Sudden death - autopsy - yolk in body cavity


9 Years
May 24, 2010
Albion, California
This afternoon we found a one-year-old New Hampshire hen dead in a nest box, along with a healthy broody Orpington. Everybody was fine this morning. There were no outward signs of injury, but there was a big gob of thick, sticky, clear goo coming out of her mouth. I did a sort of autopsy, though not really sure what to look for. In her crop I found what appeared to be the membrane from an egg; we think there may be a hen laying shell-less eggs occasionally. (Maybe the goo was the white?) Everything else in the crop looked normal; it smelled pretty sour, but by that time she had been dead for a while. Inside the body cavity there was a quantity of runny yellow yolk, and a gob of thick yolk (about the consistency of deviled egg) stuck to one side of the abdominal fat. The skein of developing eggs looked pretty odd, too, but I haven't seen those before so am not sure what they should look like.

Her heart did not look particularly good - it seemed small, discolored, and the auricles were soft instead of firm. There was quite a lot of fat, both inside and out (too many tortillas!), including fat around the heart.

So, any guesses? Does it sound like there may have been a problem with the egg plumbing, or is heart failure more likely? We did photograph the egg skein but it's a pretty nasty-looking pic...
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9 Years
Mar 11, 2011
oh no! I'm so sorry!!! That sounds awful - I can't imagine the last hour or so that your chickens had to go through that. It is so useful that you can do an "autopsy" on that so we can all learn. I'm curious to know as well, I'm new to having chickens as pet so I want to learn as much as I can. Thanks for posting! I hope someone here can help us figure out what was the cause.

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