Egg peritonitis is characterized by fibrin or albumen-like material with a cooked appearance among the abdominal viscera. It is a common cause of sporadic death in layers or breeder hens, but in some flocks may become the major cause of death before or after reaching peak production and give the appearance of a contagious disease. It is diagnosed at necropsy. Peritonitis follows reverse movement of albumen and Escherichia coli bacteria from the oviduct into the abdomen. If the incidence is high, culture should be done to differentiate between Pasteurella (fowl cholera) or Salmonella infection. Antibiotic treatment of peritonitis caused by E coli infections is usually ineffective. Management of body weight and uniformity, reproductive development (ovary follicle growth and maturation), and drinking water sanitation are the best preventive strategies.
When hens have too many large ovarian follicles, a problem described as erratic oviposition and defective egg syndrome (EODES) is seen in broiler breeders. This condition is accompanied by a high incidence of double-yolked eggs, prolapses of the oviduct, internal ovulation, and/or internal laying that often results in egg peritonitis and mortality. EODES is prevented by avoiding light stimulation of underweight pullets too early and by following guidelines for body weight and uniformity, and lighting recommendations for each breeder strain. Overweight hens may also have a higher incidence of erratic ovulations and mortality associated with egg peritonitis.
Last full review/revision May 2013 by A. Gregorio Rosales, DVM, MS, PhD, DACPV