Oviduct Cancer in hens


6 Years
Sep 15, 2013
Pacific Northwest
Hi all,

I wanted to post about a condition that one of my hens just died from because I had a hard time tracking down what it was and I'd like to share so others can benefit from my research. She was a 16 month old Buff Orpington and she had started to molt almost 2 months ago which seemed kind of early to me. I did not notice her being punky until yesterday, and she died this morning so she went pretty quickly. I'll have to say, since she was molting and not laying anyway, I was not paying a lot of attention to her.

Yesterday she was a bit lethargic and this morning she was laying on the floor of the coop. Her comb was flopped over and it was turning bluish which is a sign of heart or respiratory trouble. I put her in a crate to watch her and within a couple of hours she was dead.

I did a necropsy on her and found small white bumps all over lots of her internal organs. I finally found info on line that led me to the diagnosis of oviduct cancer that had spread to a lot of her other organs. Maybe her compromised condition had led her to start molting kind of early? From what I read, up to 50% of hens that are left to live their life out will eventually die from this. Wow, that is amazing. I also found out that there are studies being done on hens to try and learn about ovarian cancer in women. I find this fascinating.

I wanted to post a couple of pictures here of what it looks like to hopefully help others learn about the condition. She also had fluid in her abdominal cavity and some fluid filled cysts and it is probably the pressure on her heart and lungs that actually killed her. She was a good hen, one of my best layers and my grand neice had named her Butterscotch. So I'm a little sad but I'm glad I know what killed her and that it wasn't some disease. I buried her deep in one of my garden beds so she can continue to fertilize my garden for years to come.

Sorry for your loss, but thanks for sharing your story and pictures. I'm not sure if this is true in all cases like this, but with the two I had die from cancer you could feel those bumps when doing a cloacal exam.

Thanks for posting this information. I lost a 4 yr old Buff Naked Neck hen early this year to oviductal cancer. She was a sweet hen; she peeped more than she bocked. I had a terrible time getting her diagnosed. Finally a vet suspected ovarian cancer based on the fluid build-up and some neurological symptms. I took her to a university veterinary hospital for exploratory surgery, since university settings tend to have more resources. It had spread, as in your hen, but I asked the surgeon not to put her down. He drained about 500 mls of fluid from various pockets in her abdomen, which temporarily improved her symptoms. The plan was too try to shut down her ovaries with Lupron, but I think those hormones just fed the cancer, and she quickly developed a large tumor which killed her. (I should have realized her ovaries were shut down as a result of being so ill and so thin, and not risked the lupron).

I did a lot of research and found out that hens on calorie restricted diets develop ovarian or oviductal cancer less frequently, and survive it longer, I assume because they ovulate less. This is why I will never again force feed a hen suspicious for this condition. Hens given hormonal birth control also have a decreased incidence of this type of cancer. There is also a wormer, Fenbendazole (I think), that is associated with a decreased incidence of reproductive cancer. One of the vets told me that that particular wormer is an immune system suppressant, and maybe this relates to the longer survival; I assume the immune system causing an inflammatory response makes the body more hospitable to the cancer. Also, a U of IL article found a decreased incidence of either ovarian or oviductal cancer associated with hens fed flax seed regularly.

So, at the very least, it seems like we can give our backyard flocks a better chance by adding flax seed, not overfeeding, and not trying to maximize egg production. Hens are recognized as a good model for researching human female reproductive cancer, so hopefully there will be more useful information soon.
Interesting post by Jmorian. The Only hens tested at CAHFS at UC Davis with oviduct cancer were Gold Sex Links from Ideal Hatchery in TX and a buff Rock from McMurray hatchery. Never seen it in any other breeds from other hatcheries. None were given Fenbendazole, but were on a conventional 16% high energy layer ration from Bar Ale at the time. I've changed feeding methods since then. I only use organic feeds, and put out enough in the morning for them to consume by the time I get home in the afternoon from work. Feed has organic horseradish powder, garlic powder, star anise oil, and juniper berry oil in it. Haven't found much info on the benefits of these ingredients, but birds are very healthy and active. I then give them about half of what I give in the morning, and cut way back on scratch feeds. I supplement water with vitamins/probitics regularly and give them animal protein once or twice a week. Usually fish or buttermilk. I supplement greens when pasture is dry using mostly baby kale.
Unfortunately ovarian cancer is just as prevalent in hens as in women. Hens over the age of 4 have a 50% increase in developing ovarian cancer,in fact there is research going on using hens in trying to determine why and how to prevent ovarian cancer in women,as their reproduction system is similar to a woman's. Some finding indicate that a diet enriched with flax seed(omega-3)does lower the risk.
@jmorian and @ten chicks , Very interesting, thanks for sharing.

@Michael Apple , UC Davis did a nercopsy on one of mine, a 4 year old Silver Laced Wyandotte from Ideal and a week later I did one on a mutt hen that I hatched.

@Michael Apple , UC Davis did a nercopsy on one of mine, a 4 year old Silver Laced Wyandotte from Ideal and a week later I did one on a mutt hen that I hatched.

You know Kathy, we are always facing environmental pollutants and contending with diseases. And the whole idea behind breeding should be to promote healthy offspring. Nutrition can also be the agonist or antagonist to of health affects in the environment. It is a lengthy subject that deserves more attention. There are hatcheries I will never do business with again due to their examples. Quality, too often, takes a back seat to the amount of money to be made. That is unfortunate.
Chicken Obsessed, yes, I do agree 100% with you Michael. I have a beautiful girl named Fredricka. UC Davis outstanding services! highly recommended. I'm doing everything I possibly can
to keep her in the best daily condition possible. Medical issues initially started with Peritonitis diagnosis. Fredricka just recently had her 2nd Noverian implant placed in her.
I love her so very much and am trying
Chicken Obsessed, Yes! Fredricka is her beautiful name. Medical issues initially started with Peritonitis, SInce then treatment has consisted of medical treatment, including placement of 2 Noverian Implants. UC Davis highly recommended! There is a possibility of problematic liver issues presently occuring. I'm trying to give her the best diet, exploring everything and anything I can from day to day. She is a blessing in my life!
With GMO grains out on the market for a number of years, and the dubious results of consuming them, makes one wonder....

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