First Experience Draining Ascites in Hen

This is a little excerpt from my Facebook page comments pertaining to my first experience draining abdominal fluid from a hen’s abdomen. While for the short term this procedure can help the bird be more comfortable, it is not a long term cure for heart failure of an older hen. Life on the farm sure likes to throw curve balls! #LifeOn25Acres

I thought I’d share with you my first experience relieving ascites in one of my hens. From all of the online research, a 16 to 18 gauge sterile needle is required, poke gently and cautiously, draw enough fluid to relieve pressure and there will be “leakage” afterwards.

What escaped my collection of information was exactly how long there would be leakage (yet remains to be determined) and how much leakage to expect. Now keep in mind, this is an old hen, prognosis is grim at best. I figure she has heart failure which is the likeliest cause of fluid building up in her abdomen. Because it has been so hot out, it was causing her increased distress but the weather is supposed to cool off next week. My fingers were crossed that perhaps she could recover with the fluid draw, enough that as the weather cools she’d be fine for a while.

So…I proceeded to draw nearly 120ml of clear light yellow liquid out of her swollen belly. The poor girl had to have been miserable, she didn’t even squawk during the procedure. I placed her back in the shaded coop with fresh water and food…she seemed well.

2 hours later, I check on her. I find her leaking like an old drippy faucet. Leakage they said…yeah, LOTS of clear fluid leakage! Needless to say, the pictures speak volumes. I was able to confirm she’s eating and drinking – fluids are important. Needless to say, I’m giving her the night and I’ll likely be leaning towards culling the second to last of our original hens we purchased when we bought our farm in 2016.

First and foremost, my chickens are livestock. Yet they are truly my pets, my feathered children…they are dear to me. It’s never pleasant to know one of them is sick enough that I must contemplate dispatching them by my own hand in order to end their suffering. Although, miracles do happen and tomorrow is a new day – so we will see what it brings. #LifeOn25Acres


  1. Hi, yesterday I purchased a chook from coles to make chicken soup, I normally go for an organic chook and I noticed a new brand I had never seen before called Isle & Sky Tasmanian organic produce, it was twice the price of other organic brands but I bought it to try, but when I was washing the chook in cold water before putting in the pot I noticed a sac filled with clear fluid that was attached inside it’s stomach, it looked like a clear plastic bag of water, it hung out sort of in the shape of testicles , and the fluid and sac burst open as I pulled it out of the chooks body. I’m 66 years old and never in my life have I seen such a thing, I’m wondering if I should be worried about the health of the chook before I eat the chicken soup, I didn’t notice any smell prior to cooking, I’m just amazed I have never seen this before, when the sac burst it almost felt like ‘it’s waters broke’, can anyone enlighten me regarding this experience, thank you kindly, Lilly


  2. Did the chicken survive? Puncturing the peritoneum on any human or animal is VERY dangerous because of infection. I’m surprised you left the hen in the hen house to continue to drain the fluid.. that’d be like having your appendix removed and then sitting in the barn. Doesn’t seem sensible to me.


    1. Yes, the hen survived for a while but it was a last ditch effort. She ultimately had more issues going on than just the fluid retention in her abdomen – she was culled humanly. I’ve also used this procedure on an older hen exhibiting heart failure incites in hot weather and she’s still out there in my coop nearly 6 months later, healthy as can be. In her situation, the fluid drainage did not continue after the draw. In each case, the fluid draw was taken inside my home with proper cleaning prior to puncture. Animals are extremely resilient and I only intervened when the situation was desperate.


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