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Bulletin #2114, Coliform Salpingitis in Poultry

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Coliform Salpingitis in Poultry

By Anne Lichtenwalner, DVM, PhD, University of Maine Cooperative Extension

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Severe coliform salpingitis of poultry (CS) is a common condition that may occur early or late in the life of a laying hen. In CS, inflammation of the oviduct and uterus causes a loss of production and may cause death. It is possible to prevent with careful attention to the availability of next boxes, to nest box hygiene, and to good general management.

Oviduct from hen with CS. The oviduct is thickened and stiff, and is distended with yellow, layered yolk-like material.

Oviduct from hen with CS. The oviduct is thickened and stiff, and is distended with yellow, layered yolk-like material.

What does CS look like?

There are both acute (high loss, rapid death) and chronic forms of coliform salpingitis; the acute form is associated with E. coli septicemia (blood-borne infection) and may lead to rapid death. In the chronic form, infection is primarily in the oviduct, and birds may have a long, but unproductive, life. In either form, many adhesions occur inside the abdomen, “cementing” the intestines and the reproductive tract together and causing large accumulations of egg-like material in the oviduct. Usually, distension of the oviduct with layered yellowish dry yolk-like material is seen.

How does CS affect the hen?

Your hens will have distended abdomens, which may feel “doughy” or firm. Due to the adhesions of the internal organs, the birds’ intestine usually cannot process very much food, so the birds eventually become extremely thin and weak. Birds usually stop laying with this condition.

Can CS be cured?

Unfortunately, by the time hens are showing the effects, it’s probably too late. Having an accurate diagnosis, including culture to identify whether antibiotics may be useful, is helpful. Occasionally, autogenous vaccines may be helpful in large outbreaks of CS. However, prevention is the best way to deal with CS.

What causes CS?

Although not always the case, often CS is due to an ascending bacterial (E. coli) infection. Alternatively, stressors such as poor ventilation, respiratory diseases, and “social” stresses (crowding, multi-age groups) may contribute to CS. Whether acute or chronic, bacterial infection via respiratory or cloacal routes is thought to be the main cause of CS.

How can a producer detect CS?

To monitor whether you may have salpingitis in your flock, you should examine a few of your birds at least once weekly to “feel the keel”. Learn to catch and hold a bird so that it relaxes a bit, then palpate the base of the neck (you should be able to feel the crop, a flaccid sack that holds the food temporarily: it should be soft and pliable, or flat) and the abdomen (at the other end of the body, between the legs and behind the keel; should feel somewhat full). In the abdomen, you might be able to feel an egg in the oviduct, but it should not feel bulging, hard, or watery. The keel is the ridge-like breastbone running from the base of the neck to the abdomen. The keel should be straight, and in cross-section it should (in egg layers) be shaped like an inverted “V”. This means there is an appropriate amount of muscle on either side of it. If it’s shaped like an inverted “T” the bird is far too thin; if it’s like an inverted “U”, or worse yet a rounded “W” then the bird is far too fat. Your veterinarian, or a diagnostic lab can assist if you are not sure whether your flock has CS.

How can a producer prevent CS?

You can prevent CS with good sanitation and biosecurity. To prevent CS, increase the number of nestboxes (try one per 2-4 hens), remove manure from soiled boxes and add a fresh handful of shavings when you collect eggs, and clean nestboxes completely once weekly. If you use a “roll-out” system, the nestbox floor should be cleaned periodically; inspect the boxes frequently to determine the frequency of cleaning. If you find your eggs are often soiled, you probably need to improve nestbox hygiene. Be sure ventilation is adequate (check at the bird’s level, near the floor). Keep birds biosecure by preventing wild birds and rodents from entering your flock’s space. As well, use care in purchasing and storing feed to avoid mycotoxins. Many feed companies include a mycotoxin “binder” compound in their products, which may inactivate these toxins. Keeping feed dry and well-contained is vital to preserving feed quality.

If CS persists in your flock, there may be a resident problematic strain of bacteria in your flock. If so, seek diagnostic help. Alternatively, you may want to follow standard procedures for chronic disease problems in commercial flocks: “finish” that flock, depopulate, and decontaminate the flock environment well between flocks. For additional information on poultry visit the University of Maine Cooperative Extension publications site. CS prevention with good nest design, nest number, and nest hygiene is the best cure.


Information in this publication is provided purely for educational purposes. No responsibility is assumed for any problems associated with the use of products or services mentioned. No endorsement of products or companies is intended, nor is criticism of unnamed products or companies implied.

© 2017

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