Necropsy results: My best layer was impacted with sand - could I have prevented this?

Discussion in 'Emergencies / Diseases / Injuries and Cures' started by cocoloco, Apr 12, 2017.

  1. cocoloco

    cocoloco Out Of The Brooder

    59
    1
    49
    May 31, 2016
    I posted Monday stating my best layer, Ginger, was sick after being the healthiest and most active of my chickens. She went from running in the yard at 2pm, to being lethargic at 4pm, to being dead at 8pm. I had a vet appt the next morning but she didn't make it. I am now down to 2 roosters, 2 grown hens, and two 14 wk old chicks who live with them in the coop but keep their distance outside during the day. The roosters are driving the mature hens crazy. I need at least 2 more of them to balance things out, but can't get them until I rule out infectious disease - so I had a necropsy done on Ginger. The Dr just called to say she was impacted with sand. She said she had never seen so much sand inside a chicken's digestive system. I knew Ginger ate sand - but she ate EVERYTHING. She was my crazy voracious eat-everything-in-sight chicken. I bought her last Dec. from a farm, where, sad to say, 100 chickens were all stuffed in a small pen and fed once a day. In my flock, she was the first to the food and the last to leave it. I give leftovers to my chickens every afternoon. We call it "chicken salad" - it's 80% veggies, 10% fruit, 10% protein (tuna, meatloaf - leftover stuff). They all come running for it - eat a bit - then walk away - except for Ginger who would eat until the plates were empty. Almost every day, she ate huge mouthfuls of sand. I tried to discourage her - to no avail. They all free range and have 24 hr access to food (Nature-wise layer crumbles) water and grit. They also have snacks - thanks to my husband - who throws them mealworms, oats, peanuts, sunflower seeds, chopped apples,etc. every morning. Why would she be full of sand? Is there something wrong with the diet? I have read threads here and on other sites about how eating sand is not bad for them - that it should move easily through them - this necropsy suggests otherwise. I watch all my feathered babies for changes in poop, behavior, etc. I knew she was sick when I went outside Monday afternoon eating a package of trail mix - and she didn't come running over to peck me for some - 4 hours later she was dead. Next month will be 1 yr since I became a chicken owner. Just when I think I have a system down - I lose a bird and question everything I do. Any suggestions?
     
  2. Eggcessive

    Eggcessive True BYC Addict Premium Member

    29,902
    4,115
    521
    Apr 3, 2011
    southern Ohio
    First of all, sorry for your loss, and good for you for getting a necropsy done to find out why she died. Chicks will frequently die from eating a lot of sand. Do you use sand as your bedding? In my opinion, I think that your chickens are getting too much table scraps. Chicken feed is well balanced, and contains all the vitamins and minerals they need. That should make up 90%of the diet. Vegetables and fruits are lower in protein, and chicken feed has 16-20%, which they need. There is nothing wrong with giving them a little trat, but limit it to 10% or less of their diet. Even then, some chickens will eat things that can make them sick. I recently necropsied a hen who had a gizzard and crop packed with twigs and dried leaves and dry grasses. She had access to good food and water in at least 3 areas, and she chose to eat junk. The last day she was alive, she still would eat a little scratch for a treat. It was hard to see her emaciated body under her feathers, and she never acted sick. She was low in pecking order.
     
  3. cocoloco

    cocoloco Out Of The Brooder

    59
    1
    49
    May 31, 2016
    I use straw throughout my coop because it retains heat in the winter - planning to change to wood shavings on the floor -now that the weather is getting warmer. I have been advised to keep straw in the nesting boxes - as hens prefer that for egg laying. Thank you so much for the advice re their diet. I will take a break on the table scraps. I'm beating myself up over this - I need to take it in stride and get a thicker skin - like my farmer neighbors who live around me. They lose livestock monthly to disease, injury, etc. they laugh when I agonize over a chicken dying. I told one I brought a chicken to the vet - he said I was nuts! That's the old yankee farmer mentality here in Central Mass. They say - it's only a darn chicken - but they won't give you one for free! Lol!
     
  4. peaceisgreen

    peaceisgreen Out Of The Brooder

    159
    21
    46
    Mar 23, 2017
    michigan
    i agree you need to give less treats but this is not why your hen ate so much sand that is not your fault it was likely something psychological or physiological causing her to crave sand that was out of your control sounds almost like OCD to me
     
  5. cocoloco

    cocoloco Out Of The Brooder

    59
    1
    49
    May 31, 2016
    Thank you so much - my husband and I were discussing that this morning, jokingly - how she needed a chicken psychologist for her sand obsession. One other thing about her - out of all the chickens we've had in 11 months (15 altogether) she loved being in the house with us more than anything. Whenever we opened the door to go in or out - she'd make a beeline for the door to try and get in. She loved hanging in the "big coop" with us - maybe she was a human in a chicken's body - she was so mellow and friendly - not afraid of us or skittish. Hopefully, in the future, I'll get another one with a great personality like that.
     
  6. EggSighted4Life

    EggSighted4Life Overrun With Chickens

    Hi, hope you are enjoying BYC! [​IMG]

    So sorry to hear about your girl. [​IMG]

    I will agree laying off the table scraps is a good idea.

    But more than that I want to commend you for getting a necropsy! [​IMG] It's a great information tool. And what a relief to know you don't have to worry about something infectious to the rest of your flock! Do you mind sharing how much it costed you? Also, do you know what type of sand it was? (not that it changes anything)

    Your neighbors are fools for laughing at you IMO! [​IMG] While it's true that I might lose livestock to predators, injury, or their freezer camp calling (not disease, they need better management)... and I don't cry my head off every time doesn't mean I'm not bothered or would make fun of someone who hasn't been jaded by the death of too many animals.

    And there are some that are just more special! I have a couple girls who love to hang out with the humans and they are definitely the more fun ones to be around. Makes you feel kinda special. [​IMG]

    Please do not beat yourself up! There are some things we just can't control and it sounds like you provided her the good life to the best of your ability. Like you said she needed a psychiatrist... there may have been something deeper going on that was at the root of the sand eating symptom.

    It's nice that you are being able to look back and joke about her craziness. It's not a sign of not caring but probably more therapeutic and a sign of healing in your heart. [​IMG]
     
  7. cocoloco

    cocoloco Out Of The Brooder

    59
    1
    49
    May 31, 2016
    Just to avoid misunderstandings - I did not have a complete necropsy with samples analyzed. I called 2 places for a quote. One vet charged $140-$230 - depending on how many samples we wanted to send to the lab. The other charged $60 for a simple necropsy - samples are taken but they leave it to the client as to whether they are sent to the lab because that cost $200! The prices were a bit of a shock, but,I was willing to pay $90 for a visit with my girl if she survived the night, so a $60 necropsy was affordable. I chose that - with the understanding that it could be inconclusive. Now - here's another thing: She died about 9pm - we did not refrigerate her overnight - I asked if that would make a difference - they said, no, just get her there ASAP. I put her in a plastic bag and brought her there - they put her in a fridge and handed me a page to fill out. The questions were excellent - aside from age, sex and type of bird, they wanted to know any quirks, type of diet, favorite foods, changes in environment, how frequently she laid eggs, how many in my flock - and if any other members of my flock died recently. I figured it would take a few days - the Dr called me later that day to tell me the results. She told me about all the sand and said all her organs looked normal - but she took samples anyway. I told her I would love to have them all sent to a lab and analyzed but I needed to pay taxes next week. (don't we all!) She said she would keep them for a few months while I watched my other birds closely. If any show symptoms of illness - I can always send Gingers' samples out. The only thing that bugged me was the fact that right before she died, my bird was struggling to breath and making rattling noises, yet the dr. said her lungs looked healthy. The Dr suggested she may have regurgitated food up and some went into the lungs because of the impacted intestinal tract. I'll never know for sure, but, after speaking to the dr., I felt it was not something infectious. As for the question about the sand - it was not fine sand - it was the kind you get from a gravel yard. My husband and I spread some under our coop so they could take sand baths even when it rained, because it stays dry there. That was the stuff she was eating - big mouthfuls. Thank you to all for the kind words - I'm loving the emoji's - so funny. I've been smiling thinking about Ginger today. The other day my husband let her in the house - then left to go do errands! I had no idea she was inside. My mom-in-law, who's living with us, went to go to the bathroom - suddenly I heard a yell - "Hey - there's a hen in here - come get this hen - she's staring at me - she's watching me pee!!!" Lol!
     
  8. EggSighted4Life

    EggSighted4Life Overrun With Chickens

    Well, the last sentence was funny! [​IMG]

    I wonder if the vet would have noticed gapeworm since you mention rattling? It effects the throat not the lungs is my understanding. [​IMG]

    Wow, $90 is a lot just for a visit. It's $45 at my vet. Thank you so much for sharing the information!

    Did you actually check with your local ag department about necropsy? I know sometimes the universities will do the for free or just the disposal charge. Not that I expect you to need another. [​IMG] Just sharing other possible places that do it.

    That's great that they are able to keep samples for a while.

    Love the name Ginger to. [​IMG] If you care to share a pic, I'd be happy to celebrate her life with you! [​IMG]
     
  9. cocoloco

    cocoloco Out Of The Brooder

    59
    1
    49
    May 31, 2016
    My vet said there was no sign of worms. I have been paranoid about gapeworm - every time one of my birds makes a gaping motion - I panic. Then I found out they do that to move/adjust food in their crop. Gapeworm makes them gape constantly and shake their heads. They asked me if she had a lot of head shaking - she never did that at all. Re the price - that vet is very expensive but they were the only ones who had an opening the next morning and I was desperate. My regular vet - where I had the necropsy, is $60 per visit. The expensive vet charges $10 to dispose of a chicken - my regular one charges $30! Figure that one out. I just checked my chicken photo album - I actually have more videos of her then photos but here are 2 pictures - The first one was taken 3 days after I got her last Dec. She is getting acquainted with our lusty little English bantam rooster, Jaciel. They became mates and he is definitely missing her. The 2nd one was taken a few weeks ago. Thank you so much for your posts and words of comfort.[​IMG]
    [​IMG]
     
  10. Little Fuzzy

    Little Fuzzy Chillin' With My Peeps

    599
    37
    93
    Jan 16, 2016
    My horse died from sand colic. I will never use sand in my coop. Your poor chicken probably had starvation issue before your got her leading her to be compulsive sand eater. You gave her a good life, now she is in CHICKEN HEAVEN.
     

BackYard Chickens is proudly sponsored by