Chicken Autopsy Results (WARNING: very graphic pictures)

Discussion in 'Emergencies / Diseases / Injuries and Cures' started by Blue_Myst, Aug 1, 2011.

  1. Blue_Myst

    Blue_Myst Chillin' With My Peeps

    Feb 5, 2009
    Today I found one of my BO hens dead in the coop, huddled under the ramp up to the roosting area. [​IMG] For the past three months she’d been struggling with a breathing problem that antibiotics weren’t helping, and I knew it was only a matter of time before she died. So when she did, I wanted to do an autopsy on her to find out what exactly happened to her, so that I could make sure the health of the rest of my flock was not in danger.

    It was both very hard (emotionally) and interesting at the same time, and I thought I’d post my findings here to help others who want to be prepared to do this on their own chicken if the need should arise.

    [​IMG]

    Here she is with the top layer of skin removed. From here I can see she was a good solid weight–not starved by any means. This would make sense, since even when she was sick she ate voraciously.

    [​IMG]

    This is after I removed the sternum and began cutting away the ribs. This was by far the hardest part, and I wish I had a pair of strong shears to use for this stage.

    [​IMG]

    Her heart seems to be in good condition, but I would love input on this. There was some yellow fatty tissue around the heart, but nothing substantial.

    [​IMG]

    This is the inside of the heart. The ventricles look clear, but one of the atriums was full of clotted blood. Is this abnormal to find in a dead chicken?

    [​IMG]

    A closer picture of the clot that came out of her heart.

    [​IMG]

    I took her crop out next, and it was somewhat higher on the neck than I’d expected.

    [​IMG]

    This is the inside of her crop. I suspect she died early this morning, as she was alive when I put her to bed and she appears not to have eaten much yet at her time of death.

    [​IMG]

    Now this is an interesting part. This is her liver, which appears normal on initial inspection.

    [​IMG]

    However, I found some suspicious looking dots on the outside of one of the lobes.

    [​IMG]

    I also found some yellowish discoloration to the outside of one of the lobes. Not sure if this is normal or not. I’m guessing there was something going on with her liver.

    [​IMG]

    At this point I opened the abdomen, having removed most of the chest organs.

    [​IMG]

    This is her gizzard. I was surprised at how hard it was, but not so much when I actually saw what was inside!

    [​IMG]

    It looks like she had a full meal last night. It was neat seeing what kind of rocks were being used in her gizzard.

    [​IMG]

    This is a picture of her abdomen at this point.

    [​IMG]

    I slit open a section of the oviduct, and the tissue looks healthy. She had no egg in her oviduct, which is comforting. She hasn’t laid an egg in a long, long time.

    [​IMG]

    This is a close-up of the ovaries. It’s rather strange looking, but I think this is normal for a chicken. Again, looks like she hasn’t been producing any eggs.

    [​IMG]

    This is the outside of the . . . err, I think right kidney.

    [​IMG]

    This is the inside. It was surprisingly soft. Otherwise appears healthy I think.

    [​IMG]

    At this point I was finally able to reach the lungs. This was the part I was most anxious to reach to see if anything was wrong with her airways or whether her lungs were the culprit. This is half (lengthwise) of one lung.

    [​IMG]

    Inside of one of the lungs. See that strange discoloration in the middle? I once saw a lung from a sheep with pneumonia, and this looks like a mild version of that. Perhaps her previous infection damaged her lungs permanently?

    [​IMG]

    This is a close up of the strange white spots.

    [​IMG]

    This is the outside of one of the lungs. It appears to have some fatty tissue actually attached to the lung. Not sure if this is normal.

    [​IMG]

    Okay, now for the interesting bit. Inside her chest, I found one nearly free-floating growth-like object near her trachea. This is what it looked like cleaned-up. It felt rock-hard and I wonder if this had been pressing against her trachea, that’s why she was gasping so much.

    [​IMG]

    This is the inside of the growth. It looks like hard-packed food, but I have no idea what it is. Could it be a cancerous growth?

    [​IMG]

    This is a picture of a growth I found also free-floating in (I think) her intestinal area. There was some blackish gunk inside, but it, too, was very hard. I'm pretty sure this isn't the gall-bladder. I think I took that out before this point.

    [​IMG]

    This is a side-by-side view of the two growths.

    When I first opened her up I was sure I’d find out something obvious that caused her death, but it seems I’m left still wondering. Is the clot in her heart post-death, or was it cause of her death? I found a lot of water in her chest, too. Congestive heart failure? The discoloration of her lungs is to be expected if she had a previous infection, but what about her liver? Do those strange spots mean anything? The two growths–are they cancerous? [​IMG]

    I’m glad I was able to do an autopsy on her–I have a better idea of what went on before her death. Even if I don’t know exactly what caused it. I was happy to see that her oviducts were clear (she's 2 1/2 years old), and this probably means the other BO's are doing well.

    At any rate, I hope these pictures will be useful to someone.
     
    2 people like this.
  2. laughing man

    laughing man Chillin' With My Peeps

    109
    0
    99
    Sep 18, 2010
    westfield mass
    Morbedly Interesting Thank You For Posting
     
  3. kidcody

    kidcody Overrun With Chickens

    Oh my!!! Very interesting, you are braver then me!! So sorry you had to loose your chicken!
     
  4. Elphaba2140

    Elphaba2140 Chillin' With My Peeps

    486
    2
    121
    Mar 20, 2010
    Northern Illinois
    Hi. Sorry about your girls. This was interesting. I process my own dual purpose birds. I can only say from my 2 year experience and those observations (also I am an RN) the heart seems enlarged and the lungs seem really dark. My experience is that the lungs are usually really light pink (like bubble gum) when normal. I would also say that the liver seems light (should be a deep red brown), but it could be your camera. I can totally understand if that clot came out of her heart since like I said, it seems too large. Why, I cannot tell you. Perhaps they were going into Congestive Heart Failure?
     
  5. chickenlovefever

    chickenlovefever Chillin' With My Peeps

    393
    1
    101
    Jul 19, 2011
    I think this is just about the most odd and interesting thing I have ever seen, at least all week. I remember back in school, we had a day to disect a frog. We never even did any autopsies or anything-We just cut it open and threw it out. It was such a shame. I remember when my pet frog died, I disected it. My mother thought I was psycho. She said, Thats really not normal. But this was very interesting to see, Investigating the insides of your chicken to find the cause of death.
    If I may ask, do you do this for a living?
     
  6. NormaJeanChickenQueen

    NormaJeanChickenQueen Out Of The Brooder

    14
    0
    22
    Jul 30, 2011
    So sorry about your chicken [​IMG] I am impressed with your knowledge of all these parts-- I know what a chicken leg looks like , and a breast, but all that other stuff! Interesting, but I'm sure it was sad for you as well.... Have no clue about the two growths, but they dont really look "normal" to me. People can have spots on their liver & these can be normal. I speak from experience, had a little romp w cancer a while back and spots showed up on my liver. Well, of course I thought I was a gonner, but they have never grown or changed in almost 7 years. The chicken liver looks healthy, but what do I know?? Good luck with the rest of your gals!
     
  7. BirdNut

    BirdNut Overrun With Chickens

    13,971
    11
    261
    Sep 13, 2010
    Suprise, Arizona
    I'm very sorry for your loss. My condolences to you - I know how hard it is to lose a bird.

    I am glad, however, that you had the courage to do an autopsy. With the symptoms given, respiratory issues; that will help to narrow down the disease possibilities. Were there any other symptoms, such as rapid weight loss, reduced appetite, or lethargy?
     
    Last edited: Aug 1, 2011
  8. pinkwindsong

    pinkwindsong Chillin' With My Peeps

    Mar 18, 2011
    Laurens SC
    very very interesting... I had a necropsy (for animals) don't on one of my donkey's one time.. she had a hard feeling to her stomach especially to her underbelly for quite some time before i had her put down.. ( no need to suffer) the vet too was very curious a lot due to her symptoms of rapid weight loss, no worms, etc,. when we cut her open it was like oh.... a large tumor that ran along the whole underside of her belly.. and then in places reaching up and into intestines .. but when we cut into the tumor itself the material was a mustard yellow, dry crumbly, constancy. we then found several "floating " tumors like you did as well.. they had more of the constancy of your hens unknown objects.. the vet said he had never seen that type of cancerous tumor in such a large amount, ( i dont recall a smell or anything icky other than the tumor itself. visually... I was glad I had chosen to put her down and saved her from much more pain and suffering.

    I also had a Grey mare.. ( greys are notorious for cancer) she developed cancer in nodaluals on her tail especially on the underside by the rectum.. I really loved that mare and I tried so long to keep her weight up and her as healthy as I could then fast, really fast she went down hill.. with in a week,, her tail had almost like rotted in half where the cancer tumor had grown and cut off all the blood flow, her weight dropped by hundred pounds in the week.. I tried so hard to keep her going but after that one week and the tail that one day when I unwrapped it for one of her twice daily tail cleanings..,, I knew it was time..
    I wont ever have another grey after the loss of Lanna, she was one of a kind mare,,, oh and on another sad note her daughter died at 7yrs old.. Cancer,,
    ,
    I don't think people realize that the same cancer causing agents in humans also effects our animals,,, dogs are dying of a higher trate to cancer every year cats as well.. i dont know of a study done on chickens but it would be interested to read one.

    We, as responsible ownership of food animals, wither for meet or eggs, must be ever vigilant on what we put into our birds so that we know what will come from our animals is healthy for them and ultimately for us to consume..

    this means sometimes we have to fight the neighbors on what they spray their crops with.. for our birds sake but more importatly for our children , our families and our friends...

    soory aobut he soap box it come on me sometimes.. your story just reminded me of how much we need to be aware and Im so glad you had the courage to really look into the death of your little hen..

    thanks for the pics and information
    )O(
    Pink
     
  9. Blue_Myst

    Blue_Myst Chillin' With My Peeps

    Feb 5, 2009
    Thanks, guys. The hardest part was getting started (you can see I put a sock over her head--I just couldn't do it otherwise). After that, it started looking less and less like her, if that makes any sense, and it was easier to continue.

    @Elphaba2140: Thanks for the input, it's great to hear from someone who has opened up a chicken before! The lungs were really dark, I think the camera captured about the right color. I think this probably means that her problem was indeed with her lungs. I thought the heart seemed large, but I'd never opened up a chicken before so I wasn't sure.

    @chickenlovefever: I know a lot of people would find it weird to dissect your own pets, but it all depends on how you look at it! I was really concerned that she might have a health problem that could be passed to the others. I also wanted to check for signs of worms, lice, etc. to see how healthy my flock is right now. And this is my first time doing a full-blown autopsy. I'd done the standard frog dissections, etc, in biology but that was about it. Thankfully I still had some of the dissection tools lying around that I could use.

    @NormaJeanChickenQueen: Well, I sort of cheated by bringing a diagram of the chicken. [​IMG] I'd been reading about different parts of the chicken digestive system just so I could understand more what goes on with my chickens--and it ended up being useful, after all! Thanks for the input on the cancer idea--maybe that's what she had after all. I'm glad you're okay, I cannot even begin to imagine how scary that must have been for you. [​IMG]
     
  10. nurse_turtle

    nurse_turtle Chillin' With My Peeps

    3,519
    72
    201
    May 28, 2011
    Foothills of NC
    I agree with a malignant process like cancer. The strange masses and liver spots are distressing and there appeared to be scar tissue in the lungs. The blood clot in the heart is expected in a dead animal (blood clots when it stops moving). I applaud your necropsy efforts. It's a morbid yet wonderful opportunity to learn. Thank you for sharing.
     

BackYard Chickens is proudly sponsored by