Saturday, January 12, 2013

Diary of a Sick Chicken and a Necropsy - Graphic!

Part of flock management is knowing your birds well enough to know when something is wrong. This week, one of my Lavender Orpington pullets (of about 22 weeks of age) became lethargic. She was not staying with the flock and she had a hunched up appearance.

Note how her neck was hunched back into her body.

One can see a difference in her posture in this photo taken prior to her becoming ill.

I brought her in and put her in a dog crate. Over a period of hours I could see that she that her stool was mostly urate - liquid with lots of white stuff - and there was very little solid matter at all. 

I felt about and her crop did not seem to be impacted. It felt the way it was supposed to feel, for the most part. I believed the issue could be an impacted or blocked gizzard.

I gave her warm olive oil mixed with yogurt, electrolytes, garlic and oregano orally with a syringe and soaked her in a warm bath to see if that would get things moving. She loved her warm bath (and a massage of the gizzard area) - and it seemed to help. There was more solid matter in her stools... for a little while.


Then everything stopped moving again. I did more oral treatments and another soak, but this time it didn't work. I could tell she was failing quickly, so I put the poor girl out of her misery.

I feel it is important to do what one can to find out the cause of an illness and why a bird in one's flock dies. If there is an illness or a parasite problem, it is important to find out so that one may protect or treat the rest of the flock to prevent further deaths.

I performed a necropsy on this bird. The following images are very graphic and meant for educational purposes. If you have a weak stomach,  
please stop reading now.

You have been warned...



OK - very first thing - we can see how thin this bird was. With all her winter fluff, it was not possible to see just how much weight she had lost, but I could feel it when I picked her up.

Secondly, look at her keel bone. This bone is supposed to be straight... not only is this pullet's keel bone not straight, but it is very, very crooked! So much so that had she not died at this early age, I feel this defect would have impacted the rest of her life negatively. (Legs are at the top of the photo, and neck at the bottom.)


We can also see the presence of material in her crop. Here is a diagram to reference as we go:



Upon opening her, it was instantly evident that something was blocked!


That giant, bulbous thing is her pancreas. Not a good thing to see! Digging further, I could see she was backed up at the point were her pancreas funneled into the small intestine. The blockage caused everything above it to become engorged.

Her gizzard was engorged, as was her proventriculus. The dark maroon mass is her liver.


And now the cause...

 This is the lower end of her pancreas. This piece that I cut off is where the problem was. Lumpy, tough growths that were blocking the flow of all but liquid matter.

So to illustrate the issue, I placed her internal organs in order from the neck (on the left) to the cloacia or vent, on the right. You can see that everything above the blockage is engorged, and everything below it is not.

A "flow chart," so to speak, indicating the direction food moves through the chicken.

While in many cases an impacted crop or gizzard can be corrected, in this case there was no way to save this particular chicken. She apparently was not put together very well to begin with, and would likely have died no matter what.

On the flip side, it is good to know that it was not something she ate that my other chickens might have gotten into also, and it was not a disease.

 
Comments

30 comments:

  1. Thank you for posting this. So very helpful for our future "husbandry." Sorry you had to deal with it, though.

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  2. This was an incredible learning experience. Thank you so much. You did an amazing job!

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  3. Really great pictures, and explained very well.

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  4. Great job! Wonderful instructive pics and detailed explanations.
    Also, very well organized with appropriate warnings, for those not wishing to see the graphic photots.
    Very professional!

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  5. Fascinating and important for us newbies. Do you still eat a chicken that had this problem? Also, how did you "put her out of her misery"?

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    1. I do not eat chickens that have been sick. I will eat one that has to be culled for something like a broken leg, but will illness, there are too many variables. In this chicken's case, she had lost so much weight that there wouldn't have been much to eat anyway.

      Normally I prefer a hatchet to do the deed quickly. Slitting the jugular is also a quick and effective method. This particular chicken started going down hill in the wee hours of the morning, and any method requiring sharp objects or blood-loss was out of the question. I held her close, said a little prayer over her (just my preference) and very quickly snapped her neck by holding her by the head and doing a very quick and hard snap-the-whip motion. This allowed the weight of her body to snap the neck. She died instantly.

      It's never easy to do this kind of thing, but unfortunately, as with this pullet, it is sometimes necessary. Form looking at those pictures, we can only imagine she must have been in a great deal of pain, and ending that pain as quickly as possible was the kindest thing to do.
      Leigh

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  6. really appreciate the careful photos and the diagrams. Clearly, there wasn't any way of saving this hen.
    Lala

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  7. Finally getting back on line. Those photos - especially the flow chart - are great. Thanks for being so thorough!

    Now I wonder what caused the obstruction? Do you have any thoughts on that?

    LM

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    1. LM, the tough ring at the bottom of the pancreas had what appeared to be 2 tumors. These growths had apparently reached the point where they were blocking everything but liquid from passing.

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  8. I applaud you for this post. Not only for trying to treat her organically and holistically first but then to figure out what happened. I almost stopped reading before the graphic part but I soldiered on and I am glad that I did. It's comforting to know that what was ailing her was NOT something you could have prevented nor something the others could catch. You are such a true inspiration to all of us in the chicken keeping world.
    Lisa
    Fresh Eggs Daily
    www.fresh-eggs-daily.com

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    1. Lisa,
      That means a lot coming from somebody I respect so much!

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  9. Is her pancreas supposed to be that huge? Wow.. all of her organs look like they were shutting down and dying. I think you did the right thing. Poor girl..

    My boys had crooked keel, and they didn't seem negatively affected at all. I don't think that's what caused her mass. I just find Orps so much more prone to these types of things.

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    1. That's Aoxa by the way

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    2. Aoxa - no, her pancreas should have been nowhere near that size. Everything above the blockage was engorged.

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    3. great explanation and illustration!! Thanks!! I like the idea of posting a healthy system along side the diseased one.

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  10. thank you so much for this - laying it all out in a flow chart like that was so helpful. I wonder how common these growths are -22 weeks is so young!
    And I know it must have been hard, but so good that you were able to just put her out of her misery humanely. Hard to do, but it comes with the territory of keeping animals. They are lucky to have you taking care of them.
    Turkeytruff

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  11. Thank you for posting this. I recently had a pullet die with the exact same symptoms (except for the crooked keel). I didn't cut her open, as I wouldn't have known what I was looking for anyway. Hopefully next time I will have a better idea.

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  12. Thank you so much for doing this necropsy on your beautiful bird. My beloved flock leader was suffering in very much the same way, and today I had her euthanized. The vet and a friend performed a necropsy and we found a very similar enormous blockage and obstruction. We also found water-balloon-like cysts, and we noticed that the bird's heart was soft and mushy rather than firm. It was a fascinating study, and I am so glad to have seen these internal parts and problems. I think this experience will make me a better chicken-keeper. Again, thank you. I'm so sad to lose my gal, but so glad to be learning and sharing with like-minded chicken-lovers.

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  13. I'm wondering what you thinks causes these tumors. I've read that GMO feeds can cause tumors, so have avoided corn and soy feeds for my chickens. We recently got Black Austrolorp chicks from a well known hatchery, and believe what we're seeing in our month old chicks could be genetic flaws from possible inbreeding. Two of them have miss-shapen beaks, and a hunched over appearance, making it harder for them to eat. Do you have an opinion from your experience, and do you perform necropsy's on any mysterious death? Thank you for posting. Very helpful and interesting information.

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    1. I saw your post on our FaceBook page before I saw your comment here - so I answered it over there. Basically, hatchery birds are more likely to have issues because hatcheries breed for numbers and not for quality. Thus, genetic problems are passed down to chicks.
      So sorry you hare having trouble!
      Leigh

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  14. Very very helpful. So thankful I have a strong stomach.

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  15. THANK YOU SO MUCH! VERY HELPFUL. VERY THOROUGH. GREAT JOB!

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  16. Thanks Leigh! This is my first year with chickens, and there is so much to learn! I am a retired nurse, so I have no trouble with the necropsies, and, in fact, enjoy comparing our similarities!

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  17. Hello! the pancreas is an organ attached to the Duodenum that secretes digestive juices into the g.i. tract. The duodenum is a part of the gastrointestinal tract itself, and food passes through it on the way from the gizzard to the cloaca- from what I see in the pictures, it looks like your birds duodenum was blocked, not the pancreas. Maybe not that important, but you have a very decent sort of blog and I hate to see things like that happen that are easy to fix- I'm sorry about the loss of your bird, but I applaud you for using it as a learning experience.

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    1. I agree with you, and I need to fix this. Thank you for pointing this out!

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  18. Thanks for the graphic of the necropsy. Not much different than evisceration.

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  19. If only I could post the picture of what I found inside my baked chicken last night. What I thought was an unusually large chicken liver, turned out to be the most bitter tasting substance I have ever experienced. On close inspection I noticed a dark green, almost black like sac lodged in between the two halves of the liver. I was horrified. The bitterness in my mouth lasted for about two hours and smoking made it even worse.
    I've wrapped up the nasty looking critter to take back to the butchers to show him. Hopefully he'll remember that before the next time he sells a whole chicken.

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    1. What you found was the gallbladder. The liquid in it is bile... and tastes absolutely horrible!! Yes the gallbladder needs to be removed carefully before the liver is consumed.

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    2. Yes, I found that out when I took it back to the butcher's. Got an apology and a free whole chicken. I'll be sure to double check inside the carcass next time. Thanks for the reply!

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