Amateur necropsy of swollen abdomen GRAPHIC PICTURES!!!!

Discussion in 'Emergencies / Diseases / Injuries and Cures' started by NSawyer, Nov 22, 2014.

  1. NSawyer

    NSawyer In the Brooder

    Jun 16, 2013
    I am by no means experienced in the innards of poultry. Usually if I'm handling a chicken's body, it came from a bag in the freezer. This is a 1 year old barred rock hen. She showed signs of illness for the last two weeks.
    It started with:
    Idly hunching in the coop with feathers fluffed up
    Loss of appetite
    Not roosting properly
    Foul smelling diarrhea

    As things progressed, it also included:
    Clear, white, and green diarrhea
    Loss of vision
    Sleeping standing up
    Empty crop
    Loss of color in comb
    Tail kept down
    Dramatic loss of weight

    After she seemed to make no improvement in isolation in our very warm and cozy bathroom, I gave her a bath to get rid of the crusted poop. That's when I found the very swollen abdomen underneath her vent. It was about as large as an egg and a half under the skin. No redness and no loss of feathers, the skin was just stretched out.

    I treated her for two days with sulmet, acv in water, yogurt with wheat germ, vitamins, and chia seeds, and she did eat a decent amount of breakfast oats.

    Unfortunately, it was clear that there was little we could do for her, and she seemed to be in pain. This morning my boyfriend took her out behind the barn and humanely ended her suffering.

    I spent a lot of time reading the thread on swollen abdomens and read up on others' experiences with necropsy. I knew that I needed to find out what was behind the swollen abdomen walls in order to determine the health risks for the rest of my flock. Based on my reading here, I figured I would open her up and find a fluid filled cyst, an impacted ovary filled with rotted or half formed eggs, or a hernia with all of her organs displaced.

    I did not find any of those things. What I did find was infected, rotting, putrid, unidentifiable (to the uninitiated) flesh. Maybe it's a tumor? Maybe it's the ovary after all? All I know is that nothing looked like anything anyone else had posted, and it smelled unbearably horrible. I'm going to attach the images here.

    The abdomen on the live hen.

    What it looked like with the skin peeled back

    Being totally unsure what to do or where to start, I just cut right into it.


    Note the green and yellow hues. I did try to cut around it on the top right of what you see, to try and see into her body cavity. It just wasn't what I expected to see and I couldn't identify anything at all. All I found there was more rotting green flesh and that's when the smell was too much and I had to stop. It was very strong.

    What are the holes going through? Were those organs and this mass grew around them? I don't have any answers from this except that we definitely did the right thing in putting her down. I would really appreciate the thoughts and opinions of you byc folk.
    Last edited: Nov 22, 2014

  2. Eggcessive

    Eggcessive Free Ranging Premium Member

    Apr 3, 2011
    southern Ohio
    Maybe she had egg yolk peritonitis? I haven't done but one necrospsy, but haven't seen EYP. Just guessing, but the holes are probably where the infection has eaten through tissue. With the foul odor, it sounds like a massive infection. Casportpony, Speckle Hen and others on BYC have done many on hens with tumors and EYP and posted many pictures. You might try doing a search at the top of the page for those, or try sending them a PM. Keep you thread here alive by posting, since weekends can be slow.
  3. NSawyer

    NSawyer In the Brooder

    Jun 16, 2013
    Thanks for the tip :) I'll look for those necropsy threads.
  4. rebrascora

    rebrascora Crowing

    Feb 14, 2014
    Consett Co.Durham. UK
    Hi. So sorry to hear about your pullet but well done for investigating further. I know from personal experience, that's not easy.

    This looks a bit like the tumour my young pullet had although hers was slightly higher, just below the rib cage. My pullet also started to stink (poop worse than broody poop) which was what finally prompted me to euthenaze her. Like you, the helpful thing about cutting her open was that I felt a lot better about having put her out of her misery as it was obviously something that she would not have recovered from and must have been suffering. It was the size of a duck egg and the poor thing couldn't lie down because of it, she just kept rolling over onto her side. The first symptom I noticed with her when she took ill was lameness and she was struggling to stand, but I already had another lame pullet, so I assumed that they had both just got injured. I subsequently also found a tumour in her leg.

    Anyway, I plucked my little girl before I started the dissection, which made it a bit easier to identify things. I also did it outside which helped with coping with the bad smell.
    I expected it to be an egg from the external shape and size, and even when I cut into it and found small areas of tissue that looked almost like cooked egg yolk, I wasn't sure, until I opened up the abdominal cavity and then I realised that the mass was entirely on the outside of the cavity in the muscle tissue and the actual digestive tract was pretty much fine apart from probably having a lot of pressure on it from the size of the tumour. Her reproductive system was also no where near maturity.
    The other internal organs in my bird looked normal and my conclusion, based on what I found and the fact that I now have 3 other young chickens also suffering from lameness, was that they (and unfortunately the rest of my flock) have been infected with Mareks disease.

    I hope others who have more experience than me will come along and say something different and tell me I'm wrong both for your sake and perhaps mine, but the other symptoms you describe could certainly indicate Marek's too.

    That said, I have a lot of young chickens, and apart from these 4 (one of which appears to have recovered and one has got no worse but no better after 8 weeks) I haven't had any other cases, so I'm hoping that this strain isn't as virulent as others.

    Keeping my fingers crossed that you have no other casualties.

    Best wishes


  5. NSawyer

    NSawyer In the Brooder

    Jun 16, 2013
    Thanks for sharing your experience! It is possible that it could be Mareks. About 2/3 of my flock came from hatcheries and were vaccinated, but this particular hen came as a chick from a local breeder and was not. Everyone else appears healthy and bright, even after being cooped up several days in a row. I do believe I've had some Avian pox making its slow way through a few of my birds, but even those that had the scabs on their combs no longer have those and everything seems normal. I'm not getting many eggs, but I did recently move them to a new coop, plus many went through molt, and my nesting boxes could be organized better.

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