Lash eggs are pretty gross and are the result of an infection and inflammation of the oviduct. Medically it is called Salpingitis. If you are squeamish, stop reading now..... There is yucky stuff ahead. Like gagging descriptions and photos that might make some squirm.
To fight the infection a hen's body sheds off pus and other material accumulated in her body and "lays it" like an egg. See, I told you it was gross! When you finish gagging we will continue....
When I found my lash egg, I kind of knew what it was because I had heard of it before, but had never actually seen one. They are pretty rare. I was also pretty sure who had laid it, Grumpy Goldie. She laid great for about the first year of her life and then, well she was just always "off." In fact she hasn't laid an egg in years. She is going on 5 years old. A couple years back I thought she was egg bound, but after soaking in warm water and putting my finger in her vent, I found no obstruction. Her egg laying didn't really matter to me as she is the Alpha hen and had her wings full keeping everyone in the coop in line.
So back to the whole lash egg thing..... The lash egg is made up of layers of material that have accumulated in the oviduct, all that yucky stuff from the infection. A lash egg can be soft or hard. It can be just a small amount of pus like material or it can resemble an egg and might even include pieces of egg. Why so varied? Well because the hen's body is trying to encapsulate all that yuck in her reproductive tract and get it out, so it bundles up what ever might be in there and she "lays it" in an attempt to ride her body of the infection.
Of course being the weirdo farm girl that I am, once I found the lash egg I just HAD to see what was inside. So I took it in the house and dissected the alien like glob. When you cut open a firmer lash egg, you are able to see the layers of material, aka gunk, that had been encapsulated inside. Here are the glorious photos of what I found.
So what causes a lash egg?
Lash eggs are caused by bacteria, including Mycoplasma gallisepticum, E. coli, Salmonella, or Pasteurella multocida
So what do you do if your chicken lays a lash egg?
Don't freak out! Searching the internet can give you a LOT of misinformation that will lead you to believe your hen is going to die or should be culled. This is far from true for a backyard chicken keeper. In many commercial settings, they do cull hens who lay a lash egg, they're in business to make money and a chicken with an infection is not profitable to treat or keep. But for backyard chicken keepers that is not the case.
If left untreated, you hen could die from the infection. The key word here is COULD. Grumpy Goldie has had reproductive issues for almost four years now. Who knows how long she has lived with this infection. By the time a chicken shows she is ill, it could be too late. Chickens are great at hiding their illnesses. The vet and I agree she has had this infection at least a year if not longer. So don't freak out if you get a lash egg. While rare, they are NOT an immediate death sentence.
We did take our hen to the vet. I know some of you are giggling at me right now, but I had no idea what antibiotic to use on Goldie and the vet could not give me anything for her legally without seeing her first. So off to the vet we went.
Based on her weight (5 1/2 lbs) the vet prescribed Goldie 0.5 ml of Baytril 20 -22.7mg (5 tablets into 5 ml of H20). Well that's what the bottle o f antibiotic said! This translates to me that she crushed up some antibiotics into a solution of water so I could shoot it down Goldie's beak with a syringe. LOL Goldie will be taking her medication once a day for 10 days. So, if you do get a lash egg, your best bet is to see a vet.
What is the prognosis for a hen who lays a lash egg?
As with any illness, the hen may or may not ever lay another egg depending how long the infection has been present. Our vet expects Goldie to make a full recovery, but seriously doubts she will ever lay another egg. And ya know what? I am totally okay with that. She is one of our first hens, she is getting older anyway, and well being the alpha hen is hard work in and of itself.
So if you do every find a lash egg remember, don't freak out, see a vet, and save it for your vet, they might thank you!