I’m a list keeper and file bits of chicken trivia away hoping to find a use for it some day. For the last couple of years I’ve been adding oddities and mysteries to a folder I’ve labelled ‘What Is This?”.

This past summer Dr Vicki Bowes, Avian Vet/Pathologist invited me to sit down with her to look at the DIY necropsies and oddities that I’ve been seeking answers about. I’m not sure if she was prepared for the collection I brought, but we spent three hours in July and then another three hours the following month making sense of the photos and accompanying notes.

I subsequently was able to make some of them into single story posts. In other cases, where I lacked supporting material, I’ve been grouping them as short learning opportunities for those of you curious about chicken health issues.

Full credit goes to Dr Bowes for her expertise; I’m merely the one who collates all the material. FYI: These diagnoses are made to the best of her ability without the benefit of seeing the birds in person.

Weird Egg

This odd egg shell contained a normal yolk and albumen inside. Photo credit: Victoria Jadrych

Dr Bowes: The damage was incurred when the egg shell was stuck in, and was shaped by, an infected oviduct.

Bitchin’ Chickens: Ridged and wrinkled shells are often associated with Infectious Bronchitis when it has damaged a pullet’s shell gland or oviduct.

Pelvic Deformity

When I first saw photos of this unfortunate chick I wasn’t sure what I was looking at. Even when I sat down with Dr Bowes and she explained the anatomical issues at play I still had to wrap my head around what was going on. Photo credit: Patricia Howard-Stout

Dr Bowes: This bird has a congenital deformity of the pelvic girdle. The pelvis is splayed so the chick can’t stand properly. The protrusions on either side of its back are actually it’s knees.

Recommendation: Humane euthanasia (the chick died shortly after these photos were taken).

Eye Issues

Angela Cornelius posted in an online chicken group about her rooster’s eye: “One eye is like this, the other is perfect. It started out with what looked like a pink growth on his bottom eyelid. I have another rooster that has the same pink growth on his eye, and is developing an eye similar to this rooster. In the close up photo below you can see the pink skin tag like growth protruding from the lower part of his eye. No other health issues.”

Dr Bowes: The pink bit is caseous exudate and could probably be removed with tweezers. I’m more concerned about the opacity of his cornea, which is indicative of a bacterial infection or an ammonia burn. When coops are not cleaned often enough or not properly ventilated the ammonia build up can affect the tear film covering the eye because it becomes acidic.”

Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS)

“I euthanized my friend’s chicken because she was very thin and walking like she was egg bound. Her abdomen did not feel squishy like ascites (water belly), but externally I could feel separate bubbles. I did a DIY necropsy and found her abdomen was completely full of what looked like large fluid filled sacks; some with clear fluid, some bloody.” – Batina Grossett

Dr Bowes: This is Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome. The bubbles are fluid filled cysts which would have take months to accumulate. The size of the cysts is determined by where they originate.

A pullet is born with 1000 egg follicles which hormones stimulate to grow. Even with issues affecting her reproductive system a hen would be capable of producing those hormones.

Bitchin’ Chickens: Cysts may be caused by an endocrine imbalance, chronic inflammation, or abnormalities and pathologies of the ovary. Chronic low-grade inflammation has been associated with PCOS. It also may be associated with Ovarian Adenocarcinoma, which often originates in the reproductive system and metastasizes leading to eventual heart failure, ascites, and intestinal involvement. Up to 20% of older hens may develop ovarian cysts.

If you’re looking for some help solving a chicken health mystery of your own send me some notes and photos (via the contact button on the home page) and I’ll try to find the answer.

Many thanks to Dr Vicki Bowes for her generosity is sharing her time and expertise with me to become a better chicken keeper and blogger.

Featured Photo Credit: Dr Vicki Bowes

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