A Successfully Used Method for Treatment of a Duck with Prolapsed Oviduct

(Specifically Dealing with an Indian Runner Hen)

by Luke Page




    One evening, upon entering the pen, a hen was found with a hanging oval shaped protrusion from her vent.  After looking in the “medical” section ofStorey’s Guide to Raising Ducks by Dave Holderread, and speaking with Mr. Holderread via the phone, the duck was diagnosed to have a prolapsed oviduct.  A possible treatment method was suggested by Mr. Holderread, and was slightly modified, after further researching the diagnosis topic.

Suggested Supplies:

Clean towels, a water basin of approximately five gallon size, olive-oil, Preparation H ointment, clean warm water, clean work surface, an assistant, and Clean Hands!


            Using the method of carrying the bird by grasping the base of the wings, the bird was carefully caught and calmly carried to a work area.  This method is described in Raising Ducks, and is very useful, as it calms the bird and in this case does not compromise the prolapse.  At this point, it is important to mention that the protrusion appeared to be recent in prolapsing, probably within an hour or so of discovery.  This “quick” discovery no doubt led to the good recovery.  The longer the problem goes without discovery the less the chance of a good recovery.

           That being said, it is now very beneficial and highly advised to have an assistant.  A basin of clean fresh water was prepared with which to gently “wash”, by splashing up from the basin onto the protrusion. Clean towels were laid out underneath the duck, and she was continually held by the wings, although her feet touched and rested upon the towels on the table.  This alleviated the pressure on the wings, and seemed to ease her stress.  Once the helper’s hands were also sanitized as best as possible, every effort was made to support the prolapsed oviduct, in hopes of lessening damage. We used calming voices to reassure her continually.  The person performing the procedure washed his hands for two minutes, scrubbing vigorously, and then rinsed with rubbing alcohol and water.

        Returning to the duck, her protrusion was now washed by the method of splashing up, in order to gently remove any defecation, or foreign materials. Then using olive oil, (another natural oil should work as good), the protrusion was generously moistened to prevent it from drying out. This is important, as the prolapse needs to be clean and stay moist in order for the best results.  At this time it was apparent that a full-sized egg was inside the protrusion. NOTE: Do NOT break the egg at all costs.  After reading other sources, and talking with Mr. Holderread, I learned that breaking the egg can cause an allergic reaction, and, or contamination, and should be avoided if at all possible.  With this in mind, the egg needs to be removed.  This may be difficult, because the opening from which to remove the egg, may be hard to find.

      The opening was about the size of a nickel, as it was in a constricted state.  Hers was located on the side of the protrusion.  When you think that you have found the opening, it should be reasonable that the egg could come out of it.    After remoistening the protrusion with castor oil, the opening was gently massaged in a circular motion to relax the muscles.  We poured more olive oil over the area and gently and slowly worked the tiny opening until we could start to see the egg. The duck appeared to be in a lot of pain at this point, so we tried to be as gentle as possible, continuing to speak softly and calmly to her. This was a slow process, taking at least ten minutes, but eventually the opening was relaxed and opened enough that the egg slipped out. Once the egg was removed, the next plan of action was to put the protrusion back inside her body. 

This was the most difficult aspect of the procedure, as the systems involved were actually inside out and had to be inverted or put into themselves.  It was as confusing as it sounds.  The game-plan was to find the “hole”, not from where the egg was removed, but the main vent opening that is currently hanging out.  Upon locating the “hole”, more oil was added, as well as Preparation H ointment, which has healing and pain relief properties, to the protrusion.  Then, I started to gently push all of the tissue back up inside the duck.  Thus, bringing the tissue facing outward, and pushing it so it is all facing inward on itself.  If this is being done correctly, the opening from which the egg was removed, should start moving from the side, towards the center.  Things should be appearing to go back together and fit back into the right place. The system may seem to want to come back out as you are putting it into itself.  Just be patient, and work gently.

 Once everything is back inside as best as possible, (do not leave anything outside), it may still appear to be messed up from the outside view. During the next few days, it should continue to go back inside, as she relaxes and heals. More preparation H was added to the vent opening at this time to aid in shrinking the swollen tissues.

Post Procedure:

            Because of a runner duck’s upright stature the concern was that the prolapsed area may have wanted to come back out due to the effects of gravity.  Therefore, a cat carrier was used as a post-surgery recovery room.  The low height forced the bird to lie down; and as an added bonus, the close, safe environment seemed to lessen her anxiety.  The carrier was lined with clean straw.

            Furthermore, in order to discourage further attempts to lay eggs, which would certainly undo all efforts this far, the carrier was put in a totally dark room.  As the duck will be in need of fresh water to stay hydrated, lukewarm water was offered in a small container, but not left in the small carrier at first.  Water was repeatedly offered approximately every hour.  When attempting to diagnose the reason for her external laying, research and reasoning led to a possible calcium deficiency.  Also concluded in research, was that not only is calcium necessary to form a shell, but it is needed for proper muscle function in order to lay an egg.  Thus seeing as she had externally laid, a calcium deficiency seemed to be the cause, at least in part.  So, in order to help restore her seemingly calcium deprived system, a calcium pill for human consumption, was ground up into a fine powder.  This powder was then dissolved into her drinking water at the rate of about a fourth of a pill to three cups of water.  Experimentation would be necessary to deem whether another amount would be better, but this seemed to work in my case, especially as ducks usually drink a lot of water and thus are capable of using more of the additives within the water. This additive of calcium was used after the first three regular waterings.  Oyster shell was assumed to be too rough on her damaged system, and was avoided during this time.

       Finely chopped leafy greens were then added the following day, in small amounts, to her water.  A little bit of game bird flight conditioner food was offered at each watering, but she did not eat more than a table spoon the first few times.  She was not really eating, but some nutrition was necessary, so the greens helped with this.  Again, she was kept in a cat carrier in the dark room, and given calcium infused drinking water hourly.  After three days of this process and confinement, improvement was observed, and the duck was allowed to bathe in a tub of warm water for about five minutes, confined within the bathroom shower. Mostly she just sat in the water, but she did drink a little, and wash her face.  (She was towel dried after this and each of the following baths in order to keep her from staying too wet). The carrier was cleaned and new fresh straw was added.  Food was still offered at every watering, and each time she would eat a few small bites.

       On day five, she was taken outside into the warm sun for her bath. This time she was playing in the bath and really bathing. Then she was placed in a larger dog carrier after being dried with a towel.  This larger carrier was used because it was important that she get enough exercise to keep her muscles healthy, and she was doing well enough that it did not seem that gravity would cause the protrusion to reoccur.  By this time, she was eating significantly more, especially after her bath times, when she was able to do some mild exercise. Her feed and water was provided in small dishes at all times.  However, the water was still changed regularly, as was the feed.  I continued to add chopped, tender green to both her food and water.  Her baths were continued every other day as needed, followed by being dried with a towel.

        After about a week of being in the dog carrier, a small pen of about twelve square feet was constructed and bedded with straw (still within the dark garage).  This allowed for a bit more room in which she could exercise.  Food was supplied constantly, as was water with greens, and a small amount of chick sized grit was sprinkled on her food daily.  Additionally a bathing tub was placed in the corner to allow her to bathe at will.  It was not necessary to towel dry her any longer, as she was capable of oiling her own feathers.  Everything was kept fresh and clean during this time.        

          She was housed in this small pen, and after about three more weeks, she began to molt.  Her daily exposure to light was increased daily until she was receiving the normal exposure to natural light.  Roughly four days after completing the molt, she laid a normal sized egg.  Two days later another, then almost every day she laid an egg.  She did not seem to be having any trouble laying, nor did she prolapse again.  After observing her lay normally for several days, she was transferred back to the main pen with the other ducks.  She continued the laying season without any complications, with a diet of Purina Game bird Breeder Ration, and an additive of whole oats.  Oyster shell always available free choice.

            Again these methods were used on an Indian Runner duck.  Some adaptation may be necessary to best fit other breeds.