Calcium and egg binding
Calcium Carbonate and Calcium Gluconate are two very important things to ensure the good health of your hens.
Most solid forms of Calcium are Calcium Carbonate and include Cuttle Bone, Egg Shells, Oyster Shell Grit and Plaster of Paris.
Calciumg Gluconate is a combination of calcium and glucose or blood sugar.
Calcium Gluconate or Liquid Calcium as we know it is the most soluble form of available Calcium we can buy for our birds. This is a must for your birdroom and no breeder should be without a bottle.
It is so rapidly absorbed by the intestines of the bird that it becomes a life saver for an egg bound hen.
I always have a container of Calcivet on my birdroom work surface, dont wait until you are faced with a fluffed up and potential death on your hands with an egg bound hen, order one now.
When purchasing Liquid Calcium make sure it contains D3 and if possible Magnesium as these two co factors are required for Calcium uptake.
Let us go back to Calcium Carbonate
Calcium Carbonate is an excellent source of Calcium for your birds, particularly laying hens but the problem with it is when you have an egg-bound hen.
It is impossible for a hen to absorb enough Calcium Carbonate if she ate it for twelve hours non stop she would still not have enough in her body to prevent her from becoming egg bound the following day.
This is why we should have Calcium Carbonate available to our birds every day.
My birds sources of available Calcium Carbonate are Cuttle Bone, Oyster shell grit and on occasions Egg shells.
You may ask where the wild budgerigar gets their Cuttle bone from , the answer is they dont .The wild budgerigar will choose a breeding area with immediate sources of calcium , it may be from the red earth soils, limestone and river beds containing mineral salts.
Exhibition Budgerigars produce larger eggs and bigger clutches of chicks than wild budgerigars and require greater quantities of calcium and minerals. Phosphorous, iron, zinc, iodine, sodium and chloride are very important minerals for todays budgerigar.
Back to Cuttle Bone; Cuttlebone is the internal shell of a cuttlefish that are related to squid and octopus. They have two tentacles and eight arms and when in danger they eject a black ink like fluid. You may notice the ink on the hard part of the bone you are serving to your budgies.
Most countries eat cuttlefish and when they are cleaned in preparation for eating the only bone in their body is discarded, washed and then sun bleached ready for export.
It provides our birds with a source of calcium and other necessary minerals. I cannot stress enough how important it is to breeding hens.
The major component of cuttlebone is calcium carbonate (85 percent). This is also the major component in eggshells.
Calcium and Phosphorous.
These two minerals form a very important part of a birds diet. Calcium is used for the formation of bones and eggs. It is also needed for adequate nervous and muscle function.
Phosphorous is also important in bone and egg formation. The uptake of both of these minerals (from the birds intestine is dependant on vitamin D3).
Vitamin D3 is the sunshine vitamin and a bird requires at least 15 minutes sunshine per day which we in the UK know is not possible so we then turn to the full spectrum lighting in our birdrooms .My preference is the Arcadia range.
Oyster shell grit.
When discussing grit, it is important to realize there are actually two types: soluble and insoluble. Soluble forms of grit include cuttlebone, oyster shell, limestone, and gypsum. Soluble grit is dissolved by acids as it passes through the bird's digestive system, therefore there is little danger of it accumulating in the digestive system or causing an obstruction. Because it dissolves, it does little to aid in the digestion of whole seeds. It does, however, serve as a source of calcium and other minerals.
Insoluble grit is generally in the form of silica, and may range in size from sand to small pebbles. Insoluble grit remains in the gizzard and is thought to aid in the mechanical breakdown of food.
I never use Insoluble grit in my birdroom.
I would never be without Oyster shell grit in my birdroom.
Sterilize your eggshells in boiling water and after draining them they can be dried out in the Microwave Oven.
Crush the egg shells using a mortar and pestle, a rolling pin or the back of a table spoon.
These can then be served separately or added to your Oyster shell grit pot.
Now we have a few pointers down on paper regarding calcium perhaps we should include a little on egg binding at this point.
A egg bound hen has used up all her calcium reserves , did the breeder not supply enough calcium or was the hen not eating the available calcium sources .Perhaps catching up a bird that is in the process of laying may have caused the egg to stop moving and she then became bound.
Do not catch up laying hens unless it is considered critical
The early signs of an egg bound hen in distress, notice how the urates are trying to by pass the egg.
Her faecal matter and her urates will back up and poison her system if the egg is not laid very soon.
An egg bound hen is in a critical condition and the egg can press on a nerve and her kidneys causing a slow death.
I had two hens last year that were both egg bound and with a little help they passed their eggs , one of these hens was lame for almost three months due to the egg pressing on a nerve.
An egg bound hen will normally have a shell on it but on occasions there are no shells, she may still be bound but will pass the unshelled egg easier.
An egg bound hen will be fluffed up, tail bobbing, not eating, on the cage floor lethargic and struggling to breathe, unless the egg is passed within twelve hours she may be dead or close to it.
We must help our hen pass the egg and to do that we need Liquid Calcium immediately, mix one ML of Liquid Calcium, add to the Liquid Calcium a couple of drops of Cod Liver Oil (lots of D3 in the oil) and a small pinch of Epsom salts (a source of Magnesium) this needs to be given via a crop tube directly into her crop .
Her crop feed of Liquid Calcium, Cod Liver Oil and Epsom salts should be repeated one hour later.
Do follow the manufactures dilution guidelines for Liquid Calcium.
Your hen needs heat and in the high 80 degrees Fahrenheit it is not too hot, a cheap alternative for a hospital cage is an electric propagator complete with opening vents. Just lay a few shavings on the propagator floor add a millet spray and a dish of water containing liquid calcium. She should pass her egg in a few hours if not an avian vet is urgently required as the egg will need to be surgically removed.
Do not breed from an egg bound hen again that year.
Thanks Soph for the use of your images