feeling the benefit. Yesterday I had to put her to sleep and the autopsy revealed a lot of tumours throughout ovaries and intestines, also four soft shelled eggs in the abdominal cavity. We were already 99% sure it was cancer due to the clear fluid, but the eggs were a bit of a surprise.
    Would I do it again? You bet! It was so lovely to give Sunny the chance to be herself one last time. I only expected to give her days, but she got two good weeks, and when we did the draining she would lay in my lap like a little baby, almost falling asleep, she was such a good patient.:)
  • HenzillaHenzilla Member
    edited April 2012
    I had a whole extra year for my chook poo-bum, these things we have to learn in life with chickens.
  • edited January 2016
    I have a hen that is waddeling with the wide stance. She still eats, drinks, and gets around. She has been swelled for about 2 weeks now. I have purchases all the items to drain her. Question.....Should I wait till she gets down and not eating or go ahead and drain her now? She is just under a year in age.
  • solarbatssolarbats Senior Member
    edited January 2016
    Best to do this while she is still eating, then she has more strength to get through it.  

    Please take care - and ask if you have any more questions.

    Good luck.
  • Hello everyone,
    Do you need a sharp needle to drain the fluid like for injection? Where do you buy sterile needles and everything for draining?
  • undautriundautri Senior Member
    the best place is from your vet , failing that try e bay
    this is not something i would personally try myself (too much of a wimp) but others have seen improvements
    i wish you luck
    x kath

  • sandiesbrahmassandiesbrahmas Super Moderator
    I've never needed to do this (I've been lucky).If you have farm stores locally, then they usually sell needles, but failing that, your vet or the internet as Kath says.

    Beyond of a sterile needle and a clean receptacle for catching the fluid, that's all you need. Help from another person is pretty necessary.
  • solarbatssolarbats Senior Member
    Funny this thread should pop up again.  I've recently lost 'Ivy', who was an amazing candidate for draining.  She went through five drains taking it all in her stride, then started to go downhill.  
    Her post mortem showed that she was totally riddled with tumours, but clearly she didn't know that!

    Leysan - it is important that you do this for the right reasons.  If your hen is doing her very best to be 'normal' then it is worth trying.  However, draining is not for every hen.  If she is looking very poorly, with a shrinking comb and a 'thousand yard stare' then it's not a good idea to put her through a drain too.

  • edited March 2019
    Hello - I'm taking my 5yo bantam hen to the vet to drain her and to teach me so I can do it at home (this will be her 2nd time, so I'm sure there will be a 3rd).  I wondered if the article was saying to wait until my hen is "interested in food...bends...changes her mind" before draining her?  My hen is breathing heavy, I hear a rumble in her breath, her gait is so wide and takes longer to jump on and off objects and to me, she feels so full to me BUT she is eating and drinking normally and her comb is red, not purpled, she still has her attitude - so should I wait? I just don't want to do more harm than good trying to help her by draining her too soon/often... From this week to last week, she gained 0.2oz (2lbs 0.6oz to 2lbs 0.8oz).  
  • undautriundautri Senior Member
     hopefully solarbats will see this and come back to you soon
    the way i read it was that its better to drain while the hen is still fit and eating so that she has the stregth to recover so no need for you to wait with yours
     how did yoy get on with the vet ?
  • solarbatssolarbats Senior Member
    Hi Mimi,

    Weighing her is a really good gauge, and as a very rough guide, 1ml = 1g.  I would wait until she has gained at least 250g, or starting to lose interest in eating, whichever is soonest.  Keep in touch and I will keep an eye on this post now! 
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