autopsy report - ideas welcomed

Discussion in 'Emergencies / Diseases / Injuries and Cures' started by xmikew, Sep 24, 2018.

  1. xmikew

    xmikew In the Brooder

    Sep 24, 2018
    Charleston, SC
    Hi all,

    I've read many posts on the forum when starting my chicken flock but my first post under less than ideal circumstances.

    I had a chicken die on me. I'm not sure if it was sometime yesterday or overnight. I coop them at night and count them but I can't remember if I saw her in the roost or under the roost... Also I can never remember if my count includes the roosters or not so sometimes I'm off by one.

    Anyway, when my son and I went to go let them out this morning he said he couldn't find this one (the white one we have) and then he discovered her under the roost where it looks like she just sat down and died (our roost area is off the ground and they have access under it in the run).

    Two weeks ago, a glass jar was broken on the porch and she cut her toe and it was bleeding everywhere. Some of the pulp was showing. I applied peroxide and bandaged it and separated her so other chickens wouldn't peck. After a few hours it was still bleeding, I peroxided again, applied flour and rebandaged. I coop'd them all together at night and in the morning the bleeding had stopped. It remained clotted and did not start bleeding again. Fast forward to today:

    We saw her yesterday acting normal. When we found her this morning:
    She was sitting down, face down in the dirt.
    Her neck feathers were raised.
    I did my first autopsy on anything ever, and I'm no expert:
    - I did not find any trace of gape worms (however, all the chickens pant to some degree, it's often 95 degrees here)
    - The heart and liver looked healthy.
    - I think I thought the liver was the lungs, so I'm not sure I got a good look at the lungs
    - The esophagus was clear
    - The crop just had biley looking stuff
    - The gizzard appears to be very tight and it was VERY full (packed)
    - She had one fully formed egg. I counted six yolks behind that one in various stages of development which I think is normal?
    - I cut over various sections of intestines and just some light brown poopy stuff was in there. I did not see any worms.
    - She had poop on her vent before I started, I assume she pooped when she died - which to me means she wasn't backed up...

    Let me just say, I looked at a picture of chicken anatomy before i started, but I didn't remember everything and it's hard to take pictures and reference stuff when your hands are in the state they are in. I was also losing track of where everything came from when I was trying to get to all the organs... I hope I don't get a lot of experience with this kind of thing...

    Anyway, It does not appear to be a worm infestation? I could not find any
    Crop was not impacted
    The only thing I could find was the gizzard being very packed and very hard. I think it being hard is normal (to help grind things) but not sure it should have been so packed?

    What else should I have looked for? I'm keeping a closer eye on the birds. I dont know how people keep track of which bird is pooping where etc in a flock (we have 10 hens, 2 roosters and 11 guineas).

    Our birds are fed kitchen scraps.
    They have free access to crushed oyster and gizzard stones
    They have fresh water with ACV (sometimes garlic)
    My son feeds them wild birds seed sometimes when he feeds the guineas
    We also give them some organic pellets we get from TSC.

    Thanks for any help if you have some ideas or suggestions of what I could have done better to diagnose.

    - Mike
    townchicks and EggSighted4Life like this.
  2. EggSighted4Life

    EggSighted4Life Free Ranging

    Hi, welcome to BYC! :frow

    So sorry for your loss. :(

    What a BRAVE soul you are... taking on something like this with zero processing experience! :highfive:

    How old was your gal and what breed? After she clotted... did you notice any severe swelling, redness like infection, or puss building under the wound? Or how did it look today? I think the raised neck feathers may simply be from the position she was in.

    For future reference... I believe corn starch MIGHT clot better than flour IF you have it.

    Looking for tumors inside the reproductive track, maybe... Sorry, I don't yet have experience in this department... but desperately need to acquire the knowledge and skill. Thank you for sharing!

    In case my post takes this off others' radars I will see if I can tag some peeps I know who might have more valid or knowledgeable input... @casportpony @Eggcessive @Wyorp Rock @rebrascora, I always value your time and information. TIA for any help!
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  3. Wyorp Rock

    Wyorp Rock Enabler

    Sep 20, 2015
    Southern N.C. Mountains
    Welcome To BYC!

    I'm sorry to hear about your hen.

    I'm not sure about the gizzard - hopefully the others will chime in about that.

    You mention she had a fully formed egg inside her - was that in the oviduct? Could you tell if it was "stuck" like she may have been egg bound? It may have just been there waiting to be laid too.

    Did you note a lot of fat in the abdomen or around the organs?

    I'm not an expert on necropsies, but I commend you on doing one the first time. I hope you don't have too many ahead of you either.
    Sometimes even when we take a look it can be hard to determine the cause of death. So let's see what the others have to say.
  4. rebrascora

    rebrascora Free Ranging

    Feb 14, 2014
    Consett Co.Durham. UK
    Hi Mike

    I agree with EggSighted4Life. Well done for giving it a go.

    Age and breed would be helpful. It can be useful to know your location in the world (including that info on your profile page means that it is included below your profile name and avatar, if you have one, each time you post, so that we can see at a glance) as some diseases and parasites and predators etc are more common in some parts of the world than others.

    The liver is the very large dark red brown organ which overlays the heart and gizzard. The lungs are maybe only 1/2 the size of the liver and are embedded into the ribcage behind the heart and are spongy bright pink tissue. This diagram may help to clarify....
    Was there any thick yellow fat covering the abdomen or on any of the organs? Was there any congealed blood or fluid in the abdominal cavity?
    Was there much flesh on the bird? ie. did she have a reasonable amount of flesh on her or was she emaciated? As a layer, she will not be plump and have breast meat like a meat bird she should have a reasonable covering.... some breeds more than others.
    I'm going to guess that since she had a fully formed egg inside her and other developing yolks, she probably wasn't emaciated which would rule out a gizzard impaction. The gizzard is usually packed pretty tight with food, so that may have been normal. Her empty crop suggests she either didn't eat the night before or she died in the morning after digesting the food that was in her crop.
    Would you have noticed her acting sick the day before she died or do you not spend any time observing them?
    Where in her system was the fully formed egg? Was it right inside her cloaca just inside her vent or slightly further up her oviduct. Did you notice which way around the egg was? Pointy end first or round end? The egg rotates through 180degrees just before being laid so that might tell you how close she was to laying it..... thinking possibly egg bound. If that was the case I would have expected her intestines to be backed up a bit.... for egg binding to kill, the egg is usually stuck for a couple of days and they are unable to poop and it is that inability to pass waste which kills them, so the gut would probably be distended and the contents really stink..... I'm guessing from your description, that probably wasn't the case.

    The three things that I would suspect if she did die suddenly would be Fatty Liver Haemorrhagic Syndrome which can cause the liver to rupture when the bird is straining to lay an egg or Visceral Marek's. Marek's usually affects adolescent birds, but can affect older ones. Botulism would be the third, if they are raking through a large pile of kitchen scraps or possibly compost. If it was a liver rupture due to Fatty Liver you would expect to find a lot of abdominal fat and fluid or clotted blood in the abdominal cavity and the liver would be very friable and collapse when you take hold of it. Her comb would also probably be very pale. It is possible that she had an infection from the cut to her foot but you would see infection at the site (you don't mention that in your description of the necropsy..... did you check her foot?) and she normally would have appeared sick for a few days and probably hobbling if it was that badly infected. Infection in the feet tends to take a long time to spread to the rest of the body.

    It sounds like your flock get mostly kitchen scraps. Is that correct? What do the kitchen scraps consist of?
    Do they have the pellets available free choice?
    Do they get the wild bird seeds every day and if so how much between the 10 hens and 2 roosters...... are they hens and roosters or pullets and cockerels under a year old..... there is a big difference and having two adolescent cockerels can cause problems, especially if the girls are all pullets the same age.
    A photo of the inside of your coop might also be helpful.
    EggSighted4Life and townchicks like this.
  5. Eggcessive

    Eggcessive Enabler

    Apr 3, 2011
    southern Ohio
    It is great that you did a necropsy. It is a good way to learn about what might be going on. The only thing that I see that is questionable is that the crop had bile-looking stuff in it. I am not sure that is normal, since the gall bladder and liver are lower down in the GI tract. I once had a hen with an impacted gizzard full of sunflower seeds and shells, so it is possible that something may have slowed down or impacted the gizzard. Did the material in the crop smell bad or sour?

    Just thinking back to the incident with the broken glass...could she have eaten any glass shards before it was removed?

    Hopefully, this was an isolated incident, but keep up the good work. I have a bunch of older chickens, and I have been doing several necropsies a year lately. The more you do, the more you learn. Here is a good link about necropsies with short videos of the different organs which helps when you are searching for them:
    Last edited: Sep 25, 2018
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  6. xmikew

    xmikew In the Brooder

    Sep 24, 2018
    Charleston, SC
    Wow I didn't get updates via email to all these. Let me say I appreciate all the responses and this is excellent information in case of a next tme. I'm going to answer everything the best I can before my memory leaves me too much.

    I would say the egg was an 1" to 1-5" inside her vent. It was not sideways, I remember it being pointed towards the vent (which exact way I cannot recall, but if I ever do another one I will be sure to note that).

    She's about six months old and a Delaware.
    Thanks, I've updated my profile

    Thanks, after I got cleaned up I think I saw the same one and then I realized what I thought was the lungs was the liver and I did not get a good look at the lungs since it was "hidden" by my other work.

    There was a layer of yellow fat on her abdomen covering everything below the breastbone. I did not notice any congealed blood anywhere.

    Ah good point. I punctured the crop near the end of my session. It deflated and all the biley stuff spilled out. I didn't wrench it open so there could have been other stuff in there. Also I grabbed her by the feet when I was moving her to my "operating" station so maybe some fluid moved into the crop by her being upside down? I had a pair of shears that would have made examining much more easier if I had THOUGHT to actually use them instead of my unwieldy knife. I was having trouble getting everything open. I'll definitely watch a youtube video if I ever have to do it again. I felt like I was making a mess of things.
    Probably not that day. They have access to 3 acres free range but probably stick to about 1.5 acre or less where it is less overgrown so they are often in the front, or under cars. Sometimes they go into the woods next to us and hang out there. My son and wife were outside with them off and on all day since it was a Sunday and they report they didn't see anything out of the ordinary.
    I was hoping she would be egg bound because it would be the easiest and less scary thing. Before I did the autopsy I felt around where the egg would be hoping I wouldn't have to do what I ended up doing (and not having to worry about other chickens). I looked at other egg bound stuff online and it really didn't seem to fit the bill. My son said she was acting normal yesterday although he is 7, he does have a very good memory and notices everything about our chickens and guineas so I am apt to believe him. If she was egg bound I would have expected to see her wattle or not come out of the coop or something like that.

    I remember distinctly the liver being very red and a good looking color for an organ. I handled it and it felt very fleshy and firm and held it's shape very well. I did not notice anything out of the ordinary about inside the bird like congealed blood or the likes. There was yellow abdominal fat but it seems it was just normal fat. All the fat I saw was on the outside of the organs and looked healthy.
    Could Marek's occur even if she was vaccinated against it?

    Yes they get a lot of kitchen scraps. We mostly eat fruits and veggies so we sent a lot of kitchen scraps out. It's not so much a compost pile anymore as it get scratched about and then it's just scattered remnants (it never really composts anymore).

    We feed them pellets in the morning but they aren't free choice anymore, we were trying to encourage them to free range more. They probably get a cup of wild bird seed thrown in the yard by my 7 year old between all 12 of them. One of our roosters is a bantam who thinks he is a guinea hen and only hangs out and roosts with the guineas. He was raised with them and him and the other rooster have never been aggressive to each other and aren't cooped together.

    The stuff in the crop did have a sour smell. The gizzard did not have a smell at all

    I guess that would be possible, chickens are really fast! But we were watching and immediately shooed them away.

    Thanks I'll definitely give that a look - I was going to go look at some youtube videos if I had to do this again.

    Just wanted to say thanks again for all the input. I might have missed the tell-tale sign of what went wrong with our bird but hopefully getting some ideas of how to better find in case there is a next time is worth the asking and the research to me.

    I'm keeping a eagle eye on the rest of the flock for any signs of illness.

    - Mike
  7. xmikew

    xmikew In the Brooder

    Sep 24, 2018
    Charleston, SC
    Sorry missed adding your quote in my response. Thank you for responding and tagging.
    I think I actually ended up suing arrowroot powder!

    Thanks again for your help,

    - Mike
    townchicks likes this.
  8. Flockandfowl46

    Flockandfowl46 Crowing

    Mar 28, 2018
    Southwest Virginia USA
    To answer your question about meraks,yes that is the prime age for it to occur even if vaccinated, the vaccine does not cover all strains
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  9. rebrascora

    rebrascora Free Ranging

    Feb 14, 2014
    Consett Co.Durham. UK
    The birds also have to be kept free of exposure to the virus for 3 weeks after vaccination for Marek's(which is done at hatch or even in vitro), so it is possible for them to become infected with the virus before the vaccine has had time to take effect if biosecurity was not followed.
    Unfortunately we will probably never know the actual cause, but it certainly doesn't sound like Fatty Liver Disease. Marek's is a possibility still especially at that age but unless you have another bird exhibit symptoms at some point in the future we can only guess. It doesn't sound like egg binding but there is the possibility of heart attack or botulism and no doubt many other less common options.... I am not in any way a veterinary expert on diseases and ailments of chickens, so my knowledge is limited to the common ailments that I have encountered with my own flock and things I have read about here on BYC.
    I appreciate what you say about your 7 year old son but with chickens, they will pretend to be healthy and part of the flock as long as they are able and it can take a practiced eye to pick up the subtle signs that things are not as they should be, so it is always possible that something was brewing for longer and this was not a "sudden death"
    Flockandfowl46 and townchicks like this.
  10. dawg53

    dawg53 Humble

    Nov 27, 2008
    Jacksonville, Florida
    It's impacted gizzard.

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