Chick Hatched With Intestines Out – What Happened?

One of the great excitements in keeping backyard chickens is having a hen brooding a clutch of eggs. As the due date approaches, chicken keepers anxiously check the nest, waiting to hear the cheeping that announces the arrival of the chicks.

Usually, all goes well, and the appearance of cute balls of fluff is celebrated. Sometimes though, there is a tragedy, and one of the chicks may hatch with the intestines on the outside. The chicken owner will want to know what happened and how to prevent this.

Chicks hatch with their intestines on the outside due to factors that interfere with the development of the embryo in the egg. A drop in temperature during incubation, failure to rotate the eggs sufficiently, and toxins can result in the intestines being on the outside of the body.  

It is distressing to have chickens that hatch with deformities. Every chicken keeper would prefer to avoid this sad occurrence. Understanding why chicks hatch with their intestines outside the body is critical to preventing it.

Why Do Chicks Hatch With Intestines Out?

Embryos develop initially in two halves which fuse to form a complete body. Fusion along the spine happens first, and midline fusion is completed at a later stage of embryonic development.

The digestive system of chicks occurs rapidly. After the first eighteen hours of incubation, the alimentary canal has formed. By the end of the fourth day, all the digestive tract organs are formed, but they are not yet enclosed in the embryo’s body.

On incubation day fifteen, the chick’s gut is drawn into the embryo’s body, and the midline completes its fusion.    

Gastroschisis is the scientific term to describe a baby born with its intestines situated outside the body wall. It can occur in many different animals and humans as well.

Some people speak about the chick being disembowelled, but this is incorrect. Disembowelling implies the intestines were inside the body and then eviscerated at some point. This is not the case with gastroschisis.

Four Reasons For Gastroschisis In Chicks

In chicks, gastroschisis occurs when something interrupts or alters the process where the digestive system is incorporated into the body. Although scientists cannot point with absolute certainty to all the factors, they know some factors that can result in gastroschisis.

  1. If eggs are not rotated sufficiently, the gut, which is still outside the body, becomes attached to the shell wall. When it should be drawn into the body, it cannot, and the midline fuses while the gut is still outside.
  • If there is a temperature fluctuation, especially a drop in temperature around day fifteen of incubation, the developmental process is altered. The process whereby the digestive tract is enclosed in the body is not triggered.
  • Researchers have shown that exposing the hen or egg to toxins can result in the chick having its intestines on the outside when it hatches.
  • Some researchers have suggested that vitamin or mineral deficiencies in a hen’s feed could result in gastroschisis.

How To Prevent Chicks From Hatching With Intestines Out

Hens need access to all the vitamins and minerals required to be healthy when laying eggs.

The environment should be free of toxins that could affect the embryo’s development in the egg. Maintaining a clean chicken coop prevents the build-up of ammonia and other gases, which could be harmful.

If the eggs are being artificially incubated, it is essential they are rotated three to five times a day. If the hen is incubating the eggs, she will do this instinctually.

The temperature in the egg incubator must be maintained at a constant level of 99.5° F to 100.5° F. If the temperature drops below this, vital stages of the embryo development will be missed, and the chick could end up with gastroschisis. 

Chick Hatched With Something Attached

Sometimes a chick may be hatched with something attached to its belly. The chicken keeper may be uncertain what it is. The best way to ascertain what is going o is to consult a veterinarian. This can be done through regular channels or via the internet.

There are many useful internet sites popping up where veterinarians give input on problems associated with chickens. Unfortunately, the veterinarians may take a while to respond.   

Consulting a knowledgeable chicken breeder may also be helpful as there is a good chance they have encountered the problem previously.

Chick Hatched Before Yolk Absorbed (Is It The Same?)

Chicks may hatch before the yolk is fully absorbed into the abdomen. This is not the same as gastroschisis. The yolk is used steadily throughout the incubation. The remaining portion is absorbed between days nineteen and twenty of incubation.

If the chick still has the yolk attached to the outside of the abdomen, it may have hatched slightly early. Another option is that the incubation temperature dropped just prior to the eggs hatching. Poor humidity may also cause the yolk sac to be incompletely absorbed.

The chick may survive if there is only a small remnant of the yolk sac. The chick will have poor nutrition and immunity if the yolk sac is large. It is unlikely to survive.

Baby Chick With Vent Prolapse

Young chicks may have vent prolapse for several reasons:

  1. The chicken keeper may inadvertently cause it when cleaning a chick with faeces stuck to its anus. This condition is often referred to as pasty butt and is common in chicks.
  2. The chick may be squashed by other chicks or handled roughly by children. Pressure on the abdomen causes the vent to prolapse.
  3. Shortage of calcium and magnesium may cause vent prolapse.
  4. Straining from constant cheeping in cold or overly hot conditions can cause the vent to prolapse.

Vent prolapse can be corrected if the vent has not been damaged by other chickens pecking it. Consult a veterinarian for advice.


It is a sad occurrence when chicks hatch with their intestines outside their bodies. It occurs as a result of several factors. Careful incubation and attention to the hen’s health can help prevent many of these unfortunate cases.