This edition marks 18 months of my partnership with Dr Vicki Bowes, avian vet/ pathologist. We get together on a regular basis to look at cases that I collect and present to her for a diagnosis, or sometimes ‘best guess’ based on the limitations we’re dealing with. Regardless of the results I always learn a lot and hope that you do as well. I’m particularly pleased if I can find something new or challenging for her; not so, this time but I’m always on the hunt for an issue that piques her interest.


Bitchin’ Chickens: You’re all probably familiar with bumblefoot, but what about bumble wattle? There’s no such term, just something I coined since it seemed to fit the bill so well. Bumblefoot is a bacterial infection usually caused by Staphylococcus, but sometimes Streptococcus or E.coli. Here’s an example of a bacterial infection in another part of the body. This hen had that lesion for weeks. The owners tried topical treatments and squeezing it, to no avail. They took a scalpel and cut around the margins and the lump came out in one piece. It’s hard to see from the photos but it has left a hole right through her wattle. (Photo credit: Reid Chester)

Dr Bowes: This hen will be left with a hole in her wattle because the edges won’t come together and heal over. Her keepers should monitor for infection by watching for inflammation or increased temperature in that area. The infection was probably the result of a penetrating injury.

Vestigial Right Ovary

We raise and process small batches of Cornish Cross. I have probably slaughtered at least 120 birds (chicken, duck, and turkey) in the past two years. When cleaning out a carcass this fell out. It didn’t appear to be attached. I have never seen anything like this in any bird I had previously processed. It’s about the size of a dime. Can you identify this? – Jeremy Harrison

Dr Bowes: Hens are born with two ovaries; the left one develops and produces eggs and the right one regresses and becomes nonfunctional. What you found is a vestigial (rudimentary) right ovary, which becomes inconsequential to the hen. It is common that it contains fluids and looks gelatinous.

Coryza, Infectious Bronchitis and Avian Tuberculosis

We have a necropsy report that has confirmed Coryza, Infectious Bronchitis and Avian Tuberculosis. The state vet was in contact with me and did his report and then sent out an agent to check out our flock and do a quick assessment. The agent said in 20 years with the Department of Agriculture, this is the first Avian Tuberculosis he has seen. No one has given us any instructions or direction. With each person we talk to we leave with more questions than answers. We’ve done the internet searches and read articles from Merck, UFL, etc. We also have other animals and humans, of course, that we are concerned about. What do we need to do? – Bethany Black Hitzelberger

Dr Bowes: Of the three pathogens your biggest challenge is Tuberculosis. TB starts as an intestinal infection, which is excreted from the body before the birds become symptomatic. Fortunately it doesn’t spread to other species and the zoonotic transmission to people is rare.

Unfortunately its survival rate is high because the spores can survive for more than a decade. It’s not easy to eradicate it from your environment so my recommendation is to depopulate your entire flock. You’d then need to do a deep clean and disinfect your coop and put lime down in your run.  

If you don’t want to cull your flock at this point you have another option. TB has a long incubation period and to ensure it doesn’t spread throughout your flock, birds should be euthanized by the time they are 12 months old or they can pass the virus on to other members.

DIY Necropsies

Marek’s Disease (Laura Rictor Palmer)

This is my Ayam Cemani x Brahma hen. Her wings became paralyzed; she dropped weight even while still eating, and then she just laid down and died. Only four days elapsed between my noticing her wing paralysis and death. Marek’s is what I’ve suspected and why I did a necropsy.

Notes on the DIY necropsy:

  • Normal ovary, full of developing eggs
  • Trachea was brownish yellow with black stripes
  • It was hard to find her lungs. I might have damaged them doing the necropsy, but they appeared bloody and fragile.
  • Green liquid released from bowels with a distinctive, unpleasant odour
  • Empty crop

Dr Bowes: Her overall body condition was okay; the sciatic nerves, lungs, intestines and heart appeared normal; the gall bladder was full indicating she was not eating; the liver is light coloured; the kidneys were swollen, the ovary has classic signs of Marek’s. The cecal tonsils, which contain immune tissue, were ballooned, which could indicate possible Marek’s infection inside. Due to the involvement of the liver, kidney and ovary I would also suspect Marek’s Disease.

Adenocarcinoma (Debra Watt)

I just did a necropsy, which has me baffled. My 18-month-old Easter Egger was not laying and after the necropsy I’m wondering if she ever laid eggs. About six days ago I noticed an impacted crop, watery, green stool and lots of water consumption. She was separated from the flock and I gave her some oil orally, then massaged her crop. It emptied after two days, but the watery green stool continued. On the third day she readily ate mash. The following day she was back with the flock and then developed sour crop with food spilling out of her beak. She died first thing this morning. 

I didn’t see any blockages in her intestines but they didn’t look healthy. I did check her vent prior to death, which felt tight. About 3/4” in it was like a rubber band around my finger, which seemed odd.

Dr Bowes: She was emaciated with no body fat; the ovary shows she’s out of lay; there were tumours in her pancreas and ovarian tissue and potential tumours in her kidney. Her oviduct was in the correct position, not flaccid, but looks thickened which could indicate a tumour. It would have been helpful to have a photo of the cross-section of the ovary (i.e. cut open and photographed).

I would diagnose Ovarian Adenocarcinoma (cancer) and suggest that the crop impaction was a secondary issue, the result of tumours in her intestines which were tightly balled as a result of the nerves impacting them.

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.

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.

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Bitchin' Chickens

Everything You Need To Know About Small Flock Chickens & More

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