Case Study Health Issues Pathology

Avian Pathology Cases: 23

Over the last 20 months I’ve gotten together with Dr Vicki Bowes, avian vet/pathologist on a regular basis to pore over files in my memory stick loaded with interesting chicken health issues that I have collected for her expert opinion. She refers to it as ‘Show and Tell’ or ‘Best Guess’ and has done a good job at making diagnoses given the information we have at hand, usually only a short paragraph from the chicken’s owner.

We haven’t met up since last fall, so when we did get together recently I had a backlog of 55 cases in my files. We managed to chat about 29 of them, which I will write up and present here over the next few weeks. This one is all about the eye.


At hatch my Welsummer seemed to have either a deformity or trauma to his upper eyelid. A few days later the area seemed to develop an abscess. Other sites of swelling came up adjacent to this one, but have now resolved except for the original site. He’s now 4 weeks old and otherwise normal. What can I do? – Taletha Thomas Robinson

Dr Bowes: I think that’s a fluid-filled cyst, which is not infected. If it gets larger it might impinge on his vision. You can drain it by popping it using a sterilized needle.

Eye Infection

My hen seemed to have had a worm of some sort in her eye. Part of it was hanging out of her eye so I was able to pull it all out with tweezers. I doubt she will regain vision, but she is feeling much better now. – Kim Knapper

Dr Bowes: True eye worms are delicate and not this large. I think it’s inflammatory exudate and not a worm. The original infection may have been caused by a scratch or injury, which introduced bacteria into the eye. I’d like to know if the tubular structure was on top of the eye or pulled through the damaged eye.

Irregular Eyes

Both my 8-month-old Sapphire Gem’s eyes look like this. She has no other issues. – Ashley Nicole

Dr Bowes: It’s difficult to tell from the photo if the actual eyes are shrunken or not. Is that a reflection or inclusion in the pupil? The eyelid is not protecting the eye, which can become a long-term problem if it doesn’t stay clean. The iris does look irregular. Keep the eye protected by used protective eye drops like Terramycin. I can’t diagnose from just the photos but these issues can be caused by Marek’s Disease and Salmonella.

Injured Beak and Eye

One of my girls has a beak injury and it appears she is going to lose her eye. They do not free range unless I am around. Their run and coop are predator proof. No sign of blood/open sores. She is happily running around. Is there anything I need to do to help with her beak or eye? No idea where to even start. – Danielle Knotts

Dr Bowes: Her beak is out of alignment which suggests a traumatic injury, such as blunt force trauma caused by flying into something like a wall. A penetrating injury or scratch probably caused the issue with the eye, which she is going to lose. If you can’t take her to a vet for care then I would recommend humane euthanasia.

Nictitating Membrane (Third Eyelid)

I don’t know what’s going on with her eye. It’s only on one side and she has no other symptoms – Janette Jordan

Dr Bowes: I would like to know if the membrane has detached or is there something in her eye pushing on the membrane. You can flush it to make sure there is nothing behind the eyelid. I would monitor for 2-3 weeks and if there is no change you could have your vet remove the membrane, which is essential to keeping the eye clean.

Marek’s Disease

We have a Gold Laced Wyandotte whose pupils used to appear normal, but then became so miniscule that they appeared nonexistent and won’t dilate. Check out these irises. Have you seen anything like it or know what may be causing them to look like this? – Jael Range Angels

Dr Bowes: Those eyes fit the classic signs of the ocular form of Marek’s Disease. It’s very likely she has other symptoms that are affecting her internally like visceral tumours or damage to the nerves.

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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