Case Study Health Issues Pathology

Avian Pathology Cases: 12

This series is the result of my partnership with Dr Vicki Bowes, avian vet/pathologist whom I get together with regularly to look at what she calls ‘best guess’ or ‘show and tell’. I present my flash drive full of interesting health issues I’ve collected and we pore over them trying to figure out the most likely diagnosis. Admittedly Dr Bowes does all the heavy lifting; I just take notes, ask a bunch of questions and turn that material into posts to help out other small flock chicken keepers. At our last meet up we got through 42 cases and they are spread over several posts, this being just one of them.

Post-Mortem Cannibalism

This case was presented as a sudden death and the owner, Trey Yellott, found the hen in this condition.

Dr Bowes: There is no way to know what the cause of death was but the visible damage was likely caused post-mortem by other birds pecking at her. The intestines were ruptured and the green area is the cecum and might be stained by bile if the hen wasn’t eating.

Hard Mass

What is this on my hen? – Julie Ray

Dr Bowes: This keratinous skin is usually a response to irritation. It would require microscopic lab work to make a diagnosis.

Suspected Feather Follicle Cysts

“My neighbour sent me these pictures of her one year old female goose she’s had since hatching. Is this a hernia?”– Lauren Inby

Dr Bowes: This is in the wrong position to be an umbilical hernia, which would be higher up. I’d like to know if it could be moved around? Are those bumps growing? It looks like feather follicle cysts, but you would need a biopsy to confirm. Squeezing it can cause damage, but if you did so – gently – it might contain keratin build up (looks yellow and cheesy).

Suspected Tuberculosis

“My Phoenix cockerel was sick for about a month. He lost a lot of weight and wasn’t getting any better. My vet gave me injectable antibiotics and we did a fecal float test, which came back worm free. He would still eat and drink but the weight just wouldn’t stay on. I ended up euthanizing him. He had a mass on his intestines; could this have caused the weight loss?” – Quila Marie

Dr Bowes: That’s a caseous abscess on his cecal pouch. I would suspect Tuberculosis (TB) which can cause emaciation. The virus has a long incubation period and can be shed in the environment for a year. You should monitor the health of your other birds who may not show any symptoms for months.

Hole In Abdomen

This pullet is about five months old. I noticed this yellow scab. There were no flies, pus or redness. Is this an umbilical hernia? If so, why has it not healed?” – Tara Inyart

Dr Bowes:  It’s not an umbilical hernia and isn’t in the right position for a breast blister. Perhaps it started as a wound. You don’t want that area to be open to potential bacterial infections. A vet could anesthetize the bird, then pull and stitch the sides together.


Abscess: a localized collection of pus in a cavity formed from tissues that have been broken down by infectious bacteria, such as staphylococci or streptococci

Caseous: cheeselike, especially in appearance, smell, or consistency

Exudate: a mass of cells and fluid that has seeped out of blood vessels or an organ, especially in inflammation

Well that wraps up another edition of Show & Tell With Bitchin’ Chickens and Dr Bowes. I hope that it’s been a learning experience for you, it was for me.

If you’d like help with a case drop me a line using the ‘contact’ button on my home page. Remember to wear gloves, take good close up photos from several angles and supply us with plenty of information (e.g. timelines, symptoms, medications, general flock health, etc) so we’re able to more accurately pinpoint what’s going on.

Thanks again to Dr Vicki Bowes for her willingness to share her wealth of knowledge and experience to build capacity and skills in small flock keepers.

2 comments on “Avian Pathology Cases: 12

  1. Angela Burke

    Hi, I have a question about the suspected Tuberculosis diagnosis. I wasn’t aware that a virus caused Tuberculosis. I used to do research with Mycobacterium tuberculosis and it is a bacteria. Would Dr. Bowes be willing to flesh that out a bit more?

    Liked by 1 person

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